It’s so frustrating. Your dream prospect issued a tender for a project you’d be perfect for, and you didn’t know anything about it. You weren’t invited to prepare a response, and now it’s too late. You’re kicking yourself.
How did it happen, and how can you stop it from happening again?
Here are six tried and tested ways to make sure you’re top of mind with the prospect you’d most like to land.
To make sure you’re not missing out on your ideal sales opportunities you need to get ahead of the game. Build these activities into your business development process.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for the tender. More than likely it will have been scoped with a preferred supplier in mind, and if that isn’t you, you’re already at a disadvantage. Ideally you want to be shaping the process way before the formal tender exists. To be in the best position to secure the work, you’ll have spent time supporting your prospect’s team so that the tender fits you and your services perfectly.
- Really know your target. Who are your ideal prospects? This won’t be just a long list of roles in suitably sized organisations, but the handful of absolutely bang-on target prospects that you’d love to win. When you’re putting together this shortlist think wider than purely financial terms. Which businesses and organisations will be the best fit for your products and services, and the most winnable?
- Go wider in your target organisations. When you’re selling complex solutions the motivation and authority to buy is unlikely to rest with one person alone, so look more closely at your hit-list, and think laterally. Carefully targeting five people in your ideal organisation is likely to be more productive than targeting five different organisations in a scattergun way. So if your solution could put many thousands back on your prospect’s bottom line, start communicating with the CEO as well as the Commercial Director.
- Education events. Helping your ideal prospects with their challenges is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and insight. Events are a great way to showcase what you do and strike up useful sales conversations. But even better than taking a stand at someone else’s event is putting on your own. Make an irresistible offer that promises to shed light on the issue that’s keeping your ideal client awake at night, invite all the right people, and use the event to demonstrate your value and develop key relationships.
- Follow up. Most follow up activity fizzles out once the excitement of the event has died down, so you’ll be ahead of the competition if you make a point of following up on events properly. Contact everyone who came to the event to find out more about what they need. Set up meetings and ask more good exploratory questions. Follow up with ‘no shows’ and find out why they didn’t attend. Use the opportunity to find out more about the situation in their organisation. Follow up too with people who didn’t respond to the initial follow up. Persistence pays here. Keep going until everyone on your list is a definite Yes, Future Possibility, or No.
- Make friends with the PA. They know everything. If you want to find out how decisions are made and by whom, what the right approach would be to connect with the person you’d most like to reach and when might be the best time to call, ask a PA. Respect their time and their invaluable business and people knowledge. Getting the PA on your side can give you the inside track on sales opportunities way before a tender is issued, so invest in developing relationships here too.
Think long term. Start now.
You’ll have noticed that there are no ‘quick wins’ when it comes to an invitation to respond to a tender.
Remember, it’s difficult to win a tender from a standing start, so rather than mourning the one that got away invest in shaping the next one in your favour.
Long term approaches are needed, but don’t let that stop you from getting started now. Be proactive and draw up your ‘most wanted’ target list. That’s the best place to begin.
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Some obvious, some neglected, and some not so obvious ideas to help you get more face time.
After compiling your sales hit-list, take a moment to make sure the contenders are worthy.
And how important is volume, anyway?