Training and Leadership
”Business deals are never simply won; you have to earn them”
Have you ever wondered if your company invests energy in the right business opportunities? It is a common question. Naturally, most salespeople try their hardest to convert as many invitations to tender as possible into accepted orders. But how is this done? Mats Rotzius from Mercuri International management consultants has the answer.
It is not chance that determines whether or not your company succeeds in winning the big orders. With the right knowledge, structure, tools and attitude, you can convert your business opportunity into an accepted order – whether it is a relatively minor deal that you yourself have sniffed out, or a larger, more significant invitation to tender.
During the past few years, Mercuri's business concept Opportunity Management has helped both multinational and smaller companies to increase their sales and profitability. By means of the Opportunity to Order – O2O™ workshop, the participants spend two days identifying the critical questions that need to be asked, and learn to manage different conceivable situations by using a number of analytical tools. The objective is that the salespeople, by employing a structured approach and real-life analyses, will be able to contribute to increasing the rate of successfully converting business opportunities into accepted orders.
The workshop, which Mercuri conducts both internally for companies and as an open training programme at the Mercuri International Business School, builds upon experience-based learning. The participants are divided into groups and play a business-game – Opportunity to Order – O2O™ – which focuses on managing the business opportunities of a fictitious company. While the groups work with the fictitious company, they are also able to work with one of their own actual business opportunities that they bring with them to the training workshop.
"We have incorporated into the game the most common pitfalls that provide a good reflection of reality. There is seldom any group that is consistently able to correctly analyse the information they receive and that, as a result of this analysis, is able to take ‘the correct decisions’. This is part of the whole idea that sometimes we make incorrect decisions that then give us the opportunity to reflect upon what went wrong. It is when we do things wrong that we learn the most, by doing things again until we do them correctly. It is this experience that you take with you and apply to your own business opportunities afterwards," says Mats Rotzius, who is a senior business consultant and a partner at Mercuri.
According to Mats, there are four main areas that need to be considered in order to be able to successfully manage the variables in Opportunity Management. First, you need to decide whether or not this is a business opportunity into which you should be investing time, based on the answers to the questions of whether or not it is a serious business opportunity, if it is attractive, and if you have a reasonable chance of winning it. "I once worked with a company that submitted what they referred to as ‘tenders of politenesses. They invested a lot of time and energy into these tenders despite the fact that they didn't really want the deal and that they knew in advance that it was a deal that they were unlikely to win. This shows that there is a risk that salespeople get involved in business opportunities without really considering whether they are really worth the effort."
Once you have decided that you actually do want to win the deal, it is important to be able to deliver such a solution that, in competition, best satisfies the customer's needs, demands and wishes.
"The challenge here is to be able to identify and understand the customer's actual assessment criteria, so that we don't just sit and guess what they'll be looking for when they make their decisions. The price is not always the most important aspect; reliability and precision of delivery, quality/service life, and the standard of service will often also be of considerable significance. By having made a correct analysis of the customer's assessment criteria and of the relative strengths and weaknesses of yourselves and of your competitors, you will see whether you are in the back seat, following your stronger competitors, or whether it is you who are in the driving seat. If you feel that you do not have the strongest overall offer, then you should consider the possibility of raising new issues and identifying challenges for the customer, with a view to modifying what the customer sees as their needs and expectations. In the long run, this will enable you to increase the value of your own strong added value", says Mats.
All B2B deals are conducted between two companies, but do not forget that all the decisions are made by people. In order to be able to get close to the customer, you should work out who are the decision-makers and who merely influence the decisions, think about their attitudes towards your company and your solution, and assess their own level of commitment to the project. It is also important to bear in mind that many decision-makers will have their own personal agenda, which it is important for you to understand.
"If we analyse the customer's decision-making process with consideration to people's relative roles, power/influence, attitudes towards us and their levels of commitment, we can increase our accuracy in communicating the right message to the right person. Some customers/people place a lot of focus on the price, whilst others place greater value on the added values that can influence the company's long-term profitability. If, during the sales process, we are able to make tactical use of those people in the customer's company who are favourable to our offer to influence those who remain hesitant, this will definitely increase our chances of winning the deal", says Mats.
"Finally, but by no means least, it is important if you can present the solution or your offer so that you can demonstrate that you have really understood the customer's needs, wishes and requirements, as well as showing how your solution will satisfy these. A tender that sells should be consciously structured, by which I don't mean, ‘We thank you for your invitation and are pleased to offer the following’, followed by a product specification, a price and concluding with a list of legal conditions. The quote must sell itself! It has to inspire the customer to want to buy it! We need to effectively be able to express and convert our added values into tangible business advantages for the customer (primarily financial business advantage). How can we, with our solution, help the customer to achieve their business objectives?"
A well-functioning "Opportunity Management" process results in:
A structured working approach with regard to business opportunities or invitations to tender. By following the checklists and making use of the simple analytical tools, the salesperson will be able to ensure that the maximum amount of relevant information is made available.
- A sound basis for decision-making that will increase the quality of the decisions made.
- Those invitations to tender that are not of interest will be discarded during the prioritisation process.
- The salesperson will select a strategic and tactically well-thought through solution.
- The salesperson will have a better insight regarding the customer's decision-making process and who the decision-makers and decision-influencers are.
- The salesperson will be able to influence the relevant decision-maker with the correct message when presenting the tender. The keyword is "value-based" selling.
"Ensure that you maintain awareness of the situation. Otherwise, there is a risk that you will end up sitting in the back seat while your competitors are driving", says Mats.
“Make sure that it is you who is in the driving seat, and not your competitors”
Facts about the interviewee
Name: Mats Rotzius, Senior Business Consultant & Partner, Mercuri International Sweden, firstname.lastname@example.org
Background: Is a qualified Marketing Economist who worked in leading line positions within sales, prior to his (currently) 19 years at Mercuri.
Favourite pastimes: Spending time with my family, playing golf, going skiing, and keeping in shape with physical training.