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The Dynamics of Competing Proposals as a Buying Decision Influence

“Strategy is the key to understanding the dynamics of any competitive sales campaign. The key to strategy is to make the invisible intangibles visible - which you can achieve through unconventional thinking and adopting an offensive mindset.”

Holden/Kubacki, The New Power Base Selling

On May 24 of this year, I posted on the first of the nine Buying Decision Influences we reflect in Disruption Selling. Today, in the very last week of the year, I’m more than excited to post on the last one: Proposals.

The first one was on the Formal Buying Process as the influence that can be easily detected, well understood, planned, and forecasted. This last one, Proposals, are on the very opposite end of the scale: hard to find, even tougher to get insights, and therefore at the first glance unplannable and unforecastable for a seller.

The ugly truth is: If we as a seller want to be the master of our own destiny and proactively drive a customer’s buying decision, how the buyer perceives competitors’ proposals versus ours is exactly what we need to actively manage!

But how could one ever control the perception of competitive proposals by an Economic Buyer?

The answer is simple yet hard to achieve: Via managing the Economic Buyer’s expectations!

From a buyer’s perspective the various vendor Proposals they consider sit on an individual Risk/Reward Ratio: Some promising a non-traditional value, others a rather common one, some with more and others with less Risk. They will not pick the Proposal with the most value, but the one with the best Risk/Reward Ratio.

The good news are: Both Risk and Reward are subject to the buyer’s perception. And a savvy seller can change the perception both for their own as well as their competitors’ Proposals.

If we are an incumbent with years of history at the buyer’s organization and come under attack from an agile disruptor, we use our well-established relationships to trigger a Formal Buying Process, e.g., an RfP, to slow down the decision.

If we compete with a superior new technology still missing a number of standards and certifications, we support the relevant Formal Approver to oppose it.

If we sell a complex solution at a premium, we must expand our value proposition to address the agendas of additional Power Base members.

If we have loads of references and a flawless track record in a region and/or industry, we must leverage our Cultural Fit with the buyer’s organization to fight the intruder.

If we must sell a very mature product with a less compelling value proposition, we need to direct the buyer’s focus towards the Risk the usage of less mature products will represent to him.

We can even modify the scope of our own Proposal to force the competition to follow us on our home turf, e.g., act as the main contracting party subcontracting other parts of the value proposition to partners in a situation where we compete with a small competitor who cannot afford the risk nor has the organizational capabilities to manage sub-contractors.

The savvy Disruption Seller will put at least the same attention and rigor on diminishing the strength of their competitors’ Proposals as on improving their own Proposal from the very beginning of the sales cycle.

There are no rules in a sales cycle except for one: We must always promote the agendas of the Economic Buyer, their Power Bases, and their entire organizations. Win-Win is the only option.

For more details, please go to the respective Narrative here.


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