Some of my colleagues will find it hard to believe, but I didn’t spend my entire career in finance. In fact, one of the most enjoyable times in my professional career was my time on the other side of the fence - with sales ops.

Now, as a CFO, the two things I cared about most was revenue and profitability. Any request for new funds that came to my desk always had to justify the RoI. When I moved to sales ops, I was able to take the knowledge of what a CFO wants, and transform our requests into something a CFO would love (or if not love, at least see the reason to approve).  It didn’t mean that I stopped questioning programs that were being proposed, just that I could make a strong case for good tools and services.  

Consider leads. In large companies your most effective source of leads is almost always your existing customer database. Unless your company is entering a new market, the math is fairly straightforward:

The cost of mining your own customer database for growth <  the cost of acquiring a new customer

But if increasing market share is the company’s mantra, then you need to move beyond your customer base. This often leads large companies to the same place as start-ups, i.e., trying to find new customers.

Of course, the ideal new customer is one who has not been using your competitor’s products for years and has not done enough research to understand the various options. Yes, Virginia, those companies do exist.  Often they are relatively new companies that are growing fast.  And yes, they are a good segment to target.  But they constitute only a small percentage of the overall market and likely won’t be enough to move the needle for you.

So then it becomes harder. You need to try and get far enough ahead of the buying cycle so you have a shot at displacing your competitor’s lock on the account. Or you need to find those customers who follow an open approach - e.g.  public organizations that put forth open bids.

But it isn’t enough to to simply identify and respond to RFPs. Your chances of winning a public bid depend on how early you engaged with the organization. You need a way to approach such organizations, and present yourself as an expert to guide their  thinking as they phrase their RFP.

Cool RFP Stats: @Aberdeengroup – Defined RFP = 1 in 7 close; @Forrester – if you help shape the RFP 74% close @CraigElias#df13

— Steve Richard (@srichardv)

November 22, 2013

Conventional bid sources won’t alert you far in advance - if you have the data, so does the competition.  But what if you were presented with a list every week of organizations that were getting started on the journey to a public bid? What if you knew, that an organization was going to buy your kind of product, and the time horizon was far enough in advance to get you in the door?  If you knew all that, then would you put forth the necessary effort to get through to the right person?   

With both my CFO and sales ops hat on, the RoI is obvious. You have taken the external factors out of the equation - you know that the customer is going to buy and you have been alerted early. The onus now is on your sales and marketing machine to pull the levers and convince the customer that your solution is the obvious choice.  The customer may balk at making your particular feature set their RFP, but if you have helped them in an honest way, they are much more likely to view your proposal favourably.

That’s exactly the kind of leads we deliver at Compile. Learn how we can help your public sector teams identify and close more deals.

And keep your CFO happy!

Image originally uploaded by ukespresso