We attend business events all the time: networking do’s, seminars, conferences, trade shows and so on. But how do we know whether it was worth it or not? Naturally if we went to learn something new the value comes from the quality of the new material but if we didn’t how else can we measure value?
I mean sure, we might emerge with a new client or a piece of work in much the same way that we might emerge on the arm of Pierce Brosnan or Katy Perry. Possible but unlikely.
Here are the 7 tangible benefits you can get from an event each of which are easy to measure; you got them or you didn’t: -
- New contact: you made contact with a new potential client or intermediary and secured their contact details and preferably agreed a next contact.
- Informal meeting: with somebody you have been communicating with via the telephone, email or social media. It might just be a DBC (Drop By Coffee) but it’s also a step forward.
- Formal meeting: repeated DBC’s does not constitute progress. At some point you must arrange to meet at your or their offices and talk turkey – get to know more about them and tell them more about you heading towards doing some business.
- Latch-key opportunity: you are promised the opportunity to deliver a latch-key offering.
- Referral: somebody says “You must meet so and so. Give me a call over the next couple of days and I will make it happen”. Fine but make sure you get the introducer’s contact details and a semi-appointment to speak with them.
- Opportunity for work: that means they explicitly say they have some work for you or you can bid for some work, either is fine. Agree when you can get the instructions and make sure they know you’ll be following it up.
- Showcasing opportunity: you are offered the chance to write for a magazine or blog your prospective clients read or to speak at an event that they might attend. A vague promise doesn’t count – follow up action must be agreed.
So come away empty-handed and most likely the event was a waste of time.
Don’t get fooled by the old “you have to be seen at these kind of things” or “I was building my profile” and certainly not that tired old ”I got loads of useful information”. Meh!
Meet new prospects or advance existing prospects or stay at home with the family – a much more worthwhile use of your time.
Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Well done Europe and commiserations to the USA who came very close to nailing it. Great golf but what can we learn from it that would be useful in business?
Well the first thing to say is that everybody on both teams were great golfers; that’s a gimme. Each player has enormous talent and ability but more than that they are used to delivering under pressure and in the spotlight. Pretty similar to life in the second decade of the 21st century really: everybody is pretty good. The recession has cleared out most of the poor performers so quality is no longer the edge it used to be.
So what was it that made the European team raise their game and win? I think it came down to 3 things.
Jose Maria Olazabal provided truly great leadership: support, discipline, belief all in abundance. After the win he said to his team “All men die, but not all men live. And you have made me feel alive again this week”.
As Rory McIlroy put it “He has made us cry in the team room this week, some of us have broken down into tears with some of his speeches”. Even after the game was won Olazabal was urging on Francesco Molinari to win his match.
Never underestimate the power of inspired leadership.
Passion for the Cause
The late Seve Ballesteros became the cause for this European Ryder cup team. Olazabal had partnered him on numerous Ryder Cup teams in the past and had a special bond that went beyond their shared homeland. But Seve was so well liked and respected he became the cause that everybody rallied around.
Olazabal said ”Seve will always be present with this team” a sentiment added to by Sergio Garcia who said “We did believe, there’s no doubt that we’ve been inspired by Seve, through our captain.” Again Rory McIlroy summed it up “knowing that Seve’s looking down on us, it’s just been one of the most incredible days that I’ve ever had on the golf course.”
Wanting to win is natural in all sports people but having a shared cause that everyone has a passion for lifted their performance to a different level and one that the Americans were unable to match.
Having a shared passion for a single cause that sits above the obvious prize makes all the difference in the world.
There may have been momentary doubts; there must have been. To be faced with 12 matches and the opposition only has to win 4 of them would seem an impossible task especially when faced by a talented and pumped up USA team but they always hung on to the belief “we can win”.
Justin Rose said after his amazing win over Phil Mickelson “Jose told us to believe and we really wanted to, we really did.”. Belief helps you to pick yourself up when you have fallen and can steer you through the narrowest of gaps to pass the finishing line first. In short, belief promotes persistence – which will surely conquer all that lies before it.
Following one of Olazabal’s dressing room talks and even though they were 4 points adrift Ian Poulter said ”We weren’t four points down. We felt like we were all square. We just knew we had a chance. And do you know this is history right here.”
If you believe in yourself you really can achieve miracles.
So what can we take away from all this?
In business we can’t just rely on being better than the next firm we must look within ourselves and ask these questions: do we really have a cause not just a target and are we all passionate about it? Do we believe in ourselves and those around us and finally do our leaders support, believe and inspire us to achieve the seemingly impossible.
So, with the week in front of us about to unfold how do our organisations match up to the European Ryder Cup Team of 2012?
Despite what anybody tells you tenders are designed to lower costs. They may request all sorts of information from you; encourage you to be creative and innovative and bang on about quality and value but when they open up your response the first page they turn to is the one headed “Costs”.
Since there is always somebody in your peer group who is more desperate than you it means there is always somebody out there who is going to be cheaper than you. Tenders are creating a race to the bottom of the price barrel and that isn’t good for anybody including the client.
So what are your options? Here’s five of the best…….
1. Keep doing the same old, same old.
Einstein’s definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over in the same way and expecting a different outcome each time. This option is not recommended by your local business development specialist.
2. Become a Cost Plus Operator
Instead of plucking hourly rates out of the air why not work out what it actually costs to provide a service including direct (what is the true cost of a partner, say) and indirect costs (overheads and so on). Once you have added your margin to this you can be sure that this is a reasonable price and hopefully will be somewhere in the ball-park.
One side-effect of this approach is that it throws a spotlight on the way in which you deliver your offering. By innovating, using new technology and standardisation you may be able to lower the delivery costs and so lower your bid prices and therefore increase your chances of winning the deal.
Of course this is setting you on a path of providing a commodity based service. Some firms will make a lot of money by doing this. I personally wouldn’t choose to work in that part of the field myself though because it’s not much fun and it also happens to be highly vulnerable to the effects of market fluctuations.
3. Go Niche
People recognise that when they base their decisions on cost they will not actually get the best possible service available. It’s a trade-off they’re willing to make. But some will also recognise that certain types of work do demand extra skills or a more studied approach where the price of under-performance is high perhaps.
When you submit your proposal you point out the value of your offering, admit it is not the cheapest but single out when a more expensive flavour (yours) is the right one. Price it up based on decent rates and position yourself as an escalation supplier: in other words work only comes to you when it needs to and you charge differently to the rest of their suppliers.
If your offering genuinely is much better than the competition and there is a real need to use it under certain circumstances then you could be onto a winner here. Note you could do much less business then the other suppliers but make the same amount of profit!
4. Change the game
Always submit a tender response in the format, style and content that the client requested but include a second option which is disruptive. So they ask for hourly rates which you provide but you also offer to take a risk and do all the work for a fixed price with no if’s, but’s or maybe’s. Game changer; makes them begin to think of things other than comparing one suppliers prices against another’s.
Risky and needs innovation but can work handsomely – worth some thought I’d say.
5. Just not bother
Seriously. If you’re not going to change your business to use a cost-plus model; take risks or have a real niche then my advice is don’t bother responding to tenders. If you take this option there is one thing you have to do: build yourself an active sales environment which systematically generates lots of new leads; has a process to grade the leads and then convert the good ones into clients where you have an outstanding client care programme in place to maximise ongoing revenues.
Qualified volume coupled with effective processes, tools, techniques and control mechanisms when combined properly will provide more of the target clients who base their buying decisions on more than just cost.
Tendering is here to stay and if anything will become even more prevalent and cost-sensitive. The “do nothing” option really isn’t an option so whatever you do do it soon and do it well.
Do you love a trip to the races as much as me?
Dressing up to the nines, with a few spare bob in your pocket and a foolproof system for picking a winner makes for a great day out. Then, even when your gigi with the double entendre for a name turns out to be a three legged nag and limps in 20 minutes after the field, it doesn’t dampen the joy does it?
But, when it comes to picking a winning prospect that isn’t a three-legged nag do you use the same approach? Can you say you really stop yourself throwing your precious resources at prospects who will never deliver for you and even more challenging, stop them draining you?
Like a gambler on a losing streak thinking each failure makes a winner more likely it’s all too easy to start investing your limited time and money on prospects that you shouldn’t. But bad bets are bad bets and bad clients are bad clients, whatever the market conditions; they will drain your precious time, are more risky and deliver you less profit – who wants that?
So if you need to reject non-ideal clients to get through a tough market then what is the way forward? Well to start with: -
- strip out the waste: make costs savings where you can, but without affecting the quality of your service
- innovate to become more effective and free up time; new technology is a good place to start
- spend that new free-time to dramatically increase your sales activity.
Don’t take on bad business; it will only make things worse not better!
Spot the winners.
Start by analysing your current clients and picking out the winners. They’re the opposite of the “bad” clients: lower risk, easier to work with and more profitable.
Next, look at the characteristics of these clients, paying special attention to the personality, goals and values of the decision makers but not forgetting to put the firms purchasing process, size and sector into the equation.
Lastly, educate your sales people and your marketers to identify more prospects with these qualities. Difficult for them to do without starting a relationship but keeping these qualities in mind from the start will make it easier.
Dodge the losers
This is easy, when you spot a loser close the relationship down. Immediately. And if they ask you to supply just say no, be brave: you’ll be glad you were in the long run.
Remember: nobody makes you do bad business, or engage with bad clients, except you!
In 1954 Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile; an achievement most people at the time considered to be impossible. Barely 6 weeks later this record was broken again by a Finn and within 12 months another 3 runners had bettered that revered time. The current world record stands at a very impressive 3 minutes 43 seconds.
So did people suddenly become so much fitter? Well these days with the benefit of hyper-training routines, computerized performance analysis and stringent diets they clearly are but in the mid fifties I doubt whether any of these factors had an effect. The difference was all psychological; a condition not just restricted to athletics I feel.
The other day I was doing some coaching with a salesman. We got around to talking about targets at which point he made the alarming statement that he was aiming for 80% of his target because that was the lowest figure allowed before people were asked to seek their fortune elsewhere. I was more shocked than Carlo Ancelotti after the Wolves game (we won you know).
If the 4 minute mile tells us anything it is that targets are for the most part arbitrary and their achievement mostly controlled by psychological factors. As soon as you focus on a goal and believe it to be achievable you are much more likely to reach it.
80% pah! I say aim for 150%, or more, and apply all your efforts and powers of creativity to make it a reality. It is our beliefs not our abilities that dictate our level of success.