October 29, 2022
A few months back, a few of my team members and I discussed how to present a proposal for a competitive pitch to a large enterprise client. The client’s requirement was new, and my teammates needed help structuring the presentation. To help navigate the uncertainty and create a strong proposal, I set up a series of preparatory meetings with my team to discuss the customer requirements. In the first meeting, everyone was unsure about what to present. However, as we started getting into specifics and discussing pros and cons, a sliver of clarity evolved around the specific challenges and how best to pitch our solution. Eventually, over a few meetings, we were able to flesh out a robust proposal to present to the client. As I write this blog, we have received the mandate from the client.
Abraham Lincoln said famously-“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Looking back, my team won the client mandate because they prepared diligently to deliver a great proposal and managed the sales process effectively.
Instead of jumping into creating a cookie-cutter proposal, they spent time evaluating the customer challenges and understanding the technical issues so that a personalized solution could be presented. They spent time sharpening the axe.
Preparation Is Neglected
I am writing about this because in many work situations, preparation is critical, yet it is largely neglected. People jump into meetings, discussions, calls, and even customer presentations without adequate preparation. They think they can wing it, take things as they come, and go with the flow. They try to chop the tree without bothering to sharpen the axe. This lazy approach results in huge inefficiency and a lack of consistent success.
The root of the word “prepare” comes from the Latin phrase praeparare, which literally means ‘to make ready beforehand.” So, how must one prepare effectively beforehand? Are there some heuristics that one can depend on?
Here are three essential factors to consider when preparing for anything important.
Be Clear On The WHY
When preparing, it is crucial to clarify why you are doing what you are doing. If the purpose and result you seek to achieve are not clearly articulated, your preparation will be directionless and lackluster. Therefore, one of the critical roles of a leader is to help the team clarify the purpose behind any task before they jump headlong into action.
Be Clear On The Context
Understanding the context of any activity or task is essential to good preparation. Take time to research the task requirement, what’s expected, who is involved, the competitive situation, etc. Preparation is not only about the content of what you will deliver but also about the context in which it will be delivered.
Be Clear On The Choices You Have
Often, I have seen people who prepare unidimensionally. For example, the customer asked for a proposal; I’ll submit a proposal- they think. But after that, if things go differently than planned, they freeze- because they failed to consider the alternatives and variables that could impact the execution. Uncertainty is almost inevitable no matter how well you prepare, so planning for alternative scenarios is crucial to staying agile and adaptable at all times.
In winning the mandate from the client, all three factors I have shared were in play !!