At the end of my first full year running i4, I would just like to thank all my customers and business partners for their support and encouragement. It has been a very successful time with a variety of projects - training, sales, bids and even a few forays into marketing and business planning. It has been fulfilling to know that my skills and experience are needed and valued by so many. With my very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
All too often, salespeople regard procurement as awkward and interferring - the sales prevention unit to be avoided at all costs. This is a mistake. If you alienate or ignore them, they will not feel positively towards you when they become involved, which they inevitably will at some stage. The best way to build a strong relationship with procurement is to see them as a critical stakeholder in your prospect's buying process. Identify the procurement people involved in your opportunity as early as possible and plan how you will engage with them. Like any other stakeholder, it is important to understand their individual objectives and motivations, as well as their departmental objectives; this short article on procurement scorecards is a useful reference on how to prepare for an intelligent dialogue with procurement. There has been some good research in recent times regarding procurement maturity - see Huthwaite for examples. Understanding whether you are dealing with a mature or immature procurement function will help you to plan your activity. Whatever you do, ignore procurement at your peril - find a way to empathise and you will fare much better.
Enjoyed an educational and fun time at the APMP (Association of Bid and Proposal Management Professionals) 11th Annual Conference. This year's theme was "Capture Strategy: The Moves to Win" on the basis that the majority of industry veterans agree that customer buying decisions are 40-80% decided before proposals are submitted. So, organisations that practice effective capture planning and strategy development often win more frequently; win larger, more competitive bids; reduce bid time and cost; and make better qualification decisions.
The highlights included captivating keynote speakes: Sir Clive Woodward – Director of Elite Performance at the British Olympic Association - explaining how he assesses and motivates individuals and teams, and Caspar Berry – poker expert - who discussed the psychology of decision making and risk taking. For a full review of the conference see the APMP conference micro web site.
Many people thought that "The Challenger Sale" heralded the end of the relationship salesman; the thesis in the book is that the classic relationship salesman is now the lowest performing sales "type". Today, customers do not want schmoozing and corporate entertainment - per the relationship salesman - rather they want someone who can bring fresh insight and ideas into how they can improve their business - per the "Challenger". However, the profile of a Challenger can conjure up a picture of an obnoxious "know-it-all"! In this video, Anthony Iannarino discusses with Gerhard Gschwandtner how the good Challenger salesman still forms close relationships with prospects and customers so that his/her advice and guidance will be well-received. Iannarino also shares his view that there are two emerging trends in sales: "Trend to Relationship" and "Flight to Value". Unless you are a truly transactional company - he uses Amazon.com as an example - then the importance of strong strategic partner value and a robust Return on Investment (ROI) business case are on the up. This is all good news for those solid sale professionals out there who understand the value that they and their company's capability can bring.
I always enjoy Daniel Goleman's posts on Linked In. A psychologist who for many years reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times, Dr Goleman is the author of Emotional Intelligence and other eminent publications. He regularly shares insights into how emotional intelligence can positively influence management and selling performance. In today's world, differentiation is hard to come by, yet differentiate ourselves we must. Demonstrating mature emotional intelligence in all our interactions will go a long way to creating that differentiation. For a taster, look at "Leadership: A Master Class", Dr Goleman's first-ever comprehensive video series that examines the best practices of top-performing executives.
New article from i4 describing the technique of storyboarding in proposals and the benefits it can bring. Published in the September/October issue of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management magazine Winning Edge.
Despite what some people think, I have to admit to being an introvert. Although I exhibit many extrovert characteristics in a familiar environment or where I am playing a purely professional role, there are many situations where I would rather hide than take centre stage. Hence, I really emphathised with Deborah Wipf's article, which is both intelligent and challenging.
The learned Dr Tom Sant articulates very well the challenges of managing change in a sales organisation in this article. Using three real life failures to implement sales change, he concludes with some sound advice about the need to combine a deep understanding of the sales psyche with practical measures including training, tools and process. Then you have to practice the three Rs - recognition, reward and reinforcement. It's a good read.
Not everyone likes to write. Whether for business or for pleasure, some find it a necessary evil, while others dread it. Some prefer a straw model to start with, some enjoy editing. Others love a blank sheet of paper. I am of the latter variety, which can be both inspiring and frustrating in equal measure. I love to write in all situations - business proposals and plans, marketing material, my holiday diary, thoughts on a difficult situation and many more. It is cathartic and therapeutic, as well as intensely satisfying. For those less into writing, try this interesting article from George Dy Jnr on writing every day.
Virtual teams are a feature of everyday working life these days in the world of bidding as much as anywhere. Building on a discussion on Linked In, Michael Watkins of Genesis Advisers adds his own experience and considers ten ways to make virtual teams successful. I would sum it up as a combination of clarity, communications, consistency and care. Clarity of roles, responsibilities and actions; good verbals communication with suitable technology support; consistency of language and modus operandi; and care between all team members for each other and the quality of the work. Read the full article here.
Good article from Dr Tom Sant of Qvidian based on a discussion on the Association of Proposal Management Professional's LinkedIn discussion board: "How to measure success in responding to RFPs (requests for proposals) if management does not want to include win rate as one of the key criteria?". Dr Sant considers what to measure if you can't track win rates. He explores two options: (1) improvements in proposal cost effectiveness or operational efficiency, and (2) customer satisfaction independent of win rates. Read the full article here.
"To Do It Last or To Do It First, That is the Question" - new article from i4 debating whether to write an Executive Summary first or last. Published in the May/June issue of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management magazine Winning Edge.
Andy Bounds' new book, The Snowball Effect, gives you immediate ways to change how you communicate. Simply re-tuning the brain to always adopt the core technique of focusing on the "do" first - the result or action you want from your communication - followed by the benefit to the recipient, and only then worrying about the content is so simple and brilliant, yet hardly anyone does it. The way the book is organised makes it a handy reference guide to dip into any time to suit the situation. It will be on my desk always. No more FYIs for me!
This TED talk by John McWhorter really made me think again about texting. He argues that speech and writing are different things - not necessarily a reflection of each other. Speech is casual and writing is formal - we generally don't speak as we write and vice versa. He likens texting to written speech and suggests it is commendable and desirable to be able to text as well as write - akin to being bi-lingual. He also points out that people have bemoaned the prevalence of poor grammar, spelling and wording since as early as 63 A.D. - it is not a modern lament. Oh, and for the record, I had to look up JK! Fun and thought-provoking stuff.
Bruna Martinuzzi offers 12 great ideas that could be adapted for use in proposals: use a contrarian approach; ask a series of rhetorical questions; deliver a compelling sound bite; make a startling assertion; provide a reference to a historical event; use the word imagine; add a little show business; arouse curiosity; use quotations differently; quote a foreign proverb; take them through a “what if” scenario; tell them a story. Click through to the full article to find out more.
I was privileged to visit London's Air Ambulance Service today and ventured up to the frozen helipad. The view of London is fantastic, but the wind chill factor was -15 degrees. Most interesting, however, was the teamwork involved in delivering the service. The Team, which at all times includes a Senior Trauma Doctor and a specially trained Paramedic, perform advanced medical interventions, normally only found in the Hospital Emergency Department, in time critical, life threatening situations. The trust and cooperation between the team members has to be exceptional to enable them to make life-saving decisions in split seconds. A role model, indeed.
It is always interesting to learn tips and techniques from completely different disciplines. In this great short video, chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley talks about different ways in which he and his fellow chess players assess and plan moves.
His favourite is 'retrograde analysis'. He explains how this can be used for numerous problem solving situations including proof reading i.e. reading backwards forces you to spot errors that the brain would miss in normal read mode.
In this video, Simon Sinek explains how communicating genuine belief - WHY we do things - can fundamentally change the way a message is portrayed. Most people and companies focus on WHAT they do and HOW they do it, which is uninspiring compared to those who include the WHY. Using Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King and the Bleriot brothers as examples, Sinek illustrates his point perfectly. This video may be 3 years old, but to me it is timeless.
I am finding more and more reference to the human side of selling. Selling isn't just about being business savvy and it's certainly not about being sharp and manipulative. Trust and integrity are critical today, but so is Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) - the self-awareness to understand and improve your interaction with other people. In her recent article, Lori Richardson shares a conversation with Emotional Intelligence Sales Expert Colleen Stanley.
Get to Great has introduced the Connected Enterprise Maturity Model (CEMM), borne out of collective 20th century experience of working within large siloed organisations and the belief that, in the 21st century, these organisations must move ‘from silo to social’ to survive and thrive. The ‘Connected Enterprise’ is an organisation that enables people to communicate, collaborate, innovate, embrace change and share knowledge efficiently and effectively, to the benefit of the individual, the organisation, and most importantly, their customers.
A much viewed, but constantly inspiring video on the power of words and human thoughtfulness.
See the latest report from the Cabinet Office with details of the Mystery Shopper scheme and how it has dealt with SME complaints about public sector procurements. Good they are taking SMEs seriously and making a difference in places.
I enjoyed David Tovey's book, Principled Selling, over the Christmas holidays. The key differentiating strand is the importance of always operating with integrity, honesty and respect towards all customers, both internal and external, throughout the whole lifecycle of engagement. I couldn't agree more.
The UK government aspires to procure 33% of its goods and services from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Sounds good, but it can be daunting for those new to public sector bidding, who do not understand procurement rules and fear the red tape.
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