Messages that Matter: Understanding the Art of Winning


Posted By Dr. Tom Sant | Dec 09, 2011


Defining Winning

This year the Association of Proposal Management Professionals held its annual International Conference in Denver. The conference theme was "The Art of Winning," adapted from Sun Tzu's Art of War. The theme produced some strained analogies between proposal writing and warfare and some gratuitous references to Charlie Sheen's "Winning, duh!" philosophy of life. (Yes, I made a few of both of those myself). But it also offered a terrific assortment of workshops and presentations to help proposal teams and business development professionals work more effectively and efficiently.

I was privileged to deliver the keynote address for the conference. In thinking about that theme, one of the questions that started to nag at me was, "What exactly do we mean by winning?"

Obviously, from the perspective of a proposal operation or a sales organization, winning means getting contracts. It means closing deals. It means generating revenue. When we say that our win rate has gone up, that's what we're measuring: revenue, deals, and contracts.

But it doesn't take too much imagination to recognize that there are other kinds of "winning." Although we usually focus on winning at the strategic level, as measured by the typical business metrics: increased market share, penetration of key accounts, and so on.

But there are three other kinds of winning that are worth thinking about, too.

Strategic Wins

At a technical level, it's a "win" if we improve our infrastructure. For example, if we automate a labor-intensive process, introduce best practices, improve quality, or add flexibility, we are achieving important wins that will enable us to work more efficiently and effectively in the future. We may be driving costs and waste out of the process, which obviously has bottom-line impact.

Social Wins

There are also social and political wins to think about. Improving the morale of the workforce or increasing employee retention are ways of measuring the human dimension of winning in our organizations. For a public sector entity, gaining strong public support might be an important win. And for a company that typically enters into teaming relationships with small businesses, finding the right partners and nurturing mutually successful relationships is a key to long-term success.

Personal Wins

Finally, there is a personal dimension to winning. We should see that our role in the sales organization or on the proposal team provides us with opportunities for personal and professional growth. That's a win for us as individuals. And we should be part of an organization that rewards us for behaving ethically. Ultimately, these personal forms of winning will give us deep and lasting satisfaction, the kind that will stay with us long after the individual deals have been forgotten.

A good friend told me how happy she was at the company where she now works because she never has to compromise her personal integrity to do the job. At her previous employer, she found that she was expected to issue proposals that contained outright fabrications. She saw that managers were gaming the system to make the numbers look "right". And she was often put in the position of proposing solutions to clients that she knew the company could not deliver.

"It was horrible," she said. "I hated waking up every morning and going to work. Now I don't have that stress any more. Now I can look at myself in the mirror without cringing. Now I'm a little closer to being the kind of person that my dog thinks I am. And that feels great."

And that's a big win.

At Qvidian, we're all about helping our clients win at the strategic, tactical and social levels. And by enriching the work experience and helping you be your best, we like to think we also help you win at a personal level, too. To find out how we do all that, call for a free, no obligation demo of the Qvidian sales enablement products that are right for you.

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