A major pursuit in B2B sales is the process of hunting a whale of a contract. Hunting those large dollar, multi-year, behemoths is dictated by a calendar. And that calendar is further divided up into smaller time zones.
And yet many sales reps work on major pursuits as if they can miraculously bend nature and change the calendar.
As if they can maneuver customers into handing over a contract regardless of the calendar and the time zones within it. Think of the unfocused “relationship building” time and expense spent on wining, dining, entertainments, and extravagant trade shows.
Why Major Pursuits are Tied to a Calendar
In the U.S., large dollar contracts are governed by SOX requirements, and several benefits include:
- Protects shareholders from contracts secretly being awarded to favorites
- Avoids fraud & corruption
- Enhances auditable transparency of where the money goes
- Instills investor confidence
SOX drives Procurement to rebid large contracts at the end of their terms or last extension. As a result, customers get competitive market pricing and also comply with SOX regulations.
And large dollar contracts are rarely ever cancelled before their term, for two reasons:
- Costly in time & distractions for Procurement & evaluation teams
- No one (contract manager or Procurement) wants to be seen as failing by making a bad buy
As a result, major sales are tied to a calendar around their contract dates. There’s virtually no chance sales reps can change that timing.
How to use the Calendar to Win Major Pursuits
To increase major pursuit success, sales reps should start with the destination first. They should schedule and execute sales activities backwards in time along a contract’s calendar, and work the appropriate tasks per time zone.
The following is a 30,000 foot perspective that uses six time zones within a major pursuit calendar, with several notes:
- Incumbents & their competitors are in the Supplier/Seller category
- Guidelines are ballpark estimates – variances will occur
- This process is for private-sector suppliers/sellers
(public/government-sector pursuits typically have more resources & complex processes)
- A private-sector, major pursuit process must be simple & actionable
Time Zone 6: Run State
Do the Heavy Sales Lifting Before the Drama Begins
If you’re the incumbent supplier, your greatest advantages are time and insight. Waste time and you’ve lost the ability to capitalize on your insight.
For competitor-sellers, this is the primary reason your relationship building matters: to gather sales intel ahead of the curve. But like incumbents, if you don’t act to analyze it and draft a narrative and solution, you too will have wasted your most precious resource: time.
Time Zone 5: Qualify
When Customers Get Active, Suppliers Better be Started
Customers/buyers may skip this “Qualify” time zone, but if it does occur, suppliers/sellers should have their sleeves already rolled up and working on their proposal narrative and detailed solution.
If not, the RFI / SOQ says to suppliers/sellers “Get busy. Fast.”
Time Zone 4: Propose
If Sellers Wait for the RFP, They’re Behind the Win Curve
This is the time zone where starting early to develop the proposal narrative and design the customized solution pay off. Typically, suppliers/sellers will get between two and four weeks to submit their proposal. That’s barely enough time to price and write up the technical proposal.
When is that innovative, creative, customized solution developed? If not earlier, probably never as there’s only time for a cut-and-paste job.
Time Zone 3: Present
It’s Showtime! Sparkly Competitors vs. Sitting Duck Incumbent
A lot can happen during show time. For example, the supplier/seller leading in the proposal evaluation still has the chance to blow it and let a challenger swoop in, impress the customer/buyer and win the contract.
- How to Win the Presentation Trifecta for More Sales
- Mea Culpa – Presentation Mistakes to Avoid
- Head in a Bucket
Time Zone 2: Select
Lucky Seller in Hand-to-Hand Jujutsu with Buyer
Suppliers/sellers’ risk tolerance and negotiation savvy, and customers/buyers’ pragmatism and fairness determine the outcomes in this time zone.
Smart Procurement negotiators will enter into final negotiations with the top two supplier finalists. If they can’t complete negotiations with their number one choice, they have number two ready to go. Procurement doesn’t want to get to the 11th hour of negotiations, have number one back out and then have nothing to show for it.
Time Zone 1: Start Up
Seller’s First Day of Account Retention Begins on First Day of Service
After the anxiety of a lost deal has passed and the celebratory champagne is empty, it all starts over again. The first day of service is the first day of working to retain the account. Because you know the contract will be going out to bid. And you know when, and what to do.