Or, how to finish the job of getting the job.

Last month, I touched on sales marketing, and business development, finishing up with the two types of sales. This month, I will outline how to win jobs by optimizing your chances of closing on new work. To do this, you need to have a strategic sales plan and continue to reference it like you would check a roadmap when taking a trip. The difference between the two is that a roadmap takes you to a destination while a sales plan is a continuous process requiring course directions based on the economy, changes in technology, and changes in project delivery methods to mention just three adjustment factors.

Formulating a plan

To start, it is important to recognize that marketing is the art of positioning the company to win in the future, while selling is closing on sales now. Business development is that networking process that bridges the two. In my November 2005 column titled, “Next Year’s Business Plan,” I discuss how we formulate our sales revenue business plan within the group I manage. Together, the group mutually agrees on who we want to continue to work with, who else we would like to work with, and who we do not want to work with in the coming year. I believe every group, company, and each person who sees themselves as a “company of one” should have a sales plan.

During our group’s roundtable session, we strategize how to invest time and company business development dollars wisely. Time spent getting published, passing on articles of interest to our client(s), giving seminars, lunch & learn forums, and roundtable discussions are five activities where time and money can be well spent. An integral part of our sales plan is to be well versed in the “Go / No-Go” qualification process. In last month’s column, I touched on the “Type 1: Shotgun Method” of sales along with our preferred “Type 2: Target Sales Method.”

Targeting sales

There are several categories of sales that fit under the Target Sales Method, beginning with “work that never hits the street” sales. The majority of this type of work is with repeat clients where you will frequently have opportunities to assist them with an engineering issue which could be an infrastructure upgrade, equipment replacement, troubleshooting problem, etc. These situations occur when your client calls you with a need, you scope it out and provide a fee and timeline, and the client contracts your services. In this case, no other firm was given the opportunity to propose a solution.

Our client maintenance process also can create sales opportunities that other firms will never know exist, because we routinely check in on our clients to see how things are going, follow up with an article we thought they may find applicable to their needs, or to introduce them to a new idea.

On several occasions, we have clients who will send out a request for proposal (RFP) for pre-qualified firms like ours because they are required to solicit bids from a select few bidders. The decision to award the work, however, will be based on a number of categories noted in the RFP and not just price. The selection is called best value and we take this kind of business into consideration when establishing our next year’s business plan.

A type of potential business that doesn’t fit into our annual business plan is the pursuit of unsolicited RFP’s open to whoever wants to take the time to submit a bid. If your sales plan sets a targeted closing ratio (proposals won divided by proposals bid) such as 70%, chances are you won’t achieve your closing ratio goal pursuing this type of sale. Think about it. If you are one of five bidders and the process is based on low price (some will tell you it isn’t, but they lie), then you have a 20% chance of winning. This is never a good use of your time and your company’s money.

More about go-no-go

If you are going to pursue Type 2 sales you need to have a Go-No-Go assessment sheet. Based on your business plan, you should create a scorecard to tabulate the scoring of issues that make up the pre-qualifying of a potential bid. Categories such as “adheres to our business plan,” “selection process,” and “profit viable.” Under each of these categories will be several questions to be asked to further qualify whether you should go and invest company funds and an individual’s time pursing a potential job.

Targeting sales and closing on these sales is the #1 activity making up sales, marketing, and business development. Without sales, you don’t need marketing or business development. I have gone into this business of strategic selling in my online publication, Process, Project, Profit - A Practitioner’s Guide To The Building Industry©. If you are going to be successful as a consultant, you need to stop and write out a plan as your roadmap to business success and job satisfaction, not to mention it contributes to client satisfaction from a project well done.ES