“Is this a company we want to do business with?”, should be easy. If your company is not a credible supplier then you should not be bidding. The proof statements about your company should be freely available (Market Position statements from Marketing, Annual Reports, etc.). This fundamental requirement does however still trip up even the best salespeople. Government contracts are often a good example of this. There may be unclear barriers to doing business. In some countries you can only do business with government if you are on a pre-qualified list of approved companies, or if you are willing to pay a huge bond, or if you are owned by locals, there are many forms of subtle protection. Occasionally the market throws up its own “fashionable” barriers to doing business. I remember in the early 2000’s there were a handful of “cool” Internet specialist companies. Their offices had Star Wars puppets hung from the ceiling; there were pool tables in common areas. If a company was developing a website they hired these bearded and sandal wearing consultants and ignored IBM and Accenture. Ten years later I cannot even remember their names, IBM and Accenture roll on but they illustrate the point I am making. Make sure you are not wasting your time, apply the three basic questions, including “Are we a company the customer would like to do business with?”.
“Are there any reasons why we cannot go forward with this proposal?” This question is a real horror show. This question is the blow from left field that can floor the most professional sales campaign. There are some obvious issues like during the course of the buying / selling cycle all parties lose sight of affordability. The requirements scope becomes too big, the budget is too small. You should keep your attention on this one, but some of the reasons that have happened to me have been:-
- Citibank underwent a global reorganization (into Consumer / Investment and Corporate Banking) while my proposal was going through approval. The user department that was recommending my proposal was split in two!! Aaaaargh
- The Decision Maker – resigned, all projects put into a Hold & Review process from which it never emerged (the urban myth of the Decision Maker died has never happened to me, but I am sure it has happened to someone)
You get the idea. One of the UK’s Prime Ministers Harold Macmillan was asked in an interview what was the most difficult aspect of being Prime Minister, his reply was the wise comment “Events, dear boy, events.”. It is part of the Human Condition as it affects salespeople that even the best proposals do not always go ahead. As a rule of thumb I always tell my sales colleagues to have three or four times more deals that they are working on than they think they need to make their quota. You will win one, lose one, one will get delayed and one will just go away.