Selling 'Innovation' and the RFP game

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by: Idris Mootee

The demand for interactive (I am not sure this is the right word) services is growing. That’s good news for our industry and may stay that way for a while. Even with this high demand, I still hear a lot from business development folks explaining that why we did not get the business… either because we are too expensive or we did not comply with their needs or they choose a partner with an established relationship. Here I want to help us to think about the behaviors and not only the words of customers and they not necessarily are the same.

Let’s start with our emotional/behavioral mind-set which is the foundation on which all successful consultative selling relationships are built upon, or it can be the primary instrument sabotaging that. We embark on customer conversations with a pre-established view of the world or mind-set and that derives from our personality and experiences. It is also formed by the expectations and assumptions we have about the individual we are speaking with, the conversational and feedbacks, and the outcomes we hope to achieve. To be an exceptional BD person, there is nothing more important, nor harder to master, than to get your mind-set right. I have worked with many truly great BD people and they truly mastered this. It is the art of "gaining control" of the process. As a economist by training with special interest in game theory, I can tell you how the game works.


Our awareness of the emotional mind-set when we enter an engagement comes in all shapes and form. It’s the elements that we aren’t aware of that can become emotional blocks to open and honest communication with our prospects and really hinder any successful outcomes. The best way to recognize the sources and effects of mind-set in conversation and relationships is by looking at patterns of "adopted beliefs" and "observed behaviors".

MR/MS PROSPECT: Our organization is planning to look for a partner to develop a new online strategy that drives our growth. Our website is three years old and we have yet truly understood its role within our channel, brand and service domains. We understand you are leaders in this field and we have seen some of your work you’ve done with XYZ clients, and we would like you to demonstrate your ideas and solution to our management team by the end of the month.

MR/MS SALESPERSON: We’d be glad to demonstrate our capability and solution, but first I need to get a better understanding of your company’s needs, business goals, pain points as well as you budget and timeline. I’d like to schedule some time to meet with several you and your other executives. I’d like to invite your senior folks to visit our offices to get a sense of our culture.

MR/MS PROSPECT: Actually we’d rather not take the time for that as they are very busy. We’d like you to come up with some of the best practices and ideas of how we can execute within 12 months within our budget. We are very open to have new relationships as we are not too happy with our current agency.

MR/MS SALESPERSON: It’s very difficult to present such a complex solution without understanding more about your situation, your requirements, and your budget constraints.

MR/MS PROSPECT: I believe we have a budget in place, and we will see your recommendations first and decide if we need more money. If we like the ideas we can find more money. We have heard a lot of good things about you.

MR/MS SALESPERSON: Certainly, when do you need us to do the full presentation?

This is the beginning of the end. The minute the salesperson jump to agreement, the client can immediately move on to recruit another agency to play their game.


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