Why you didn’t win that contract: or how to go broke for a living

By Guest blogger Michael Harrison

You lost a contract, and it was a big one, too. Sure, it won’t sink the ship but it won’t help your business grow, and it certainly doesn’t add value to your company’s good name.

You didn’t win the contract because a competitor was deemed better for the job.

Lose enough contracts and you’ll go broke for a living. You’ve cut operational expenses to the bone so the only way to grow is to sell more – sell more products, deliver more services.

The sales team brings in leads, but are they highly-qualified leads or just another company looking to boost its bottom line with you as a customer. Don’t sell to a seller. Total waste of time on both sides.

So what’s a smart small business owner supposed to do to actually land a contract? Do it right and you grow. Do it wrong and, indeed, you are going broke for a living.

First, it’s not personal. Your PowerPoint presentation could win awards, you fielded every question, and you resolved all objections from your prospective client.

What happened? The honest truth, no one knows. The reason you lost that big, long-term contract is most likely a combination of factors. Your company is under the microscope. They may like what they saw at the micro and macro elevations, but this competitor company came in at a lower price, and perhaps more deliverables. It’s not personal.

If cost is the reason you didn’t get the business, could you go lower? Would and should you? I never recommend “special” introductory rates to engage a new client. You’re stuck with the numbers even if you receive razor thin margins.

You deliver quality and confidence to your clients, and a business that bases decisions solely on cost is a client you do not need. If appropriate, provide a rate card for a la carte services and bundled service or product packs at different price points – the Silver, Gold and Platinum tier.

Lowering rates sends you in the wrong direction. Better to add FREE services. A free consultation. Free shipping. A free webinar. Give it away if you have to. It’s a great way to create word of mouth (WOM).

Why You Want WOM. Bar none, word of mouth advertising is the best form of advertising. Period.

One trusted business associate tells another about your company, who hires your firm, and refers a couple of clients who do the same. That’s how small businesses become bigger businesses that become even BIGGER businesses.

Your reputation for quality grows, as well, and in a very short time positive word of mouth can grow you from a spare bedroom, one-person-show to a recognized brand with the cachet of success.

WOM referrals are perceived as impartial and accurate. Today, WOM is likely to start on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or some other destination site that sees repeat visits by interested viewers or readers. After Google, YouTube is the most used search engine ahead of Yahoo, Bing and the thousands of other search engines crawling the Internet as you read these words.

Go viral and it’s money in the company coffers – discretionary capital available for expansion of product or service offerings, service area, or other growth options business owners weigh when awarding contracts (work).

In many cases, WOM is serendipity and therefore, uncontrollable. A stranger overhears a conversation. Offers a free referral to the couple, and you have two new guests in the main dining room.

How good do you look to prospects? What, you thought looks didn’t matter? There’s an old saying: if you want to know how good a job a home maintenance provider will do, look at his or her truck. If the truck is a mess, chances are this isn’t the contractor for you. (Parenthetically, it really works.)

How does your company look to prospects?

Is the phone answered by a real live human being? Are your techs on time? Are they clean? Do they represent your business the way you want others to see it?

Professionalism counts, and with the Internet open to bad reviews of your company, you REALLY want to keep the customer satisfied.

Do a top down review of your RFP (request for proposal) procedures. Often, prospects chose one company over another because the proposal had pizza stains on it, or it was downright confusing.

Develop and refine the your bidding process. What are your competitors doing that you aren’t? If the company across town has a tri-fold four-colour brochure in its sales kit, why don’t you?

You not only have to match the competition, you’ve got to beat them every time and in every way. One small mistake can cost your company a lot of money. I’ve seen marketing collaterals loaded with typos and poor grammar.

Now, I’m not with the “grammar gotcha crowd,” but come on. If you can’t proof a piece that’ll be handed out to thousands, do you really want to keep that “here” as “hear” in the company’s brochure text?

You didn’t follow the rules. The RFP called for a copy of the company employee manual. You didn’t send it. You didn’t get the contract.

A well-written request for proposal (RFP) will provide all the information you need to develop a prototype. If it doesn’t, don’t guess. Call the company to ask what they really need.

Then, give it to them ASAP.

You’re going broke for a living because your marketing is in the dumps. There are people who study the minutiae of consumer buying habits, from shelf eye-scan to multi-variant regional testing. Use experts if you don’t know what you’re doing.

These professionals understand the motivations of consumers – other business or real live people. Use them. Use their experience.

And take a lot of notes. This isn’t hard like rocket science.

It’s sales.




email ih@ihgroup.com.au

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