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Money / Financial management

8 things I learned from stuffing up a $200K business deal

Recently I had the opportunity to pitch to a big new client. It looked liked the business deal was good to go, then I let my enthusiasm get the better of me.

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It was too good to be true – you know, the kind of business deal that just seems to land in your lap. A golden opportunity. Here was a company turning over upwards of $100m, with 250 plus employee and a desire to double in size in five years. We could really help here.

They had virtually nothing to speak of by way of HR:

  • Employment contracts were substandard and lacked the protections for the employer.
  • There were no policies in place.
  • A high portion of the workforce were contractors.
  • Terminations undertaken to date would have failed the Unfair Dismissal test.
  • Recruitment processes were inconsistent and therefore hiring the best was nigh impossible.
  • Management skills were under-developed and unleveraged for growth.
  • Engagement levels were unmeasured and therefore not managed or improved.

I was informed they wanted recruitment, policies, and contracts but it was also a case of they didn’t know what they didn’t know and were significantly exposed around compliance with employment law legislation. They also wanted a return of at least 5:1 on our fees. (That was actually the easy part. I was able to conservatively identify an ROI of over 30:1 via cost savings, increasing employee engagement and a major reduction in the risk of fines, by mitigation of what had been obvious breaches of the Fair Work Act.)

So, how did I stuff up such a golden opportunity?

"I got overexcited about what we could do for the client and I ‘over-baked it’"

Simple – I got overexcited about what we could do for the client and ‘over-baked it’. I did not have their trust yet. They didn’t know me and I had not communicated the vision effectively enough. My proposal was too detailed with too many attachments and I didn’t get the opportunity to walk them through the detail. This was me trying too hard to justify our value and the cost. In their eyes, it was ‘too good to be true’.

So what did I learn from the stuff up?

1. Be aware of the touch points

Research shows it takes roughly seven hours/eleven touch points to win a client. The number can be higher if the dollar investment from the client is larger. Give potential new clients at least a few opportunities to get to know you better before delivering your pitch. If you have a book, article or an eBook, for example, send them a copy.

Want more articles like this? Check out the financial management section.

2. Start with small promises

And then, once you are in, ‘surprise and delight’ with the full scope of what you can do for them.

3. Plan your proposal strategy carefully before submitting

Share your ideas with a trusted advisor in advance, to test your thinking.

4. Spend additional time meeting with the client.

This will ensure you go close to racking up those seven hours that develop trust and credibility.

5. Look to have the prospective client ‘trial’ you

Start with a cheaper product. In our case, we should have offered the client our recruitment product to recruit a role for them so they could test us out and see we were as good as we said we were, but with a low-risk investment

6. Ask the client what they want to see in the proposal

Then give them this but also let them know that you have other ideas they might be interested in discussing further.

7. Ask the client what success would look like if they proceeded with the business deal

This information will help you finesse your approach.

8. Be brave – ask them what the ‘deal breaker’ might be in your proposal.

There is no harm asking and this will not only help you avoid that pitfall, it also shows you are willing to have those difficult conversations.

As for this client and me, all was not lost. I actually built another product out of all the thinking I did on their behalf. But, rest assured, next time I get a golden opportunity like this, I will not stuff it up!

Natasha Hawker

helps SMEs understand the challenges their businesses face and unlocks the mysteries of effective HR. She is the co-owner of Employee Matters and author of From Hire to Fire: Everything in Between".

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