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"An unapproachable customer"


When we started off the pursuit of this customer, we had one thing very much in our favour and one very much against. The customer was about to run an RFP for a global programme and, though we had not been able to influence the input we believed we had a compelling offering and had the references and case studies to support our claim.

I had previously managed this account through some turbulent times and, despite being on separate continents, had built a good partner-relationship with the key contact, the person now responsible for driving the RFP.

Against us was the fact my new company had previously won their business and had delivered a poor solution and done so badly, over-budget and late. On the face of it this would not be one to pursue.

The challenge was to convince the customer that it is individuals who lead and make a difference and that the evidence of my past success was proof of that. The customer was not keen to discuss nor meet and certainly not for us to present why we should be considered for the RFP, let alone bid. So, how do we get in front of him that will convince him that changes have been made and that we can do a great job?

Every direct approach was met with a polite refusal. Though he took my calls and responded to my emails it was more out of professional respect for the good work I had done in the past, but the answer was still a very definitive ‘no’.

The solution was simple enough. We put together a six-page oversize (30cm x 30cm) high-gloss document bringing together in words and graphics his challenges, the future roadmap and aligned that with our capabilities and references. All very relevant to the customer. Three versions of the document were sent, by courier direct to him to review. Included in the package was a letter saying that we would not call but we would appreciate his feedback before he makes his final decision.

The result was very positive. The call back happened. The feedback was that we had clearly listened to his needs and had done a lot of research to understand his marketplace and challenges and we had articulated it well. He was still reluctant to involve us in the RFP process but agreed to as, by now, he was keen to understand how much we had changed.

Being creative always helps and may require some investment. Getting the right message in front of a customer is key in securing their trust. Unique approaches can work but only if the detail is accurate and demonstrates to the customer we have listened, and we understand.


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