Post-Mortems Are Not the End, But Rather the Beginning

I wanted to share some thoughts on what should occur every time you lose a bid/potential order/piece of significant business and even more importantly what should happen when you win a bid/potential order etc.

So, let’s begin by considering what happens when you lose – or should I say you fail to win: The most common “excuse” I hear is that it was down to price, and when there is a very flat playing field where solutions and costings are identical, and there has been no opportunity to prove incremental value, this is indeed the case. The only other differentiators in these circumstances is the quality of your selling skills, and your ability to think “out of the box”

But in most scenarios, when I dig below the surface I discover a whole host of far more complex – although obvious – reasons.

These can include:

Failure to cover all the bases within the DMU (Decision-making unit) and simply concentrating on one or two perceived strong allies – only to be outwitted by a competitor who has been far more active politically.

Or even being hoodwinked into believing that the main contact has far more power and influence, simply because that was suggested from their business card. That’s a bit like dealing with the Vice-President of the United States – the title sounds impressive, but not too much power or influence.

But actually, by far the most common failing is not being rigorous enough at the front-end: What I mean by that is that insufficient time has been invested into asking all of the right questions of all the right people to fully understand the requirement, and consequently making some assumptions – often wrong ones. From that point on, everything that is proposed is a bit “suck it and see” and relies on hope and luck. That means the odds for winning are 50% at best from the beginning

A final word on post-mortems after a loss: Be brutally honest – OK, that was three words, but you get my drift. Don’t allow anything or anyone to escape microscopic scrutiny, because this is not a finger-pointing exercise, but it is a fantastic opportunity to roll back the carpet and expose the cracks. Your ultimate objective is to ensure (try to) that you don’t make the same mistakes again – and hence increase your odds of winning the next great opportunity that arrives.

But please do not think for one minute that post-mortems are just for understanding losses – I do so hate the word failure – they are just as important after you have won, whilst the scent of victory is still fresh in your nostrils.

Ensuring that you have a total understanding of what you did right is absolutely vital if you want to replicate that success and repeat that superior performance.

Do remember that everything – every aspect of the sales/buying cycle – can always be improved; perfection is an imaginary target for us all, it doesn’t really exist unless you are naive enough to believe it does.

You see, post-mortems are not the end, but they are indeed the beginning … of your enlightenment!

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