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12 Critical Questions to Determine If You’re Really In The Running For The Business

I joined forces with a complementary branding firm last week to pitch a huge account: my partners were ecstatic about the chance to bid on this big, fat, juicy piece of business. The prospect was down to four companies, and we were on the proverbial “short list” of vendors. But, were we really?

After firing off a series of questions to my partners, it became clear that not only were we not in the running, we were being used as a “fluffer” – warming up the bidding process without a chance of getting the business!

Questions You must Answer Before Pitching the Biz
Before you spend your precious time preparing for a “dog and pony” show, make sure to ask questions – and get the answers.

1. How did you determine the short list of vendors? Your overall goal is to discover if there is a hidden relationship between the vendor and the client. The minute you hear, “Oh, we’ve worked together at three different companies,” you know you are positioned for failure.

2. Who else is bidding? Knowing your competition is critical to winning the business. You want to do your homework, so you can play to your strengths and against their weaknesses.

3. What’s the goal of the meeting? You need to know if you are presenting a solution or if this meeting is a capabilities presentation. You’ll fall flat on your face if your competitor is presenting an ad campaign, and you’re still learning the lay of the landscape.

4. What are the names and titles of everyone at the meeting? Having called too many people the wrong name, I like to know my dance card in advance. It allows me to Google and connect with them on social media; information is power!

5. How are you making the decision? If there are set criteria for the meeting, you need to know about it! Is it merely that the cheapest bid wins? Or what?

6. What are the formal (and informal) steps in the process? You’d be surprised how often the committee doesn’t have a plan for how to proceed.

7. If you had to make a decision today, what vendor would you choose? This is one of my fave questions, as it uncovers inherent bias. You need to know if you are at the top of the heap or not.

8. Why the need for this project now? This question is all about timing, baby. Is there a real deadline or an artificial one? Who’s pushing the deadline? What else is happening in the organization that’s become the catalyst for change?

9. How have you made decisions in the past? As Dr. Phil will tell you, past behavior is a pretty good indicator of future behavior. If there was a committee last year, but the vendor decision was made unilaterally by one strong individual, you now know who the key decision-maker is.

10. How will we measure success? I love to know the metrics of a project before signing on the dotted line. If, for example, my client’s goal is to boost her number of speaking gigs by 25 percent, I know I have a reasonable and measurable goal.

11. What metrics are most important to you? There are often corporate metrics and personal metrics that matter. Knowing the answer to this question for everyone involved in the decision tells you what buttons to push for success.

12. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the number one problem you want to solve today? You want to walk into a situation knowing the client’s pain. Of course, you should also have a discovery process in place to uncover the hidden pain points.

Remember: questions are the answers. If your prospect isn’t ready to have this discussion with you, then the prospect is not truly entertaining the prospect of working with you.


About Your Columnist

business headshot of Liz GoodgoldLiz Goodgold is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers all things to make your brand stand out. Liz is a branding author, consultant, coach, and motivational “speecher” who gets entrepreneurs and corporations to brand out, stand out, and cash in on their business. Liz is a international branding coach, author & speaker at REDfire Branding.

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