Tyler Gitou lowered his head and shook it slowly. “And you missed that deadline too,” he said.
“Yes,” Verdi said meekly. “We got the pricing exhibit to them the next day.”
“That’s three missed deadlines. What happened next?” Tyler asked.
“Well, we were down-selected so it was us and one of our major competitors,” Verdi said. “But in the end, we lost.”
“And why do you think you lost?”
“The client said our price was too high,” Verdi said.
“Do you believe that?” Tyler asked.
“Um… yeah,” Verdi said. “They had said we were a little more than the competition all along. But that’s because we had a lot of senior people staffed to make sure we were successful.”
“Verdi, what was the client’s primary buyer value?” Tyler asked.
“Certainty of execution,” Verdi said. “The client is in a highly regulated business and if we can’t deliver the services and file their reports, the regulatory agencies are all over them.”
“And if you were choosing a business partner for a project that was critical to your business, what would you want to be sure of before you selected that partner?”
“I guess that I thought they would be able to perform.”
“Just ‘thought’? As in, ‘greater than fifty-fifty’?”
“No,” Verdi said. “That I was certain they could perform.”
“Exactly,” Tyler said. “And to have that certainty you would have to believe in their ability to perform. That they can deliver on their promises on time, correct?”
“Absolutely,” Verdi said.
“How did you do?”
“I thought we did well,” Verdi said. “We got a lot of positive feedback on our proposal.”
“You know what Verdi? You are unbelievable.”
“Thank you, Mr. Gitou.”
“It’s not a compliment, Verdi. I mean that you lost the deal not because of price. You lost because you lacked credibility and reliability. The client did not believe you were the right company to trust with such an important program.””
“Just because we were late for a few deadlines? It was a complicated proposal! Plus the client was late on a bunch of stuff too!”
“The client is allowed to be late. They are the client! We build our reputation and trust with the client by being on time,” Tyler said.
“I think you’re overstating this,” Verdi said. “They told me it was price, not trust. In fact, the guy who told me is the head of procurement and I have a long relationship with him.”
“He was being kind, Verdi. How would you have felt if he said, ‘We didn’t choose you because we don’t trust you’?”
“I would have felt terrible,” Verdi said.
“Exactly. But you were not worthy of their trust because you didn't earn it. So you are not trustworthy.”
“That’s pretty harsh, Mr. Gitou.”
“Verdi, let me share with you a secret about how clients buy,” Tyler said. “Clients, just like many businesses, are risk averse because the client is actually made up of people who have a personal interest in being successful in their jobs. And those people worry more about not making the wrong decision than they do about making the right decision.”
“I don’t follow you.”
“When a business person makes a decision about which service provider to hire, they decide on the basis of which one is least likely to screw up. The business person does not want to answer for a failed project because they hired the wrong vendor . So to be viewed as least likely to screw up in delivering the service, you have earn their trust. Make them believe you are the low risk choice. And, frankly, being late three times on a single proposal does not generate credibility and trust. You are unbelievable.”
“I understand now,” Verdi said. “It’s a good lesson from a bad mistake.”
“That’s a positive way to think about it, Verdi,” Tyler said. “Now go look at where your process broke down on the proposal and next time get the client to believe you are unbelievably reliable in responding to the bid.”