Win Without Pitching®: Thinking

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RSW-US has just released the results of their 2015 Business Development Thought Leader Survey Report to which I contributed two core questions. The results are impressive and constitute what I believe to be the first real proof of the importance of affecting the buying process in winning the deal.

If you want to predict your likelihood of success in any given new business opportunity simply ask yourself, to what extent did we affect the buying process?

Key Highlights

I’ll get into the survey details and implications below but without any further ado here are the three key highlights of the tabulated responses to my questions:

  • Winning firms are almost ten times more likely to have significantly affected the buying process than losing firms. You read that correctly: Ten. Times.
  • Firms that do not affect the buying process at all have only a one-in-eight chance of winning
  • Even moderately affecting the buying process cuts a firm’s odds of winning to almost one-in-two

The bottom line is that if you do not affect the buying process in some way, shape or form you’re not likely to win the business. If you can moderately affect the buying process your odds are about 50-50. If you can significantly affect the process then your odds are ten times greater than if you had not affected it at all.

Play The Game, Play The Odds

I’ll repeat here what I have written and said many times: Business development is but a game and the game goes by the name The Polite Battle for Control. In this game you endeavour to lead in the sales cycle from the practitioner (rather than vendor) position and try to get concessions granted to you such as changes to the buying process, the sharing of confidential information or access to decision makers when you’re told access is not allowed.

Your ability to take control or affect the process in any of these ways is a valuable indicator of how different you are seen to be by the client and how much power you have in the relationship. Your likelihood of winning goes way up with these positive leading indicators. If you cannot take control or affect the process then you’re better off leaving this game (opportunity) and going in pursuit of one that you can affect.

This is the Win Without Pitching Way. Let your competitors waste their time and money with the one-in-eight long shots while you play the short odds. Invest resources only against opportunities in which you are able to affect or alter the client’s buying process.

Remember to follow our 4P’s hierarchy when pursuing new business:

  1. Win Without Pitching
  2. Derail the pitch
  3. Gain the inside track
  4. Walk away

One (Win Without Pitching before it gets to a competitive situation) is the ideal that we’re all pursuing but if it cannot be obtained then two and three require pushing back on the sales process and the obtaining of concessions. If you cannot derail the pitch or get behavioural concessions within a mandated pitch format then walk. Again, your odds of winning without these concessions are just one in eight.

The Survey Questions & Answers

Our two core questions were these:

1) Thinking of the most recent new business opportunity that you won, to what extent did you affect the buying process?

2) Thinking of the most recent new business opportunity that you lost, to what extent did you affect the buying process?

The answer options were A) Did Not Affect, B) Moderately Affected and C) Significantly Affected.

The results show that when a firm won an opportunity, 88% of the time they were able to affect the buying process (moderately 47% of the time and significantly 41%). Only 12% of the time did a firm win the business without affecting the buying process at all. Without knowing for sure, my bet is this 12% minority could have affected the buying process, learned of their likelihood of winning and lowered their cost of sale, if only they had tried.

Conversely, in 63% of lost opportunities the firm did not affect the buying process at all and only 4% of the time did a firm claim to have significantly affected the process and not won.

I’m not surprised by these numbers but I am very, very pleased to finally see them laid out so compellingly.

Read the full survey results here (PDF).

Blair Enns
Blair Enns is the Win Without Pitching founder and CEO and the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour.
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