Today, we will give the sales team a much-needed break from being the usual target (relax, enjoy!) and talk about managing the full team in an enterprise contract bidding and RFP process. Let’s set the scene: I have had a heavy focus recently on creating scale and flexibility for our company. To that end, we have bid out our core infrastructure, including cloud and managed services for that platform. Our objective is to partner (important word) with a company that can help expand our business capacity with a better platform.
The front line sales rep (let’s call him Joe) is someone with whom I have a long relationship, but his company recently was acquired by another. The good news is that it gives Joe an expanded arsenal of products and capabilities. The bad news is that it brings a new company president who just eliminated Joe’s company from the bid with one phone call. Read that again… Salesman Joe brought in the opportunity by building trust and a relationship with me… and the company President just lost it in under 15 minutes.
The President (let’s call him Dan) of company swooped into the evaluation & demo process (we were down to 4 finalist companies and they were making final presentations) and made several major blunders that lost his company the deal:
Dan called me and emailed me demanding a lunch or dinner meeting that week that worked with his “very busy” schedule (not mine). Instead, I warily scheduled a call for a time that fit my schedule better. I liked their bid and really wanted to see deeper into the newly changed company.When we finally had that call, Dan had clearly not prepped with Joe. Dan launched right into the elevator speech. He then steamrolled along with a vision of how I would outsource my entire team to him within 18 months. He wrapped the monologue by explaining how I should be honored to be on their platform. Dan clearly explained to me how any vision different from his own was career suicide for me or anyone in my position (thankfully, he was here to help me keep my job). Dan also offered, unsolicited, to provide references within our shared network that would verify his vision. He offered to have his assistant schedule the deal closing and signing dinner for the next week. Dan explained that he was “very busy,” bid me good day and hung up.
Still stunned from the call, I got immediate emails from Dan introducing me to the references I never asked for. Dan never asked me a real question during the call; he never checked to see what my goal or vision was (even though the RFP clearly stated it and we had been talking with Joe for 2 months about the project). I was grateful that I did not have to spend a full lunch or dinner listening to this pompous windbag.
I felt invaded; it was clearly about him and not about my company or need. Our peaceful RFP process had just been set ablaze by the leader of one of the parties. I eliminated the company from the RFP almost immediately. It was actually sad to explain to my friend Joe that he did not lose on price or product (they were very strong in both actually); he lost because I never want to talk to his company president again.
Assuming you saw the inherent problems with the contact with Dan, the lesson is the importance of having everyone in your company on the same page and to have everyone focused on the customer. Know your prospect and have all key people be prepared for all interactions. Meanwhile, don’t let your company leadership invade during a peaceful negotiation!
I can’t entirely blame Joe for this one, his acquiring leadership failed him spectacularly and I suspect Joe will move on to a better company soon. Take this to your leader and tell him or her that they are an important part of the sales process and that they should follow your lead!
By Mr. CMIO