How Do You Win Really Big Deals When You’ve Been Losing?

The biggest one shot deal I ever won was a $25M/Year custom deal we did with Lucent.

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We had been doing business with Lucent optical module division in the UK and Pennsylvania for years. In fact, we were getting all of their business.

However, we couldn’t crack Lucent’s box business. We had significantly better products than our competitors, but we just kept losing.

Then Lucent issued a Request For Quote (RFQ) for a custom device. They wanted the custom product in three months!

That was unheard of in the world of Analog semiconductors, but I knew we could do it. And I was tired of losing. I decided we were going to give them exactly what they wanted at the exact schedule we wanted.

Hurdle number one: Convincing the engineering team we could actually meet Lucent’s request.

You can imagine the pushback I got. It went like this, “Three months! There’s no way we can do this!”

Actually, there were the requisite expletives thrown in. And since I’m trying to eliminate expletives from my writing, I’ll let your imagination figure out what they were.

I pointed out that we actually had many of the components Lucent wanted. All we needed to do was combine them together into one IC. Yes there would be a lot of non-trivial engineering work, but we could do it if we managed the schedule on a daily basis.

More expletives flew from the engineering director’s mouth. I think he said I was a lunatic at one point.

I suggested we work through the engineering schedule together.

The engineering director calmed down enough to go through the work with me. That’s when he understood it was ridiculously difficult, but possible. This leads to…

Hurdle number two: Managing the engineering project.

The engineering director rightly pointed out, “What if we fail and don’t meet the schedule.”

My answer was simple. “Then it’s on me. I’ll take the blame. However, we’re not going to fail. We’re going to manage every engineer involved in the project on a daily basis.”

The engineering director was bought in, sort of. We needed to find a project manager to oversee the whole project and run the daily engineering meeting we would need to have.

We both thought Doug would be the right person to manage the project. We would have two teams, one in Portland, Oregon, and one in Germany develop the chip.

Now that I had the agreement of the engineering team, I went back to Lucent and presented our bid. It was an aggressive schedule with an aggressive price to boot.

A week later Lucent told us we had won the bid! Now the hard work would begin.

Doug did an awesome job managing the project. We developed a daily progress schedule for each engineer involved in the project.

We knew if an engineer was ahead or behind schedule on the project. The daily meeting Doug ran focused on helping any engineers that were behind schedule.

It worked.

Three months later we hand delivered the working product to Lucent on the exact day we promised.

The moral of the story: Don’t let someone tell you something can’t be done.

We won $25M/Year of business because we didn’t just mail in an easy answer. We pushed and took the customer’s perspective.

The customer wanted the product in three months. And there was a way to get there. That’s how you win business.

For more, read: What’s A Warboard And Why You Need it?

Written by

I work with startup CEOs to help them grow their businesses . I built several businesses from $0 to >$100M. Learn more at www.brettjfox.com

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