Everyone in the office was on pins and needles as we willed the phone to ring.
The call we were waiting for would be the go/no-go on the biggest proposal we had ever written. If we got the green light it would permanently change our company.
The call finally came…it was a no-go: “Thank you so much. We really appreciate your hard work and it was a very difficult decision but we’re going with a different service provider.” There it was. Short and sweet.
We felt…relieved! So relieved that we started high-fiving and whooping it up. Wait, were we actually celebrating the loss of the biggest contract we had ever proposed, one that would have significantly increased our company’s income? Yes! We absolutely were! As soon as that “no-go” call came in, we were free to acknowledge the reality of what we’d been trying to talk ourselves into and out of since we had submitted the proposal.
The truth was, the idea of the revenue thrilled us. This fact wasn’t too hard to talk ourselves into. The flip side was that this potential client was a company made up of high maintenance people who functioned inside of a highly politicised, agenda-ridden environment. Even before we had a contract written, scope creep had started to happen. We knew this client would drain us dry in every way. We tried to focus on the financials versus acknowledging the realities of what working with this client would actually mean for us. We knew from the start that this organization wasn’t a good match for our company but oh…the money!
Sound at all familiar? This is not a rare scenario. It’s incredibly hard to say 'no' to a big payday, even when you know that the road to that payday may very well suck the life out of you. As it turns out, cash is a completely inadequate cure for regret. Here are some critical questions to ask yourself before you sign up for that big potential payday…
Four questions to ask before you commit
1) Do we want this client’s business for MORE than the money?
Make it your standard operating procedure to stop for a gut check at the beginning of every new business transaction. Why wait until contracts are written and bridges may have to be burned before you respond to what you knew down deep from the very beginning? Seek the type of business that you are passionate about and which brings joy and fulfilment to you and your colleagues. You’ll always be human, so know that big money will always be a big draw. Filter that draw through what you know to be true about what you love to do and how your company thrives. Be willing to make the hard choice to sometimes say no, for reasons that are bigger and better than a large pay check.
2) Are our two organizations a good cultural match?
If the answer to this question is no, then you don’t need to read questions three and four. You have all the answer you need to make a good decision. Companies that don’t share common values likely do not share common thought patterns, standards, or procedures. This means that everything about your approach may be at best unappreciated and at worst, criticized or not trusted. Communication will be disastrous with a company that functions categorically opposite from yours; frustration amongst your employees will be rampant. Hook your wagon to a group that is counter culture to your own and you’ll end up spending all your time rebuilding and repairing your own company vs. achieving what you were hired to do.
3) Will saying 'yes' to this opportunity force us to say 'no' to something better?
This is when it gets really painful. Along comes the company that you really want to work with. The synergy is there, and it is clear that profitable, enjoyable synthesis will occur. You also know that fulfilling your commitment to this client will require absolutely all of your resources. It won’t matter what comes along in the meantime because there will be no way to respond to anything but the countless demands of this commitment. It’s death by a thousand paper cuts.
4) What would our employees say?
Typically, the financial benefit of new commitments is less direct for staff-level employees than it is for the execs, even though the staff bear the weight of the day-to-day deliverables. What would they want you to do? Trust their voice; they can see the real world implications of new ventures without the financial blinders that can hinder the judgment of decision-makers.
Signing that big new client can be reason to celebrate for sure… but so can NOT signing one. Do the diligent work of discernment up front before you sign, and you’ll save yourself the futility of trying to contain the carnage while consoling yourself with a big check.
About the Author: Jeff Shore is a sales speaker, author, entrepreneur and consultant. His latest book, Be Bold and Win the Sale: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Boost Your Performance, (published by McGraw-Hill in January 2014) illustrates Jeff’s BE BOLD methodology. Find out more at jeffshore.com and follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffshore.