fishThis month’s Fast Company has an article on how HP stole the outsourcing contract for P&G’s technology systems and data centres away from favoured EDS and IBM. The article pinpoints five tactics that made the difference:

  1. Don’t hide your weakness – Be up front about them and defuse them before your competitors can exploit them. Then play up your strengths.
  2. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse – The biggest advantage many large corporations have over smaller competitors is the practice they’ve had presenting to sometimes intimidating executives, and their ability to learn from their mistakes. Every interaction with the customer is a potential learning experience.
  3. Bring out the big guns – Introduce your very top people to the customer, even if you can only do so sparingly. And credentialize yourself further with kudos and referrals from other well-known customers and associates.
  4. Think like your customer – Understand what they’re looking for in a synergistic relationship with a business partner, not just a supplier.
  5. Show that you want the deal – When two or more proposals are equally attractive, the one from the hungrier ‘we try harder’ bidder usually wins.

These tactics are useful advice for any small enterprise trying to go head-to-head with much larger competitors. Here are a few more from my own experience:

  1. Carve out a niche – Every large competitor has competency gaps that can be exploited. Find a small area where you are uniquely qualified, and focus sales efforts on that niche market.
  2. Don’t bite off too much – Be selective in the customers and markets you pursue. There is less competition for mid-size customers than the giant ones, and lower expectations and risks as well.
  3. Relationships almost always trump expertise – Your network is everything. Success is a direct function of the amount of time you invest in relationships with the right customers at the highest possible level. If you’re local and the big guys are not, emphasize that and exploit it to increase ‘face time’ with the customer.
  4. Get to the top decision maker – I wrote about this in a previous article.
  5. Ask for the work – This seems obvious, but it’s amazing how rarely it’s done. At worst, you’ll be told that they’re still evaluating other suppliers. At best, you’ll get the assignment on the spot. And you’ll have a better understanding of exactly where you stand.
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  1. Bill Seitz says:

    While it’s not the point of your post, I wonder how many of those jobs will get offshored over the next couple years?

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