Three steps to winning more business

what could you gain by taking a good hard look at your business and asking some tough questions?

If you’re like most organizations, plenty. And what you learn through the process has the power to bring your marketing messages into better alignment with what your customers are looking for.

Last month, I told you about a client who is winning more business since I started working with them to improve their proposals. The solution I applied comes from the school of branding, but that makes it sound more mysterious than it really is.

it’s really all about learning.

My client–a facilities contractor–needed to better understand what is truly important to their end customer. Not what they think is important to the customer, or what they think should be important to the customer. They needed to step outside themselves and gain real perspective.

how I helped improve my client’s win rate:

  1. I looked at the competition. I conducted a brief analysis (i.e. studied websites) of a handful of the contractor’s competitors to better understand the market and how each company positions itself. I then considered how the contractor might position itself in a different and meaningful way.
  2. I looked at the contractor. Hard. I convened a small team inside the contractor’s organization for a couple of work sessions to discuss key messages they were using; to identify how they think end customers perceive the contractor (and how the contractor wants to be perceived); and to start honing in on the position they want to own within the market.
  3. I tested these ideas by talking to end customers. I developed a 20-minute survey to learn more about how end customers evaluate competitive proposals from facilities contractors, what they are looking for in these proposals, and how important (or unimportant) 14 variables–like cost, experience, working relationships, innovation and more–are to the selection process. And, because I’ve come to appreciate how much more people will share with me as an outside consultant than they would tell a member of my client’s organization, I conducted each interview myself and documented the responses.

what we learned is revealing.

In some cases the contractor’s thinking and messaging were right on target, validated by survey responses. In others, however, end customers told us that certain messages, like how big the contractor is, or how unbiased it is toward certain manufacturers or installers, are not as important to the selection process. We also learned more about what impresses or annoys end customers most about the proposals they evaluate. When you’re writing proposals–or any sales message for that matter–this kind of information is what helps separate the winners from losers.

we made changes from an informed position.

We now have a much better sense of how to spend our very limited real estate in response to RFPs. We focus–with certainty–on what the end customer most wants to know about what the contractor can do for them and how they will do it.

what could you gain?

Every time I walk a client through this process–whether we’re working on branding, messaging or marketing plans­–new information is revealed. It’s a valuable reality check on where the business is with respect to where the client wants it to be. You can’t close those gaps until you know what they truly are. Let’s find yours.

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