Win Without Winning Manifesto

Win Without Winning Manifesto

Author – Blair Enns

We will specialize.

Do not give away your thinking for free.

If we are not seen as more expert than our competition, then we will be viewed as one in a sea of many, and we will have little power in our relationships with our clients and prospects.

💡 What the world needs, what better clients are willing to pay for, and what our people want to develop and deliver is deep expertise.
→ Not personality. Not process. Not price.
→ It is expertise alone that will set us apart in a meaningful way and allow us to deal with our clients and prospects from a position of power.
→ We are experts at building startups because we have developed more in-house projects than any IT outsourcing agency.

💡 Positioning is the foundation of business development success and of business success.
→ It is only through positioning our firm that we begin to shift the power in the buy-sell relationship and change the way our services are bought and sold.
→ Our goal when endeavoring to position ourselves against our competition is to reduce or outright eliminate them. When we drastically reduce the real alternatives to hiring our firm, we shift the power balance away from the client and toward us.

Three steps of positioning:

  1. Choose a focus → Pick a niche. Define your identity.
  2. Claim expertise → Articulate that focus via a consistent claim; write.
  3. Support the claim → Grow and work to add the missing skills, capabilities, and processes necessary to support it.
    → Startup idea
    → blog post
    → in-house project, study, read

We will replace presentations with conversations.

Do not waste time on pre-contract client requests of any material.

💡 Practitioners do not present. Stars do not audition. Professionals do not interview.

Adopt the following policies:
Strategy first.

  • We will agree with the client on the strategy before any creative development begins.
  • We will not develop, nor share with the client, creative of any kind before the challenge has been diagnosed and the strategy prescribed and agreed to.
  • Immediately prior to presenting any creative, we will review the agreed upon strategy with the client.
  • The creative is focused and measured against the strategy.
  • Any time we come back to the client to share new ideas or concepts we will set the stage first by reviewing the strategy that guides us.

Freedom of execution.

  • Suggestions from the client are welcome, but dictates are not.
  • We need the creative freedom to explore the destinations implied by the strategy.
  • The client must ultimately approve of our recommendations, and be satisfied with the outcome, but he must also let us explore along the way.

Fewer options of better quality.

  • Strive to limit creative options to as few as practical.(tops 2~3)
  • There is an inverse correlation between the quantity of creative options we present to the client and confidence we have in their quality.

Only we present our work.

  • Our key client contacts may assist us, but our work does not get presented without our involvement.

💡 Presenting is a tool of swaying. Conversing is a tool of weighing.
→ Presenting is trying to convince people to hire us.
→ Conversing is trying to determine if both parties would be well served by working together.

💡 Presentations build buying resistance; conversations lower it.
→ The tone of a conversation, in which both parties endeavor to make an honest assessment of the fit between one’s need and the other’s expertise, is entirely different from the tone of a presentation, in which one party tries to convince the other to hire.

💡 Our mission is to position; our objective is to determine a fit.

Our mission: To position ourselves as the expert practitioner in the mind of the client.
→ It is not our job to convince the client to hire us via presentation or any other means.

Objective: To simply see if there is a fit between us and the client.
→ It is not our objective to sell, convince, or persuade.

We will diagnose before we prescribe.

Never prescribe solutions without first fully diagnosing the client’s challenge.

Four phases in client engagement:

  1. Diagnose the problem/opportunity.
  2. Prescribe a therapy.
  3. Apply the therapy.
  4. Reapply the therapy as necessary.
Never agree to begin working on a creative solution to a problem that we have not fully explored.

💡 When the client comes to us self-diagnosed, our mindset must be the same as the doctor hearing his patient tell him what type of surgery he wants to perform before any discussion of symptoms or diagnoses. “You may be correct, but let’s find out for sure.”

One of the advantages the outside expert brings is perspective. And one of the hallmarks of creativity is the ability to see problems differently, and thus find solutions others cannot see.

To bring our perspective and problem-solving skills to bear we must be allowed time and freedom to diagnose the client’s challenges in our own manner.

Design is not the solution; it is the process.

We cannot be effective, responsible designers if we allow the client to impose his process, or truncate or otherwise marginalize ours.

We must map out and formalize our own diagnostic process.

We must make the case that the consistency of our outcomes is rooted in the strength of our process.

The most successful clients, have achieved their success in part because of their ability to take control; their ability to rise above and orchestrate others.

This is their strength; and even though it is not always in their best interest, it is in their nature.

If design truly is a process, then we will define and guard that process and we will walk away from those clients and situations, like the pitch, where the process is dictated to us, or where we are otherwise asked to propose solutions without a proper diagnosis.

It is imperative to bring our own methodology to the engagement.

A good client will begin to relinquish control once he has the confidence that the expert practitioner knows more than he does, or has the tools to learn more.

From here forward we will view the act of prescription without diagnosis for what it is: malpractice. We will assert the professional’s obligation to begin at the beginning and walk away from those that would have us proceed based on guesses or invalidated self-diagnosis.

We will rethink what it means to sell

💡 If we are any good at what we do, then we should not have to talk people into hiring us.

Selling is about determining a fit between the buyer’s need and the seller’s supply and then facilitating a next step.

The buying cycle: The clients moves from unaware of his problem/opportunity, to being interested in considering the opportunity, and finally, to intent on acting on it. As he progresses in this manner, our role must change from one of helping, to inspiring, and ultimately to reassuring.

💡 Making things and selling things are the two basic functions in business. For our business to succeed we must succeed at both.

The focus is on the client and whether or not he has recognized and begun acting on his need.

We are narrowly focused experts then we should be able to succinctly articulate our expertise, and concisely describe to the client who we help and how, over the phone.

True thought leadership → Experts write.

Our goal with a client is to inspire him to form the intent to solve his problem; it is not to inspire him to hire us.
→ Portfolio
→ Company intro website

Inspiration is something we must save for the interested.

Closing is all about reassuring.

Firms offer alternative ways forward. Phased engagements, pilot projects, money-back guarantees and case studies framed in defined methodologies.

The key is to respond to the motivation and not necessarily the request.

Every competitive bid process has a preferred option.

Our default assumption should be that somebody always has the inside track.

We ask for concessions. We ask for access to decision makers. We negotiate what we will and will not write in a proposal or shown in a presentation.

We measure the client’s words, but more importantly, his behavior, his willingness to treat us differently, and if he grants us the inside track, then it may make sense for us to proceed.

We walk away when we cannot win without pitching, when we cannot derail the pitch and when we are unable to gain the inside track.

Good prospective clients who recognize and value our expertise will grant us one of the above.

We will look for those that we can best help. We will seek out those that see a fit between their needs and our expertise and who are willing to let us lead the engagement.

We will help the unaware, we will inspire the interested and we will reassure the intent.

Look beyond their requests for proposals and free thinking to the motivations behind them, and we will suggest alternative ways forward.

We will do with words what we used to do with paper

Abandon the written proposal.

The paper is produced only once the agreement has been reached.

The more heavily invested we appear to be in the sale, the less likely the client will tell us what he is really thinking. When he thinks we cannot bear to hear no, he will simply stall or defer or deliver a string of maybes. Most of the time, he will do so behind the shield of a request for a written proposal.

A client asking for unpaid ideas in a written proposal is like a patient asking for a diagnosis and prescription from a doctor he refuses to visit or pay.
We will charge for our diagnostic work.

Whether it is a brand audit or discovery session that we conduct ourselves, or outside the research that we commission.

Doctors charge for MRIs. Accountants charge for audits. Lawyers charge for consulting.

We are not in the proposal writing business.

We will no longer ask a document to do what we ourselves should do: propose.

We will be selective

Instead of seeking clients, we will selectively and respectfully pursue perfect fits, those targeted organizations that we can best help. We will say no early and often to weed out those that would be better served by others and those that cannot afford us. By saying no we will give power and credibility to our yes.

💡 Clients can smell selectivity.

💡 “Speak softly and people lean toward you; speak loudly and they lean away.” – Confucius
→ It is human nature to follow what retreats from us and back away from what advances.

The more narrower our claim of expertise, the more integrity we earn.

No is the second best answer we can hear. If the answer is no, we want to hear it as soon as possible, before we and the client unnecessarily waste valuable resources. When an opportunity first arises, therefore, we try to see if we can kill it.

If the opportunity is right and we retreat a just a little, the client is likely to follow.

The retreat-and-follow is an important test of how much the client recognizes and values our expertise. It tells us if he sees a fit and indicates to us the power we have to lead any engagement.

Learn to raise the objections first and place them on the table for the client to address.

If the objection is going to kill the deal, then let’s kill it early.

Find any and all ways to disqualify yourself as soon as possible.

Expertise forces selectivity.

We will build expertise rapidly

Once focused, we will work to add to and deepen the skills, capabilities, and processes from which we derive our expertise, and we will commit to the idea that continuous learning is mandatory.

First, we select a focus.

Then, articulate that focus via a claim of expertise.

Finally, work to quickly add proof to our claim.

Build a business with a narrow focus.

When you narrow your field of thought you think deeper.

We need not be smarter or more creative than our competition, only more focused.

Writing gets us found. Writing helps to cement our position as experts. Most important of all, writing about what we do is the fastest way to deepen our knowledge.

If we want to build deep expertise we must take pain to document how we work, to define and to continuously refine and improve our approach.

We must make the commitment that in our firm all our people will feel compelled to keep up with their associates and excel past our competitors. When our new employees come to work for us they must feel as though the learning never ends and the pace of learning never lessens. We race together.

We go first, and set the example of pace and determination required to be part of our enterprise.

We will not solve problems before we are paid

Our thinking is our highest value product; we will not part with it without appropriate compensation.

If we demonstrate that we do not value our thinking, our clients will not. Our paying clients can rest assured that our best minds remain focused on solving their problems and not the problems of those who have yet to hire us.

We must strive for a consistency in our behavior that says we know our own worth and we will not be led into selling ourselves short.

Simply agree that there is a line that separates proving our ability to solve the client’s problem from actually solving his problem.

→ “It is our policy to not begin to solve our clients’ problems before we are engaged.”

We should not progress so far as to share our diagnosis with the client before we are hired and appropriately paid.

We certainly should not be prescribing strategy without proper diagnosis and compensation. Free pitching is free thinking, period.

Our need to not begin work without appropriate compensation does not end once the client commits to working with us.

While we do not doubt his word when he speaks it, we must remember that he is not fully committed until he has parted with his money.

Every client reserves the right to change his mind until he parts with his money.

We must recognize this escalation of commitment as a natural series of steps, and simply ensure that we do not begin to solve the client’s problem until he has completed all of them, the most important being the last: payment.

One third to one half of the fee portion of the engagement is appropriate, or even the entire fee for the first phase in a phased engagement.

For all new clients, we will be paid in advance.

We will address issues of money early

💡 Those who cannot talk about it, do not make it.

If the answer is no, we want to hear it; therefore, we want to make it easy for the client to say it.
Minimum Level of Engagement

→ around 10% of total target fee income for the year – use as a tool to weed out poor financial its, to escalate discussions of short term tactical projects into discussions of long term strategic engagements, and to help us begin the money conversation early.

It is important to let the client know that we only work with a small number of new clients every year and therefore can only add clients that will spend at or above our MLE.

We will refuse to work at a loss

Every project will generate a profit that recognizes our expertise and the value we bring to our clients’ businesses.

We will charge more

As our expertise deepens and our impact on our clients’ businesses grows, we will increase our pricing to reflect that impact.

Superior service does not improve profit; profit improves service.

💡 The test for this is the ringing phone.

How do you feel about the client when you see him calling you on your phone?

While our engagements follow the four phases of diagnose, prescribe, apply and reapply, it is the outcomes of the third and fourth phases that are the deliverables the client seeks.

We should not be charging clients in units of time.

There must be the appropriate amount of pain associated with our pricing. This implies the need for our pricing to change as the size of the client changes. Larger organizations need to pay more to ensure their commitment.

Of all the investment opportunities we will face in our lives, few will yield returns greater than those opportunities to invest in ourselves.

We will use some of our greater profit margins to better ourselves and put greater distance between our competition and us.

We will hold our heads high

We will see ourselves as professional practitioners who bring real solutions to our clients’ business problems.