A few days ago, I had a possibly crucially important conversation with someone who had provided an insider lead on an opportunity that could change the scale, direction and future of our business. Details, of course, remain confidential, and we are a long ways from a signed contract. In fact, there may be no business nor contract.
However, I know there are a few rules regarding potentially significant opportunities and have started implementing them.
Know your circumstances.
These are both internal, and external. If the opportunity is real it will have some costs and challenges. If it involves dislodging a competitor, there may (a) be nasty push-back or (b) the competitor is giving up the ghost because either the competitor doesn’t know how to exploit the opportunity or (much more likely) there are some or several fatal flaw(s) that make the whole thing look much better than it really is.
The challenge here is to gather enough data and information and ask enough questions to determine the risks and possible challenges. There are times when “too good to be true” indeed is just that.
Think from the client’s perspective (ie: whether you really can deliver value to your client/potential client).
Here, I’ve been testing the opportunity and realize (from what I can see) that the potential client isn’t happy with the value received from the current supplier, but as far as I can tell (with incomplete information) the current supplier may be in a money-losing situation and possibly would like nothing more than a major change in the deal.
However,this is a complex story. If the client has a multi-year contract with the vendor (and the vendor is losing money), it would certainly be dangerous for me to try to “outcompete” to win the contract — I will simply lose even more cash if I did that (assuming the incumbent vendor is a competent business, which I believe it is.)
I can see an alternative business model that would be viable, but this only works if the client wishes to ditch the part of the contract that costs the current vendor the most money — and (paradoxically), the current vendor would probably love my solution because it could turn the money-losing project into one that would be highly profitable. However, if the potential client really wants the services currently provided in the existing format, then the client has a real deal — a locked-in long-term contract, with no cost to the client, while the current vendor might be losing a fortune.
Focus on doing the right thing. In this case, be frank and truthful, and respectful of the client’s circumstances.
Here we come to the crucial part of the story. I explained in confidence to the person referring me the work the challenges of the opportunity and why the organization he represents be best off leaving things in place. He had perceived a solution — figuring out a model to increase sales — which I think may be viable, but won’t solve the underlying problem. So I asked him for some final advice — and he said: “Think of how you can be helpful.”
And that is what I will do. I’ll frankly explain the situation, based on the information I have, with respect for everyone involved. If there is a buy-in we’ll move forward to the next stage. If there isn’t, then the potential client will still have some worthy advice and insights and possibly will be able to renegotiate its arrangement with the current vendor, or appreciate the value of the current arrangement.
How would you handle a situation like this? I welcome your thoughts by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or as a comment below.