I Love Tenders

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14 oktober 2019

I Love Tenders

Learn to Love a tender. Lots of stuff is written about how to manage a public or private tender process effectively. But let´s name the elephant in the room: Sales people don't like tenders

Which is a shame actually. I surely understand that the administrative tasks that come with responding to tenders can be dreadful, and the feeling of not being able to control your own salesproces or even communicate with the buyer and other decision makers is annoying. But there is a way to love a tender process, and particularly private tenders!

Many private tenders look very well defined in terms of scope and requirements. 20 years ago solution and consultative selling learned us to say "No" to them. If the customer was not willing to accept our dogmatic "10 steps to success" process, it would be better not to submit an offer at all. Mmm..., with the share of tenders increasing rapidly this strategy wasn't particularly satisfying. So many salesmanagers surrendered and started following the steps that were now defined by buyers instead. Sales to customers became some sort of cat and mouse game. Tactically answering questions, playing with word phrasing to make sure the price seemed to be low but leaving opportunities for the supplier to improve margins after the deal was closed, etc. Not really customer friendly right?

I would like to plee for another approach, benefiting the salesman and the customer!

  1. Ask for a research meeting with the main influencers
  2. Prepare a most likely WITY (What is Important To You) and challenge them in the meeting
  3. Immediately present your findings back in a short session with all influencers

But they won't allow me to, is what you may think now. Funny enough salespeople have become way too humble in relationships with potential new customers. Many don't even ask bold questions anymore. You will be surprised though, when you ask for a meeting and explain why you need it, you will get it. Aha, that's it, we need a why!

Let me give you a few example benefits that usually work well:

  • It saves time as this setup gets the differences in needs and preferences on the table in an early stage of the buying process, helping the customer to align quickly. This avoids one of the largest frustrations of many professional buyers these days: Deviation from the specs too late in the buying process or after contract signing, hindering them to standardize the delivery and save costs.
  • The customer gets an opportunity to co-create their own solution instead of accepting our predefined standards. This avoids another buyer frustration: Dissatisfaction of users of products and services that were bought based on predefined requirements which were originally derived from user input, ergo, users are often not able to describe their needs if you don't give them some inspiration.

You will be surprised to see that almost none of your competitors tries this. When I asked one of my customers recently why he had actually said yes to my request, the answer was stunning and simple: Because you asked for it and nobody else did...

So give it a go next time you are invited to participate in a private tender. What do you have to lose anyway? The worst thing that can happen is that they appreciate your attempt because you emphasized strong benefits, but they still don't allow you. I bet that if they along the buying process see one of the above things happening, they will remember you as the one who did try to help them. And if do allow you to come by, you have just created a unique position to challenge their thinking and frame the requirements to your offering.

That's when you will learn to love a tender!