Are you a vendor/partner servicing the biopharma training and development space? Well, then, I have some counter-intuitive advice for you.
Learn to turn down some new work.
Radical? I hope it’s not. Because, according to the input I’ve gotten from many of our colleagues on the client side of the business, one of the fastest ways to lose a valuable new potential business relationship is to sell outside your strike zone.
Clients despise when vendors position themselves as one-stop-shops; “Sure, we can do that!” “Yep, we do that, too!” “Oh, yes, we’ve done those before.” Intuitively, they know that your concern is maximizing revenue for you, not providing maximum value to them.
Vendors that take on work outside their sweet spot almost inevitably end up scrambling, failing, and endangering the client relationship.
I like how one of my clients put it recently – here’s the question he asks prospective vendors to narrow down to their strike zone: “If I have only one project for you to work on so you can lock in your skill set with me, what would it be?”
I always advise my partners in the vendor arena to narrow down their key offerings to one or two – even if you can possibly do a few other things, let that wait until you’ve already established a successful reputation by doing great work in your sweet spot. In fact, I won’t recommend vendors who refuse to be clear on their differentiating offerings and strengths.
This is where there has to be a clear commitment, from the executive level, that strategy will shape sales. If salespeople are given the charge to maximize revenue even it means blurring the boundaries and pursuing high-risk-of-failure work, that’s a recipe for a bad reputation.
Now, there are cases where I think it is OK for vendors to pursue a piece of work that requires some stretch. And that is when they already have a great reputation with the client, AND where it is explained to the client clearly that taking on this work will be a stretch. Some clients so value their vendor partners that they are willing to share that risk because of the mutual confidence level that exists. But, a lack of transparency, accompanied by some glib notion that “we’ll figure it out as we go along,” rarely ends well.
Know how you differentiate. Find your fit in the marketplace. And remember: not all business is good business.
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