Companies that have a history of tendering for work are fully aware of how complicated and protracted this process can be. Having written hundreds of tenders and helped countless businesses through the tender process, we have noticed a number of common mistakes that when avoided can enhance the proposal immeasurably.
1) Typos and Errors
Whilst a grammatically correct tender doesn’t mean success, a grammatically incorrect tender can mean failure. Straightforward grammatical errors often cause suppliers to dismiss proposals which are otherwise of decent quality.
A simple way to avoid typos and errors is to have THREE different people go through the whole tender on completion – not the most exhilarating of tasks but vitally important!
2) Lack of Clarity
Suppliers will be going through many tenders so the last thing they want to read is a long-winded answer that is barely relevant to their requirements. Keep your answers clear and concise and – most importantly – relevant to the conditions stipulated in the tender.
Also remember to give details of your skills, experience and qualifications in a way that the supplier will understand how they benefit from these attributes.
3) Opting for Quantity over Quality
A frequent blunder made by many companies is to rely on quantity rather than quality. The theory seems to be the more tenders a business submits, the more chance they have of success. This haphazard approach often takes away from the quality of each tender and relies on chance rather than skill.
Businesses that take a disciplined approach to tendering and only pursue contracts where they can offer insight and value are usually the ones that are successful.
4) Give yourself Sufficient Time with a Useful Tender Tracker
One of the biggest problems many businesses face is obtaining tender information that offers adequate time to research and prepare the bid.
Most tender trackers offer little more than a month often resulting in a rushed and poorly researched bid. In order to engage fully in pre-bid discussions and construct a well-researched and detailed proposal, you may need anything up to six months or more.
To achieve this you should use an advanced tender notification system that can provide you with additional time and ensure you can engage with decision makers and influence the bid specification before it goes out to the market.
Here’s one product that will do this for you Contracts Advance
5) Look Good, Feel Good
A high quality tender should provide useful information that is laid out in an easy-to-read format.
Use headings, diagrams, photos etc. and divide the tender into appropriate sections. Make your tender visually pleasing and easy-to-navigate.
6) Not Seeking an Explanation from Suppliers
Don’t assume anything.
If you are unsure of any details with regards to the tender, contact the supplier and ask. Don’t take the risk of misinterpreting the requirements of the supplier. Tender forms come with contact details so use them.
If you would like to learn more about Steve please click here.
A guest post from the very free-thinking Tony Barton: coach, speaker (to naked people; ask him not me) and writer.
It doesn’t make sense.
Bright people, like you and me, are working so hard we’re burning out, trying to keep up with an office that’s open all hours. It’s a hopeless task we can never win – or can we?
I’ve been fascinated by this subject of burn out for the past year because I see it wherever I go in my job as a leadership trainer and coach – and the smell of burning is overpowering, it’s time someone sounded the alarm.
What frustrates me is that everyone knows the answer to this problem – it’s called working smarter not harder. So how come the majority of people ignore this simple mantra? We’ve all read Covey’s ‘Seven Habits Of Highly Effective people’ haven’t we? And if you haven’t read that one you can always try any one of the other 251,000 self-help books listed on Amazon, any one of them would work if you actually did what they say.
And here’s another thing that makes me mad.
If any of you read ‘The 5 Regrets Of The Dying’ last year, you’ll recall that spending more time at work wasn’t one of them. What people actually regret at the end of their lives is missing out on the simple things in life, time spent with friends and family, having the courage to be yourself – and all that touchy feely stuff. When was the last eulogy you heard that remarked on the deceased’s incomparable ability to hit his KPI’s?
My point is it doesn’t make sense – we all know that the way we are allowing ourselves to work these days is simply not sustainable.
The real problem is that we love our work too much!
Work is a great drug; it provides us with so much of what we need in life…reward, challenge, sense of achievement, purpose, friends, fun and more besides – but as we know, at the end of the day, work is important but it’s not really what life is about – is it?
Maybe it is – it’s up to us to choose.
But if it’s not – what is the answer?
Well you could read one of those hundreds of books on working smarter – but we know that won’t make any difference, so what else can you do?
I suggest you start talking about it.
You know, start talking about just how crazy it is to be working 12 hour days on a regular basis, talk about how hard it is for you to turn off and get a decent night’s sleep, talk about how exhausted you are when you get home, so tired that you have no time or energy left for your loved ones, talk about your fear of not keeping up with the pace, talk about the fear of failing, talk about how little time you have these days for your hobbies or your friends.
Conversations change the world, one conversation at a time.
I call these courageous conversations, because that’s what they are and it’s about time we started to have them with the people that matter; your colleagues at work; your boss; your partner; your friends – and most importantly of all, isn’t it time you had a courageous conversation with yourself about how you plan to live your one wild and precious life?
Now there’s an interesting conversation starter.
Tony Barton is a first rate life and business coach who I have used myself with some great results. He is one of life’s great characters and God knows these days we don’t have enough of them.
Check out his Red Kite world to see his corporate offerings and slide over to his Burn-out site if you feel life should be more than long hours and stress (by the way his Red Kite e-newsletter is well worth a read too).
This is a guest post by Rachel Brushfield who has guested for me before and always brings a fresh and interesting slant to whatever subject she covers. In this post she looks at the very topical subject of New Year resolutions with some interesting conclusions. Read more about Rachel here.
Happy New Year! Hope you had a relaxing break and feel re-energised for the year ahead.
Did you make any New Year Resolutions?
I am not a fan of New Year Resolutions. Mostly they involve giving up something up that you like e.g. smoking or are expressed in the negative e.g. lose weight. This makes you feel miserable before you have even started and like you are missing/lacking something! This time of year is atypical, so not the best time to set big goals for the whole year.
A good place to start with change is what outcome you want. Lawyers are generally not especially reflective by nature; they don’t get time to be with the pressures of fee earning targets, especially in the more competitive fast changing legal market.
Imagine it is the end of 2013. What would be a headline about your year, personally and professionally? Starting with where you want to be is like having a horizon that you are continually heading towards, whatever storms or unexpected detours are ahead.
Lawyers are individuals and like to come up with their own answers, not be told what to do and the best solution for change is always the one they come up with themselves.
I think small things make a big difference, a bit like the expression ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.’ Taking the stairs instead of the lift, keeping a glass of water on your desk or contacting one client a day, leaving your work papers at work, leaving the office one night a week on time, for example.
I used to put off phoning contacts because I preferred writing articles. Taking myself to a coffee shop to make calls before returning to my home office made all the difference to me making the calls, rather than procrastinating and putting the task off. Simple and effective.
Here are some small changes that coaching has enabled:
- A client used to go to work an hour early before their team arrived to think and plan but instead they switched on their computer and got sucked into checking e mails. They came up with the idea of a rhyming couplet that came into their mind when they opened their office door, saw a book on the shelf and sat down at the table instead of in front of the computer.
- A client used to put their briefcase down when they got through the front door, tired after a long day. Over time, the papers built up, as did their frustration, reducing their contentment and productivity. The one small change that made all the difference was emptying their briefcase and putting away their papers before sitting down, as soon as they got home.
- A client who was French felt angry alot of the time and didn’t know why. I helped them identify the insight that they were thinking in French, translating into English and then preparing what to say in conversation, by when the conversation had moved on, so they never got a chance to express themselves, causing the anger. Explaining this to their quick and impatient extrovert colleagues so that they allowed them more time meant the anger disappeared, instantly.
So give yourself permission not to set New Year Resolutions but to make one or more small changes that will make a big difference. What would yours be?
Here are 3 self-reflective questions for you:
- What one small change would most make a difference to me in 2013, personally and professionally?
- Who or what could help me achieve what I want to change?
- How will I know that I have succeeded – what would be the evidence?
Wishing you a happy, successful and fulfilling year.
Rachel has over twenty five years’ experience as a career, talent and L&D strategist & coach and her clients include the managing partner of the largest law firm in the world and an ITV People of Briton Award winner.
For a free article on ‘Managing procrastination’, as well as details of a January 2013 special offer exclusive to Flair blog & newsletters readers, email Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org, putting ‘Flair’ in the subject box.
If you would like to publish a guest post on this blog please submit your idea to me at email@example.com. We neither accept or offer any financial gains for guest blogs – your insights are enough.
This is a great guest post by Martin Bragg who is a business development professional with over two decades experience in the professional services arena. Here he explores a crucial aspect of business development and one where many people fail to hit the mark with serious consequences.
If you would like to know more about Martin please click here….
Turn assumptions into questions…
Over the years I’ve learned that “Assumption is the mother of all cock-ups” particularly when it comes to sales. For some time now we have been casually telling potential clients ‘we know your issues’. But do we really?
We may know the issues our clients are having, and this is great insight to have, but we cannot assume that every client is facing the same challenges as these.
Assume nothing and never guess
The hard work in sales is done in the conversations leading up to a proposal. It’s our opportunity to find out all the little facts that prove we care and that we understand their situation. In short: we demonstrate we know the client better than anyone else. Gaining this insight also shows that the client already trusts us.
If the client has given you some insight during this phase, remind them. If they haven’t, don’t guess. Use phrases like:
- “You told us that X is a major issue for you…”
- “From our experience in your industry we see clients with the following key concerns…”
- “We will work with you to identify and solve the critical issues that you need this project to address…”
Take action – do this today
So here is a practical way to improve your awareness and sharpen your technique in this critical business activity: -
- Take a piece of paper and write the name of a client at the top and divide the page into two columns.
- Down the left hand side write the issues you think they have.
- Next to each issue write down how you know about it. Did the client tell you? Is it your or your firms’ industry insight? Or is it a guess? Be honest.
- For every piece of industry insight ask yourself how can you prove it and for every guess turn it into a question you can ask your client.
Basing a proposal on facts rather than guesswork will always improve our chances of success and in today’s marketplace we need all the help we can get.
This month’s guest post is by David Blumentals all the way from Sydney. David is focused on providing CRM software to the legal sector based on the Microsoft Dynamics platform. His firm has clients in Europe, the Asia Pacific rim and America and he is a recognised expert in his field.
If you want to know more about what David does please click here……
I talk to a lot of law firms who are considering the implementation of a CRM system for Client Relationship Management, and many of them still don’t have a firm grip on what CRM is, why they need it and what results it can bring to them. They aren’t sure what they should spend and they wonder, “How do I justify this system?” Many firms have also put their CRM projects on hold as a result of other IT projects, the economy, or because they think what they have now is OK. What priority should you give to CRM system?
Let’s clarify what you need to know, and if you need a CRM system.
It’s All About Acquire – Engage – Retain!
The goal of most law firms is to make a profit by acquiring, engaging and retaining clients. The truth is… that most law firms do a poor job of marketing, managing clients and growing business development.
So why do you need CRM? Because the problem is… you don’t know which clients you will lose, how many you have called on, or what the rest of your firm is doing that will affect your success or failure. Just knowing how many calls to clients or prospective clients have been made is often done by asking them!
For years, law firms relied on lawyers to maintain good relationships with clients. They kept their own client records in rolodexes, followed up on new opportunities with sticky notes and grew the client base and service reputation by doing great legal work. But when lawyers change firms, or the partners don’t know what the lawyers have promised (and vice-versa), this gets many firms in trouble.
Six Good Reasons You Need a CRM System
- Centralised Information – How many new client prospect telephone calls do your lawyers make each day? Does everyone who communicates with a client know what other practice groups said to them or did for them? Is all client information kept in one area or program for easy client service reference? Do you have several databases of information that you need access for a 360 degree client view?
- Quality Data – Are you able to identify (let alone manage) the top 10% of clients that give you 90% of your revenue? Do you know what is happening with each of these clients “real-time” – for example, leadership changes, new acquisitions, new product or service offerings?
- One View Of The Client – Are you able to access all the information you need from one screen? What is your revenue per lawyer, per BDM, per marketer? What are your win, loss and no-decision rates? What’s your matter turnaround time? How many business development calls are completed per lawyer? What’s the average amount of time required to complete each step in developing a new major client? Do you know how many client service issues each client has had and why? Do you know which clients consume most of your lawyers (billable vs unbillable) time?
- Ongoing Client Care – What is the workload by practice group or by lawyer? What are the numbers of existing client contacts and repeat business? What’s the average matter size, billing and payment frequency? How do you rate your marketing or lead generation program / marketing event effectiveness? What are the win-rate comparisons for different client types?
- Cloning Our Best Rain Makers – What are the success rates and profitability comparisons for individual partners and lawyers? Can you communicate quickly with message broadcasts to your client base?
- Risk Management (High Availability/Disaster Recovery) – what happens when a key rain maker leaves the firm? Do you have critical client data on PC’s that could be lost or taken and should be on one database?
If you don’t know the answers the questions above (or you have no idea where to get them), you should definitely consider a CRM system for your marketing, business development and client care.
Why Should CRM Be A Priority?
The simple answer is: because it can have such a profound effect on your firm! It greatly affects staff satisfaction and turnover, the ability to target and close new business, the management of client interactions and profitability. How much do you think these few functions alone can affect your law firm?
Sometimes firms lose deals because one hand doesn’t know what the other was doing. How much would actions like this affect your law firm? How many times does this happen at your firm? How do you know? And how do you know how many calls your lawyers make on clients? Or… how much time do the lawyers spend with that “one problem client?” And how could it be fixed?
Answers to these questions are what justify the need for CRM software! When firms start to probe, they find that many things are going wrong and being covered up and they’re costing the firm a bundle! And don’t say that your firm has everything working perfectly, because this happens at every law firm! Do an anonymous survey of the “worker bees” and you will find out.
Even If You Have Some Form Of CRM…
Even if you have a CRM system, things can go wrong, because more than a software system, CRM is a cultural change, and many firms don’t invest time and effort into the new culture. Many managers believe once the software is installed and integrated (or sometimes not integrated) that all of their problems will drift away. Not the case! Many staff don’t understand the system, don’t want to change, want to do things the old way, and then you still have no way of knowing what is going on. The cultural change cannot be a choice!
How Do You Estimate What Your ROI On CRM Will Be?
To determine the cost of not implementing CRM, put some numbers to the following:
- How many existing clients did your law firm lose in the past 12 months and what were the annual revenues?
- How many new business opportunities did you lose in the past 12 months and what were they worth?
- Estimate the value and gross margin of the business opportunities you missed for timing or lack of follow up?
Another way to look at it:
On average, a new client will use your firm for 5 years.
If the average client generates 10 matters/assignments per year at an average size of £2,000…
The lifetime Income from a new client would then be: 5 years x 10 matters/assignments per year x £2,000 value = £100,000.
Therefore, with an average gross margin of 30% each new client will generate a lifetime gross margin of £30,000.
If you have:
100 clients = £3,000,000
500 clients = £15,000,000
1,000 clients = £30,000,000
What Is CRM Worth? The Question Really Boils Down To:
- What are you not closing in business opportunities that you could with more efficient opportunity / deal flow management?
- What do you not know about your current clients and how many will go to the competition at what revenue loss to you?
- What level of client service are you providing now, and how do your inefficiencies translate into extra costs or lost revenue opportunities?
- What are the costs to the firm of not knowing and acting upon clients that cost more than they are worth?
- How effective are your lead generation efforts and how much could CRM save you?
Add up all of the lost opportunity costs and the real costs of inefficiency and you will easily prove to yourself that you are losing, spending and costing far more than you expected. And, in nearly all cases, your total will be more than the cost of the CRM implementation. Consider CRM on a par with a Total Quality Management (TQM) process. I seriously doubt you will find any firms that tried TQM and found they were more profitable when problems were swept under the carpet.
Take The Plunge!
Either jump on board with CRM and invest, knowing you need it, or get out the calculator and pencil and start adding up what you’re going to lose!
It is fairly easy to see where the benefits of CRM lie in most law firms. If you are close to the processes that turn a prospect into a client, and guarantee his or her satisfaction, you know what would help your law firm be more successful. The next step is to take action to document, justify and convince yourself that the investment in CRM will help guarantee your firm’s long term success.
Riverview is one of the new breed of legal businesses created to deliver corporate legal work in a new way based upon the belief that the law is just another business service. One of the key people behind the company is Karl Chapman who recently agreed to speak with me about the inner workings of his company.
This candid post is the result. So is Riverview going to be the shape of things to come in the legal world? You decide.
How would you best describe Riverview Law?
Riverview is a legal advisory outsourcing business that offers a range of legal services to the corporate world.
At the bottom end of the legal value curve is Legal Process Outsourcing which covers fairly transactional non-advisory tasks that can be done by non-lawyers, junior lawyers or can even be outsourced. At the top end you have international M&A work carried out by the magic and silver circles. We’re focused on all the legal advice in between.
Where is the firm based?
We now have a team of over 100 people of which around 60% are lawyers. But we are recruiting heavily at the moment and expect this ratio to change; ultimately we anticipate employing more non-lawyers than lawyers.
Our core offices are situated in London and Wirral. The Wirral office is our main centre with 30,000 square feet of floor space and we intend to fill it all with people!
Who owns the firm?
Its shareholders do. AdviserPlus Business Solutions [Karl’s HR outsourcing business], DLA Piper, private individuals and the staff. We are very committed to ensuring we have wide employee share ownership.
This typical corporate structure means we have none of the “partnership baggage or language” that prevents quick decision making – our board of directors and management team function like any other corporate organisation does.
Why did DLA Piper take a stake?
From our perspective we wanted a shareholder who shared the same values as us, who understood the changes taking place in the legal market and who could move quickly. DLA Piper seemed like a perfect fit.
You’d have to ask them why they wanted to buy their stake. Perhaps they can see a change coming and want to be part of it; I really couldn’t say.
What sort of clients have you already won?
Well bearing in mind we only set up shop in February 2012 I think we’ve done pretty well. We work with SME’s right the way up but our sweet-spot is the large corporates. They really seem to like our service and pricing model and value the benefits we can provide.
I’d love to be able to give you the names of the clients we’ve already won but for customer confidentiality reasons I can’t. If they want to publicly announce that we work with them that’s great but it really is their call. However, what I can say is that our expectations have been exceeded in two areas: large organisations and litigation.
So how are you different from traditional law firms?
Well it’s probably easier to say how we’re the same: we employ lawyers and we deliver a legal advice. Seriously though I think we are different in the many ways, from our culture to our business structure, and in particular:-
- We use a fixed pricing model.
- We understand the power of technology and management information.
- Our people do what they do best. Our lawyers do what they like most and are best at, which is the law of course. We hire managers to manage and sales people to sell which is what they do best. I hope!
Do you have trouble finding lawyers?
At a time when a partnership can look risky and hard to come by we offer our lawyers a good salary, bonus arrangements, share options, no additional duties (unless appropriate) over practising the law, no timesheets and a clear career path. Added to this we have a great culture and strong values so what do you think?
Let’s look at sales now. How do you win new clients?
Well I head up the BD operations and then we have 3 BD Heads focused on Legal Advisory Outsourcing; SME’s and Litigation. Each of these leaders has a team working with them. In total we have 11 dedicated business developers but we are just in the process of hiring some more so this number will rise very soon.
Lawyers aren’t expected to sell unless they want to and have an aptitude for it in which case we will relent. Having said that we are being approached by prospective clients who have heard what we’re up to and want to know more. I can’t say too much more right now except watch this space.
Do you use a CRM system and if so what is it?
We most certainly do. We use Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM and have done for years. Although Riverview is only 155 days old our systems and processes come from 11 years’ worth of development as part of AdviserPlus.
IT is a crucial part of our business model and allows us to run in an extremely efficient way. Added to that we offer our clients access to enormous amounts of management information through our Cloud portal and all the data comes from our CRM system. We simply couldn’t manage without it.
Having said all of that we also know that however good processes and technology are it’s people that make the difference!
So who “owns” the clients within the firm?
Well from the outset we decided that the company would own the clients not the individual lawyers as it usually is in traditional law firms. The silo mentality that this often produces is harmful to the client and to us and we wanted no part of it.
Of course the client has relationships with their own Riverview lawyers and we don’t move them around a lot: the client deals with who they feel most comfortable with. Our larger clients also have a legal director and a relationship director assigned to them to make sure we have all their needs covered.
OK Karl one final question. What would you say to people who think this model isn’t sustainable?
Quite simple really. It’s based upon sound business principles, proven technology and processes and a belief that the client comes first. We have successfully used the same model in AdviserPlus for 11 years and we have a 100% contract renewal rate for our large corporate clients. Maybe the real question should be, is the partnership model really sustainable?
So there you have it. I found Karl to be very open and extremely proud of what he and his team are building. Will they change the face of the legal profession? Well I can’t say any more than you can but I have to admit their proposition is very compelling and is based upon a proven technology and process platform so just maybe they can.
Today’s post has been written by somebody who has helped me personally and for whom I have a great deal of respect. Priscilla Morris is one of the UK’s foremost voice coaches teaching people how to make the most of one of their most precious assets: their voice. Find out more about Priscilla here www.loudandclearuk.com
Did you realise that speaking in public is scientifically proven to be one of the scariest challenges we face. Many people avoid presenting because they fear the unknown: “I’ll forget my words”, they say or, more tellingly, “they might not like me”.
In this post I want to take away some of the mystique associated with public speaking and instead approach it as a skill that can be learnt. Of course, extroverts will always find it easier than introverts, but anyone can be successful if they understand that delivery is all-important.
So how can you achieve the right balance?
Your message needs to be clear, i.e. plan the structure with care and use the right words for each individual audience.
Your delivery needs to be precise, i.e. speech should be articulated firmly, and you should have an awareness of accent, which might form a barrier to understanding.
We process information at different rates according to size of audience and acoustics of venue, but generally, it will be much slower than you think. Against that we all have internal timing which determines the speed we speak and to be honest most people speak too quickly especially when they are nervous. If people say you are too fast, they are really saying they cannot process the information you are giving them.
Learn to use pauses to give yourself time for thought and to stop you gathering speed.
Your audience will opt out if you don’t keep their interest, and to do that you have to introduce lots of variation.
We call this Vocal Modulation and it includes the use of pitch, pace, pause, power, tone and inflection.
We have a habitual way of using these but can also learn to take control and use them as markers and highlighters within a speech. Listen to some of the great speakers and you will see that they vary the way they speak and avoid monotonous delivery thus keeping their audience interested.
If you have ever heard someone reading a speech aloud, you will probably have experienced a lack of this essential element. Sincerity comes from emotion and we can only put this across by making a clear personal connection with the words.
All speakers should aim for spontaneity and this manifests itself in the ability of the speaker to convince us that they mean every word. You should allow your personality to come through and if this is not a naturally comfortable environment for you, create a persona that takes over when you present. None of this is easy, but it all comes from the last of my tips……
In 40 years of experience I have learned that you should do 1 hour’s practice for every 1 minute of speaking. This may fill you with horror but remember we are talking about realisation from start to finish, so it includes research and planning.
However, speaking your words aloud is also vital. If you cannot stand before your audience with total belief in your ability to succeed, nerves are likely to affect your performance. Try to work from cue cards, because a speech written out in full often sounds more like an essay.
If you take some of these ideas on-board you will give yourself CONFIDENCE – and so, we return neatly to the beginning.
Obviously, these tips are not exhaustive and space has determined that they are rather simplistic but just remember to be:
C.R.I.S.P. when speaking in public and then you will
SPEAK YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS!
This is a guest post from Paul Caris who is the CIO at international law firm Eversheds. His ability to get the most out of his suppliers without bullying or threatening them is legendary so here’s Paul’s take on what he looks for in his suppliers.
It has been suggested that the way we manage our suppliers at Eversheds is somewhat unique and that we may have some tips to share to help suppliers approach organisations like ourselves in order to establish and maintain valuable transacting relationships.
However, when I considered what we do differently I realised it’s as much about how our suppliers manage themselves as it is about how we manage our supply chain, so here are my top five tips that I think you should embrace.
TIP NUMBER 1: Don’t call your relationship a “partnership” if it isn’t.
Partnership is the most over used term in a supplier / customer relationship. A partnership is where all parties have the same interest in success and equal amounts to lose and gain. This is very rarely the case when suppliers have many customers and organisations have many suppliers.
Over use of the partnership tag line will raise too many expectations. I believe you should be candid with your suppliers, have a rating system and let your suppliers know how they sit on it.
I also like to make our future intentions towards them clear: retain, grow or exit.
If you plan to exit a supplier then let them know, you can then have grown-up conversations to avoid unnecessary costs on both sides in managing a situation that will end in termination.
If growth or retention are your objectives then try to understand the revenue recognition model and how the supplier is rewarded for performance. By understanding the supplier’s commercial make-up you may find it possible to help the supplier achieve their financial goals without too much compromise. Discover if cash-flow is more important than a month-end target. Is revenue growth more important than gross margin? Your supplier will respond well if (without compromising your own commercial requirements) you can help them achieve theirs. The key is to become a valuable customer.
So there you have it. If you are a supplier be honest; ask to know your position and what the future looks like; share what is important to you and try and establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Oh, and avoid banging on about “partnerships” all the time.
TIP NUMBER 2: Do not diss your competitors
This one is very important: never say a bad word about your competitors.
It just makes you look vindictive and offers nothing to your client other than the opportunity to gossip. Also it’s insulting to the customer when you talk about your competitors and their lack of quality, features or services; it suggests that as a customer we are too lazy or too stupid to do our own market analysis.
It is equally frustrating to hear relentless arguments about the risks or issues as a supplier you can solve, instead find a way to understand the value you can bring to your customer. This is all about asking the right questions and then listening to their answers.
TIP NUMBER 3: Get to know the decision makers.
This is an obvious tip however many sales representatives spend their time trying to create an often fruitless connection with the wrong person!
As an example: although I am accountable for all the purchasing decisions in my organisation, I very rarely make them. I accept the recommendations made to me by my teams. There is very little point inviting me to play golf or go out to dinner as it won’t be me that you need to impress. Moreover I have little time for a supplier who attempts to influence me over my team or my boss. Some of the larger IT suppliers in the past used to reward their sales representatives if they went “over the head” of their contact if they weren’t getting the results they wanted. Thankfully I haven’t witnessed this type of behaviour for some time, however, if I did the supplier would quickly end up in the exit category.
As a customer punch above your weight. Get to know the suppliers executive team and the CEO. It is your right, you pay their wages, nothing is more powerful than having a connection with the CEO and that all important mobile number for emergencies. And of course as a supplier make sure you introduce your clients to other people in your firm especially your boss.
TIP NUMBER 4: Empower your negotiators.
This is my pet hate.
If despite the tip above I am meeting and negotiating with a supplier directly I expect the individual on the opposite side of the table to have the empowerment to negotiate on their company’s behalf. It is infuriating the number of times a supplier sends a sales representative that says “I’ll have to take that back” when presented with a perfectly reasonable offer, which is subsequently accepted.
The amount of time wasted by the wrong level of sales people being presented to senior customers is obscene. Make sure the right people turn up to commercial meetings with equal levels of negotiating powers to deliver a fruitful outcome.
TIP NUMBER 5: Bigger is not better
During a recession the ability for an organisation to be agile is a crucial prerequisite. The bigger a business gets the less agile it tends to become. As a customer in a recession I have learned that the ability to leverage the benefit of scale is far less important than working with companies that can change direction and make decisions quickly.
We have made a conscious decision to develop relationships with an eclectic mix of small owner run suppliers as well as working with the usual big businesses. They tend to be far more entrepreneurial and exciting to work with and so are very valuable to us.
If you are in sales for a big company; my advice is learn to be behave like an entrepreneur. If you are a small business; use the recession as an opportunity to demonstrate agility. If you are a customer, maintain only the most essential procurement processes in your organisation, be a customer that can act quickly on a deal, be a delight to sell to.
This is August’s guest post by Claire Fuller a very popular coach specialising in efficiency and effectiveness; career direction and personal change. Learn more about Claire here.
Being in charge of a business, a department or even a team is a huge responsibility and one that doesn’t just happen. There are so many roles that you have to play, that it can seem as though there is not enough time in your life for you just to be you.
It is important that you manage to keep the show on the road at all costs. But where does this leave you personally and emotionally? I know from my own experience and from those of my clients that more often than not it leaves you feeling time starved, exhausted and unfulfilled.
The feeling of overwhelm is likely to be similar whether what you are in charge of is large or small. Never ending demands on your time which you do not know how to reduce. How CAN you do things differently?
Do you ever think to yourself ‘It’s lonely at the top’? You may be surrounded by people but you may feel that none of them are suitable for you to discuss your dilemmas with. Your team may well think that it’s alright for you – you earn a good salary, you have a lot of perks (if you do!) they work hard for you and yet they’re perhaps not even sure what you do!
However, you know differently.
You probably regularly wish for more hours in the day as you juggle your many and varied tasks. And it is likely that you find it hard to switch off from work even when you’re not at work.
Senior executives often:
- Spend far too much time at work
- Worry that they are missing out on family and home life
- Neglect their physical health
- Forget to eat properly so suffer from energy highs and lows from too many cups of coffee etc.
- Feel exhausted and stressed
This in itself creates a lot of pressure both at work and at home. An unhappy boss can lead to unhappy staff and whilst no one takes any action to change anything this situation is very likely to deteriorate. Happy, motivated staff will be far more effective than unhappy ones so making some changes is essential.
Steps to prevent loneliness at the top…
1. Put yourself higher up the list – it is essential that you take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. You’re probably very well aware of this as a theory but do you implement it? You may feel that you need more time to do anything differently, however in reality you probably just need to decide to change.
2. Decide on a (sensible) number of hours that you need to put in each week and stick to them – this will make you more effective during those hours and will enable you to have quality time out of work to recharge
3. Have a sanctuary – go somewhere that will help you to think clearly and differently about your challenges whenever the going gets particularly tough
4. Develop new strategies and techniques to serve you better - think laterally; ask yourself great questions and come up with some great answers
5. No one should feel lonely at the top. There is always someone who can provide an extra insight and supportive role and alongside this, be there to challenge you to ensure that you keep moving in the right direction.
This is a guest blog by Alan Kenny who is the European General Manager of Mimecast a crazily successful provider of cloud-based email management software for archiving, discovery, continuity and security. He has a long track record of sales and sales management and if he says something works you can bet your last Rolo that it does!
You know I used to always believe that I was a great motivator of sales teams. I have had teams that have delivered tremendous results and of whom I have been extremely proud. I used to love it when I heard my boss say that I drive the team with ‘tough love’ and that although it wasn’t obvious I really did have their best interests at heart.
Good times and I wouldn’t change them for the world, but it’s just not sustainable.
The danger with being the key to your sales team’s motivation is that it can only ever be a short term effect: it lasts for as long as you can maintain the energy to drive, cajole and manipulate their behaviour. Worse still, you can become an accidental diminisher rather than a multiplier – a scary thought!
The real key to motivating your sales team is to ensure that you do not de-motivate them!
Believe me this is not as simple as it seems. It requires communicating a clear vision for your sales team embracing methodology and behaviours as well as publicly demonstrating enormous trust in the people themselves. Not to mention quite a lot of patience which is very often lower on the list of qualities exhibited by us sales leaders than it should be!
So here are my top 5 rules for building highly motivated sales teams.
Rule #1 – Recruit the right people – You probably have an Ideal Client Profile for selecting new clients but do you have an Ideal Rep Profile to help you clearly identify the Talent, Experience & Cultural characteristics that a sales person must exhibit. Whatever happens never compromise: never accept anything less!
Rule #2 – Develop, Develop, Develop – David Beckham never stopped practising free kicks, sales people should never stop developing their skills – Fact! So have an on-going training and development program to help them ease their weaknesses and hone their strengths.
Rule #3 – Explicit Expectations – Create a personal contract with your sales people which makes clear what you expect from them and what they should expect from you and then hold each other accountable.
Rule #4 – Social Accountability – Create an environment where results and performance are stated publicly along with a commitment on actions to course-correct if required. There is nothing more binding than a person’s public commitment to their peers provided you hold them accountable for delivery.
Rule #5 – Consistency on the first 4 rules – If you don’t follow best practise then don’t expect anyone else to!
In case you think that I have completely nailed all of the above then you would be wrong: you can never sit back and say “that’s it, the perfect approach”. I’m just committed to creating an environment that allows people’s self-motivation to flourish and then trying to stay out of the way!
If this sounds like a journey that could be of value to you then I recommend the following 5 books as they have become my bibles.
- Multipliers: How the Best Leaders make Everyone Smarter by Elizabeth Wiseman and Greg McKeown
- The New Solution Selling: the revolutionary sales process that is changing the way in which people sell by Keith M. Eades
- The Inner Game of Work: Focus, learning, pleasure and mobility in the workplace by Timothy Gallwey
- Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action by Simon Sinek
- Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel Pink