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On Shaping the Battlefield

It’s tough to win on a battlefield that has been shaped by your competitor. If your competitor has built the relationships, if they have a presence, and if they helped to develop the request for proposal, they have an enormous advantage. If you only discovered an opportunity by receiving a request for proposal or an inquiry, the prospect asking you to compete for their business is already deep into their buying process. And your competitor has likely already been chosen, even if it hasn’t yet been made official (and even if there is still going to be a contest).

You are way behind in this sort of competition. Your competitor has already won the prospect’s hearts and minds. Your competitor has spent the time shaping your prospect’s needs through the discovery process, and much of the time the request you receive is only the buyer validating a decision they have already made.

This is an impossibly difficult position from which to win an opportunity, mostly because you haven’t done the work to deserve to win.

You Shape Future Battlefields

You are better off spending your time shaping future battlefields than trying to win battles that have already been decided.

You shape the battlefields for future contests by getting there first and taking the high ground. You nurture the relationships, you make yourself known as a value creator, and you build trust. You win hearts and minds before there is every a contest, so that you can win the opportunity before there is ever a contest.

You develop your client’s needs early in their buying process, helping them build the solution that will work for them. You don’t lose contests in which your competitor has shaped the battlefield because their solution is necessarily better than yours; you lose the contest because you weren’t there when it was developed.

It’s critical that you get in front of opportunities. You do that by getting to your dream clients before they are dissatisfied, when they aren’t yet dissatisfied but should be, or when they are just recognizing their needs—not when they have just had the battlefield shaped by your competitor.

Doing the difficult work of selling, getting their first and shaping the battlefield, makes the outcome of the contest all but inevitable. Believing that there is an easier way and avoiding the difficult work of selling also makes the outcome inevitable—just not in a positive way.

Questions

In what stage of the sales cycle or buying cycle is the deal really won or lost? Why?

How do you shape the battlefield in a way that allows you to win before there is a contest?

What can you do to prevent your competitors from shaping the battlefields that are the hearts and minds of your dream clients?


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