Saturday, April 4, 2015

Nathan's dilemma

Nathan worked with his team and got the proposal ready. Well, submitting a proposal during a formal tender process is a different ball game, where you submit a lot of hard copies and a lot more. However, this one was a bit different, as the prospect wanted Nathan to make the submission in soft copy over email. One may think that to be an easy game. However, it comes with its own challenges. Preparing the soft copy proposal was easy for Nathan, as he was writing it in MS word and then saving it in pdf file, all looked easy. All was ready, he sent it to his manager to review and approve.

And then came the biggest dilemma so far in Nathan’s career. His bossed tossed a question so pertinent that he felt for long confused with the response he made. Given that the proposal was to be submitted in soft copy over email, the dilemma was whether to submit it in this fashion or not. Soft format, gives you ease, however, it opens up possible problems due to blatant sharing of such emails across the organisation and probable leakages of sensitive techno-commercial information. You don’t usually know who will lay their hands on such emails and information and when all these eventually come into the public domain.

All these were very logical questions and doubts and they came to Nathan’s mind, only when his boss asked him – should we share such information on email and risk it becoming a public property? They even discussed doing the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), for which they didn't really have time, hence, doesn't work now. Nathan thought for a moment and replied that we as a vendor now and a partner in future should believe in our potential customer and give them the benefit of the doubt and take this risk. Not that submitting in person was not an option, it was always open and Nathan could have easily travelled to the prospect’s office and submitted the proposal in person. But then, Nathan’s idea was not only to showcase their belief in the prospect and her process but also give them the confidence that they are ready to abide by their process. He said that if we cannot believe in our customer, then, how can they believe in us? Nathan’s boss really liked it and agreed to move ahead and submit the proposal on email.

Though Nathan made the decision and his boss also agreed to it...but deep inside, he was quite confused. Confused, because this could potentially create more market problems, where their sensitive information changes hands just like that. He was scared too, as it was his belief in doing so, which his boss too agreed to, and if their fears come true, he lands himself in potentially bigger soup. All such thoughts kept going through his mind. He thought again and decided in favour of his previous decision. And believed if something bad happens, he will stick to his decision. And will fight, if the need arose. Nathan finally and rightfully submitted the proposal...on email :)

What lay ahead was a series of discussions and calls with the prospect on the proposal and days full of anxiety, as Nathan wanted to seek ‘real feedback’ from the prospect. After a few days post submission, he called up his point of contact at the customer’s place and sought feedback. He was told that it’s under review and with the sr. management to consider. He also sought some competition related information, as he learnt that there are 2 more vendors who submitted their proposals – one incumbent and one, a new like Nathan.

Nathan discussed this feedback with his boss and learnt that this may not be the real feedback and there might be something cropping up behind the scenes that we are not privy of and may not learn that ever. He understood that all this is not because they are against us and don’t want to share this information, but, because that’s how things will always be. To gather such information, we need to develop some good relationships and good connects who can always share such information with you on and off. And you need at least 2-3 such connects, so that you can gather more information and cross check each other, to be sure.

This was sooner than later becoming a much needed learning for Nathan, as after a few more days he learnt that the incumbent vendor has been asked to review his proposal, as the evaluation team felt the need to do so. That was quite baffling, to say the least, as at least Nathan was sure, he wasn't asked to review his proposal. His mind was full of a few more doubts – why would anyone do that? Probably, they want his to match my proposal or may be even better it. Or the third one was the best and the incumbent has been asked to review it. Sounded a bit confusing, but, in sales, anything is possible. Nathan had heard stories of people being smug about the deal getting through, while, the competition enjoying a luxury resort and signed the contract, and the former is not even aware. These were stories which were heard of and in sales folklore, such stories were aplenty. But, this time, Nathan was experiencing such things all by himself.

Here was a situation where Nathan thought he had worked up the relationship and connects quite fast and he stood a fair chance to give a tough fight. But suddenly, he is met with a situation which he hadn’t experienced thus far and was a bit stuck on how to get more information and validate this piece. He decided to travel to the customer place, stay there for a few days and try and meet more people to access more information. He discussed with his boss and they agreed and off went in search of more information...or probably learning the ropes of enterprise sales.