Always Double-Check for Hidden Competitors

The ink on the proposal was not even dry, or Jim was already in the car on the way to a crucial meeting. Should he have waited a little longer? No, Jim was just too excited. He worked towards this moment for nearly three months. And he felt confident. Although Jim’s price was 15% higher than the prospect’s current price, the return on investment was clearly shown in his proposal. And there he was, waiting to enter the boardroom of this significant prospect. This is going to be good. Jim was prepared!

Weeks of meetings with several key stakeholders went on before this moment. Jim had met with Marketing, Operations and Customer Service. Jim brought this customer an insightful growth opportunity they hadn’t considered: creating an additional revenue income from B2B eCommerce. Of course, their website needed work to make that happen, but Jim had worked furiously with the Marketing Director, and he welcomed Jim’s advice with open arms. Money was on the table, and he was ready to grab it.

In addition, the company was struggling with rising Customer Service costs due to too many incoming calls from complaining consumers. The majority were about shipment delays and confusion about Customs Clearance. Topics Jim definitely would have solutions for these.

Jim explained in his proposal the top and bottom line differences he could bring to their company, including a forecasted revenue stream from the new website and line-by-line improvement in green indicators versus the current competitor’s performance. Finally, Jim sat down in a typical comfortable boardroom chair with positive anxiety and a smile.

“Jim”, the Marketing Director began, “thank you for coming in. Unfortunately, we have no good news for you. After thorough consideration, we are not going ahead with changing supplier”. Jim could not believe what his ears just heard. His brain started to process the news. “That’s a pity”, Jim replied, “May I ask you what happened?”

“Jim”, the Marketing Director replied, “Our Finance Director got involved last week when we spoke to her about our intention to change suppliers. Still, she convinced us that the investment needs to go somewhere different and has a priority. “What is that”? Jim asked. “Cyber security,” the Marketing Director said. “We have been hacked before, you know, and got out of that alright, but we cannot afford a second one. Better to have a few grumpy customers than no customers. So we work with the current supplier to fix the gaps. Thank you for coming in; you worked hard on this. Maybe next time”.

So, what happened? Where did Jim go wrong?

  • Jim should have asked one crucial question when the three stakeholders moved to Change to Who? and before preparing a proposal: “Given the investment needed, who else would be interested in this conversation”?

Often you are not competing with your main competitor. Instead, you are competing with internal stakeholders who have different ideas, projects and opinions in mind about what should be the company’s priority and where and how to spend the available budget. If you do not find these stakeholders on time – particularly before the Buying Room moves to Change to Who- you may get your fingers burned and waste your time.

Always double-check for Hidden Competitors.

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