Using ‘risk as a weapon’ helped win a $100M deal

Earlier this year I was retained as external deal coach to help win a huge contract for a global services provider. They knew they were coming second, at best, when I joined the team and I did my usual thing of probing their position with relationships, value creation, process alignment and strategy (political and competitive). The first thing that struck me was the absence of ego in the team and the willingness of everyone to play their role regardless of [senior] titles. We explored our potential win themes from the customer’s perspective and set about creating an executive summary that would also serve to brief the broader team and drive the messages within the massive bid document. It is incredibly difficult to craft a great executive summary but we were very happy with where we landed.

The clarity I helped provide the team was that ‘senior executives care about delivering outcomes and managing risk’, and to ‘use risk as a weapon’, and ‘get them to fall in love with your delivery people’. We were partially incumbent and we knew their networks, people and processes. We could therefore implement quickly and with lowest risk, and it was the insight and domain expertise of our people that provided the confidence in us on the buyer’s side. We won the deal and a few weeks after contract signing the customer provided a debrief. Without having our document in the meeting, they listed everything we had highlighted in the executive summary as the reasons they selected us!

For complex solutions, be smart about what really differentiates you. It is rarely your technology, product, service levels, market presence or brand. Instead it is usually your people, expertise, track record, methodologies and ability to manage their risk that will set you apart. How can you use risk (in the mind of the buyer) as a competitive weapon to improve the likelihood of winning?

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