As business developers, we’re obsessed with closing deals. This is what we do, and it’s what we live for. Whether those are with current or new clients, our game is to get that contract signed and closed so we can move to closing more and more opportunities.
As horrific as this may sound, sometimes it’s best to stop and not pursue a particular business opportunity any further. This does however happen every now and then, and should actually be considered more of a gain than a loss.
The underlying rationale is that some opportunities are best not won as they will most likely result in problematic jobs that could cost you a whole lot more than money. For one, they could damage your reputation, or at the very least demoralize the team that has been assigned to such a project.
Here are five signs you should be looking out for while “developing” a business opportunity, especially when you’re dealing with a potential client you haven’t worked with before.
1. You’re being squeezed for price
This is a common phenomenon and shouldn’t alarm you immediately. Let’s face it, everybody likes to negotiate a better deal for themselves. However, when it stops being a win-win situation and you find yourself heading toward accepting a project that will generate a loss for you, it’s time to move on. It’ll probably cost you a night or two of sleep to give it up voluntarily, but your team and resources will appreciate your wisdom.
2. Your prospect is asking for unreasonable reiterations of your proposal
You may run into some cases where your prospect is repeatedly asking you to update your proposal with this or that, and wants to know more and more about “how” you will get the job done. They may also ask extensively for references, examples of previous work you’ve done that’s similar, and ask for one presentation after the other.
Well, if the prospect has so little confidence and trust in your work and capabilities, it’ll most likely end up becoming a nightmare of a job where you’re being micro-managed in every aspect. Give it up and move on.
3. The business development process is taking way too long
Depending on your particular industry, the duration of your typical sales cycle will vary and range from weeks to months. However, there’s a norm in every industry, and if a particular opportunity extends significantly beyond that, it’s most likely a sign that the prospect is not all that serious, may be fishing around, or is simply using you to learn more and more about the business. (Read this article about phantom shoppers.)
Unless there’s a plausible rationale as to why an opportunity is taking so long to close, move on and see if they come back to you at a later time. Your time is invested better in opportunities that are more likely to close and generate not only revenue, but a rewarding experience for both sides.
4. You repeatedly fail to close a contract with the same prospect
It happens every now and then; someone will keep sending you RFPs and then send you a vague apology letter explaining that the contract was awarded to a competitor. It’s okay if it happens the first time, but if you see a pattern your alarm bells should go off.
This is especially the case when the apology letter does not offer any details as to where your specific weaknesses were, and which would at least help you improve your proposal-writing skills. Most likely, you were serving the purpose of filling in that blank so the prospect has the justification for having had solicited three competitive proposals before awarding the contract to the service provider they were set on from the beginning.
5. You receive a tender/ RFP in the 11th hour
A proper RFP should have a clear time-table stating when it was issued, until when you may submit inquiries, and when proposals are due for submission. If you receive an RFP significantly later than when it has been issued, or it comes with no time-table but a submission date that’s unreasonably close, you’re best off not wasting any time in writing a proposal. As with the above scenario, you are probably being used to fill in for that desperately needed third proposal, and as such are very unlikely to stand any reasonable chance to win the contract.
Yes, it’s hard to walk away from a business opportunity, and it doesn’t make much sense. And it becomes all the harder the more time and effort you’ve invested by now. But as the saying goes, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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