I have a confession to make. Long, long ago, when I was running the proposal centre for a major IT organisation, we set about improving the business’s qualification process.
Soon, sales staff were used to the mantra – is it real, do we want it, can we win it, can we do it? They started to expect us to probe, debate, play devil’s advocate, facilitate objective decision-making.
This particular proposal centre found itself in the fortunate position of being able – to an extent – to pick and choose which deals we supported. Before very long, one of the salespeople I’d known in my days as a purchaser arrived at our door. To say I didn’t rate the individual would be an understatement, but we humoured him, and supported his well-qualified opportunity. As was his wont, he then contrived to turn the golden egg into a recipe for disaster, and threw away what should have been a sure-fire win.
We conspired. What could we do? Soon, I struck on the solution with my senior team. Sure, the business’s qualification process had four questions, but our bid centre’s list extended to a fifth: is it real, do we want it, can we win it, can we do it, and is the account manager’s name Fred Smith?* Needless to say, we were after four ‘yes’es and a ‘no’.
Soon, Fred was on the phone. “I’ve got an RFP coming in next week: can you help?”
“Next week, Fred? So sorry, but we’re booked solid for at least the next month.”
“Right. Worth asking, though. Anyway, I’ve got another one coming in in three months’ time.”
“That’s be October, right?”
“Yes. They’re due to issue it on the 12th.”
“The 12th? Oh no. Not the 12th? I mean, we’re clear at the very start of the month, and we’ve got loads of capacity towards the end. But the fortnight around the 12th is our one busy period that month. Lots of holidays, three other big bids already scheduled. What bad luck.”
“Ah. Oh well, at least I’m in time to let you know about the proposal we’ll need to submit in December. That’s sixth months away.”
“And I’m so grateful to you for letting me know, Fred. It’s always great to get such clear advance notice: we really appreciate it. But we’re not able to forecast more than three months out: could you call me again in October?”
* Name, needless to say, changed, just in case the individual concerned reads the blog!