Pick Your Battles (Part 2 in Disciplined Business Development)

How does your organization choose opportunities?

In an economic downturn, the panic response is to try to sell everything to everybody. The result – other than the occasional stroke of dumb luck – is that nothing is sold to anyone.

Remember that there are also several competitors out there, who are trying to meet their sales, revenue, and profitability projections. Your organization has limited time, resources, and energy. And, it’s possible you may have even fewer resources now than you did one or two years ago.

To be effective, then, you need to focus your attention on opportunities where you can win. Why?

  1. You can devote enough energy to the face-to-face relationship building you will need to establish your credibility with the customer and the market.
  2. You can work to develop a superior – and innovative – technical solution.
  3. You can fine-tune your pricing – which goes hand-in-hand with that technical solution.

Bottom line – don’t shoot at everything that moves.

Here are some things to consider when choosing opportunities.

First, what is your company’s sweet spot?

I have a question I ask when I interview people for jobs. It is “what do you do better than anyone else you know?” If they give a clear and articulate answer, I know at least that they have thought about it and understand their singular strength. What is the answer for your organization? Are you the at-risk health insurance king? Superlative at chronic health care? Expert at Administrative Services Organization agreements?

Here is the corollary question that I ask: “what should I never give you to do because you are terrible at it?” Think about that. Unless you’re primed to try to enter a new market (and have the resources to burn to do it), answering that second question can help keep you from wasting time on opportunities that are not a good match.

Consider some examples: who do you think of for economy cars? (e.g. Honda and Toyota) Who builds consumer computers? (e.g. Apple) Who builds business computers? (e.g. Dell, IBM, HP) Yes, there are exceptions to those rules, but the fact that we have strong associations of those names with particular solutions is important. It isn’t any different in the health and human services market – buyers make associations, based on information they gather, and influence purchasing decisions accordingly.

What message are you sending? How well are you positioned in a particular market? Remember that every opportunity you choose costs time and money, consumes resources, and prevents you from working on something else. There really are not ten “priority one” projects. Instead, you end up with ten “priority ten” projects – and the results follow accordingly.

In 1993 I started working with a client on a large federal healthcare bid where the organization had directors, VPs, and C-level executives pursuing the opportunity and writing the bid. No proposal expertise, no federal expertise. Furthermore – because they were spending all their time working on the proposal – the operations numbers went awry. The medical loss ratio climbed, claims backlog increased, and so on.

Focus is critical.

Leave a Reply