The Difference Between a Brand and a Label…. a pricing guy’s persepctive.

There is a difference between a brand and a label.

Dog in a bag

A brand comes with a reassurance of quality. Put simply; the consumer subconsciously realises that it is too dangerous for a company with a long standing reputation to produce anything that might trash that reputation.

A label is a way for simpletons to show other simpletons that they have more money than sense.

It is easy to tell the difference: Whilst a brand may be visible at the point of sale, it is not necessary for it to be visible after the purchase is made. In other words if it is emblazoned on the outside of the goods in letters four inches high, it is a good indicator that the item is intended for simpletons (and may be fake anyway).

PS …Just been out and measured the size of the letters on my Mercedes and thankfully they are not four inches high!

How to overcome the tyranny of tenders

The tender is a devilish device designed to cynically negate all the carefully crafted embellishments of the salesperson and all the wonderfully concocted unique propositions of the marketing department. However they are about as much use in choosing a supplier who will give you long term value, as a beauty pageant is as a means of choosing a life partner.

In the eyes of a procurement professional, a tender makes all other things equal so that the suppliers can be focused on sharpening their pricing pencil until it is little more than a well-chewed stub… so short it can barely be clenched twixt finger and thumb.

So how do you win business is in the face of such a soulless adversary?….

The first thing to say about tenders is, that if the first time you hear about one is when the request arrives on your desk, then you should assume that you have already lost (Sorry if this sounds rather like the old joke about the lost tourists who stop to ask a farmer for directions and get the reply ‘If I were you I wouldn’t start from here’)

You need to consider how a tender comes about to understand how to tackle it. In instances where there is already an incumbent supplier, the technical part of the tender document will be written based on the product or service they are already getting. Unless they have a burning desire for change, what in effect they are asking for is more of the same please… but cheaper’.

Because the document assumes there is only one way to provide the product or service, you have no way of registering that yours has an advantage and that they will need to accept some risk or cost of change….Also I have never seen a box in tender documents asking you to put in why they should pay more.

So, turning hindsight into foresight this is how you go about it:

  1. Identify all the potential customers that you think could especially benefit from your product or service….regardless of where they are in the tender cycle.
  2. Research them like hell and set about building contacts at as many levels as possible. If there is not a tender in the offing they should be more inclined to talk to you.
  3. If you are successful in making contact, use your very best discovery skills to understand the world from their point of view…How they make their money, what’s important to them, what makes the individual decision-makers tick, what gets them worked up.
  4. Gently and subtly, without being rude, point out what they are missing by using the incumbent supplier and make sure that you are on the next tender list. If they can see that you have invested time in them it would be mean to exclude you.
  5. Turn up the volume a tad just before they start to draft the technical section of the next tender. The aim is to have it written it in such a way that only you can fulfill its requirements.
  6. Make sure that they see value in doing things differently and expect to pay more for this approach.

A tender is not the time to do your selling, it is a time to remind them of the (very subtle) selling you did months if not, years ago.

If you are going to have to undergo the somewhat degrading spectacle of appearing in a beauty pageant, it probably helps if the judges already know you and you have been out on a few dates together.

I know this doesn’t help you win the tender sat on your desk today, but it should help you win some a couple of years hence.

The Moral of the Story is simple…. be proactive not reactive. Put the first step in place today. If you want a rich seam of business to mine in the future, make it someone’s job to find and engage targets now.

Believe me, you will thank yourself (and possibly me) in 2-3 years time!

…of course we can help, if you need to build this capability.





The best two words with which to start proposals…

When we are working with a client who is expecting to make some large sales, we often end up looking at the way they write or present proposals. The manner in which you present your price is at least as important as the number itself. For those that don’t know the difference; a quote tells the customer how much they have to pay, a proposal tells them why they should pay it.

We see some that are little more than a quote fired out of their computer system listing parts and prices, some that are elaborately bound documents filled with words and some that are creatively designed PowerPoint slide sets. However it is presented, there is one thing we are always on the look out for. This is our version of it:

We always start our proposals with the heading UNDERSTANDING CHECK

The heading is followed by a sentence or two something like this:

‘This is what we have learned about your business. Please correct us if we have misunderstood anything:’

We then go on to include 8-12 short paragraphs (or long bullet points) along these lines:

  • Your business provides [product/service] to the [definition] and [definition] market sectors…
  • Your overall corporate objective is to…. and this means that you…. and you hope to…
  • The way you go about servicing your customers is to…
  • The problem you sometimes encounter is…. when this happens it can cost you…
  • You are looking for a way to….
  • To this end you are seeking a supplier who can….
  • You told us that an ideal supplier would be able to….
  • Any potential supplier must meet the approval of….

These should be written using their language or jargon… or no jargon at all. The aim is to let them hear an echo of their own voice. It should contain no specifics about you or your product. That comes later.

If it is well written, when the customer reads this section a warm little sigh occurs deep in their breast and their inner voice says with a smile…. ‘At last!… someone has listened!’

The next Heading is Our Recommendations… or Our Approach.

Writing this bit is a piece of cake. You simply look at each piece of the Understanding Check and say how your company, product or service meets that particular need.

  • We have many clients in the [definition] sector and…
  • Our approach is designed to allow you to continue to….
  • Our product solves the XYZ problem by….
  • As per your requirement we are able to…

The process of writing the Understanding Check has a built in safeguard. If you find you are struggling after writing two or three bullet points then it means you haven’t done enough discovery and you need to ask some more questions. If you don’t, your product will probably not meet their needs (because you simply don’t know what they are).

Warning: Don’t copy and paste. Don’t prepare a generic template with the bullet points in place…. always write it from scratch. It is the discipline of thinking about meeting the customers needs that will win you the business, not the quality of the paper and binding.

Our recommendation is that a proposal of this nature should be delivered with a person attached to talk through it (and help the customer nod in agreement at every step). If we know that the primary contact is not the final decision maker then we sometimes say ‘I have brought a draft of our proposal to show you to make sure it is OK before we finalise it’ … it is still beautifully bound and usually doesn’t get amended.

PS If you need us to train your people on how to combine the discovery process with proposal writing, drop us a line at