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How Saying No to the Customer Resulted in a Strategic Alliance With Them Just Six Months Later

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

“Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In last week’s post I elaborated on the Formal Buying Process and ramifications for sellers participating in them. Today I provide a real-world example where declining to participate in a Competitive Tender led to a much larger deal in less time providing the customer with significantly higher value.

The customer was the most exotic I ever dealt with as it was the only state-owned ever assigned to me. It was a massive organization with multiple divisions and subject to European Procurement Regulation. Part of the organization was a captive service provider who, by the time I took over the account, had blocked any usage of the disruptive technology I offered by portraying it as inherently non-compliant with the customer’s standards.

Checking on the power bases it became clear that I had to wait until a fundamental change in management happened before engaging with the account made sense. Two years later this opportunity was provided when the captive’s management was ousted and the latent demand for my offering became strong enough to challenge its blockade.

After building trust by hosting a large management delegation at our HQ and building a fully compliant Proof of Concept within less than 5 days the customer asked me to participate in a Competitive Tender under European Procurement Regulation.

I declined.

Participating in the tender would have alerted the competition, dragged me into a very complex and legally demanding process and taken more than 9 months to complete, all for a single opportunity. And with the next one I would have had to go through the process again. And again.

Instead, I convinced the captive to close a partner contract with me and function as a managed service provider to the rest of the organization. This avoided the need to go through Competitive Tenders for me as being part of the customer’s organization the captive's services could be ordered by the divisions without having to go through this otherwise mandatory process.

As speed was of the highest priority for both of us, we closed the contract and within 6 months of the first conversations it became effective via a Direct Award (instead of a Competitive Tender).

As a result the captive successfully secured their position as a central resource for IT services while transitioning to the disruptive technology my offering represented. We jointly unlocked a massive backlog of demand within the divisions and for a while the customer was one of the fastest growing ones in the region.

The example demonstrates that gaining control over the buying decision process early is tantamount, even at the price of annoying the customer by declining to participate in their standard process.

For additional detail go to this piece of Anecdotal Evidence.


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