In my previous post Early Failure is Better Than Late Failure, I wrote about the need to qualify rigorously. I’ve received a number of emails about this, and some great comments. Here I want to address this a little further with a simple method that might help you to choose which to deals you should be working on. The main message here is that you need to honestly ask yourself (and your customer) the hard questions early to qualify out as appropriate. That way you can focus your resources in the right place, and avoid losing the deals you should win.
Apart from the usual things you focus on (like budget availability and decision making power), there are, I believe, two main attributes of any deal that merit real attention. These are (1) Compelling Event and (2) Unique Value. The first indicates if a deal is going to close any time soon, and the second should indicate if you are going to win. Unless you have positive answers for both of these, you’re probably wasting your time.
The graphic here hopefully illustrates what I mean. I’m starting with an assumption that the customer has a business problem that he is trying to solve – and you need to validate that. Without that there really isn’t an opportunity. Given that the customer has a problem, we’d hope that he has to solve it soon. But to be sure that the deal is going to close in a time-frame you understand, you must identify the Compelling Event that is driving him to act. According to the TAS methodology, a compelling event is a time sensitive response to an internal or external business pressure that drives the customer to an action within a defined time period. It’s always about the customer. He is the only one who can have a compelling event that causes him (or her) to act. It’s rare that the customer cares when the order gets signed, unless that impacts their achieving clearly understood business objectives.
To uncover the compelling event, you need to understand the customer’s business, their problems and their need to act, in order to clarify the timetable of events. Business Drivers are significant problems or opportunities that will cause the customer to take action. Business Initiatives are typically linked to business drivers and your opportunity must link to the customer’s Business Initiative.
As you will see from the chart, just because the customer has a problem, and an identified time-frame by which he must act, doesn’t mean that you will win. It just means that someone will win, and that could easily be your competitor unless you have Unique Value that you can bring to the table to solve his problem.
Unique Value, when effectively crafted, will link to the customer’s compelling event. When establishing your Unique Value, the value that you create must address the customer’s business, their problems and their need to act. The value proposition should be specific to the customer and should be that which compels them to act based on your articulation of the impact you can make on their business. Your ability to engage the customer, develop relationships and address their business problems is, of course, a component of your overall value. Understanding how your customer measures value allows you to craft a value proposition that will not only establish expectations, but will enable you to create competitive differentiation.
When resource are tight – and of course they are always – you need to focus on the deals you can win. By definition, focus implies de-focus, and you must therefore qualify rigorously and discard those opportunities where you are not likely to win. Why waste time on these when you could be making money? Hopefully these pointers will help.