Five Ways To Avoid Failure

“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.” Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric 

Let’s be real, for most of us it’s more comfortable to be in the audience than at the podium, clicking through PowerPoint slides and hoping you have cogent answers for the Q&A portion. For those of us that have jobs that include business development, we’re on the other side of the microphone or table quite often, working towards true partnership (and a signature). And our words and actions better be darned better than silence.

New vendors, whether you are a top known brand or a start-up upstart, you have to achieve trusted advisor status from the first handshake. Existing vendors, you may have had an MSA and countless deals at a company for decades, but you are always winning and re-winning trust and business – take nothing for granted.

  1. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. There is no substitute for knowing what you are going to say, how and when. Words, tone and body language matter. Start in front of a mirror, work up to pets, family members, and a colleague who will provide honest feedback. And it’s OK to use notes (we’re not all blessed with eidetic memories) but don’t use scribbled bits of paper – love or hate PowerPoint, there’s a feature called Notes for a reason.
  2. Know your audience. Not just names and titles. What roles have they had at other companies? With which other vendors do they have strong relationships with – in current and past roles? And know the entire audience – while the decision-maker in the room is key, that person has others at the table for a reason – they will look to them for recommendations and input.
  3. There is no deal or organization too small. Most seven or eight figure wins starts with five or six figures. Companies want to see value from $50, $100, $500K before they feel comfortable they’ll get value from millions. Also, small-mid cap companies often punch above their weight – the CXO of the $100M/year company can have a network and standing in their vertical that rivals or exceeds an executive in the Fortune 50.
  4. Don’t waste people’s time. If the deal is not your core competency, you don’t have the resources to do it properly or maybe it just is too small for your particular company or division, then pause before committing to an RFP response or draft SOW. Respect the time of the client and your colleagues.
  5. Leave your arrogance and hubris at the door. You may know a certain technology or methodology better than the client, but they know a lot more about their business than you do. Know the difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is relevant content that you can demonstrate and speak to at a level of specificity that demonstrates you know what you are talking about and can deliver. Arrogance is saying things like “we do this all the time,” or “you don’t want to go with another vendor” (to which I said inwardly, well, *now* I do ….).

It’s great to get a win – that signed contract that means you’ve been formally invited in to produce the promised value. It’s a bummer to get a loss, but there’s a difference between being a worthy, respected competitor that will be invited back, than a vendor who was unprepared, arrogant and/or missed the mark – who may not be invited back, but will be discussed in less-than-flattering terms in the networks of everyone who was on the receiving end of your poor performance.

“I am the most spontaneous speaker in the world because every word, every gesture, and every retort has been carefully rehearsed.” George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright 

Worth considering:

OH: “There is no perfect technology. I put my trust in people.” Great quote worth repeating early and often, courtesy of Edna Conway, Chief Security Officer at Cisco.

It’s the time of year when we reflect on the past twelve months and turn our attention to the next. Among the predictions is the obvious one that there will be digital transformation winners and losers, and a characteristic of the winners will be transformed IT organizations.

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