As the year was closing, it was time for strategic planning at an IT MNC headquarters in Bangalore. Kumar, the Sales Enablement Head, presented the Bid-Win ratio and all hell broke loose in the conference room. On one hand, Raj, the Chief Revenue Officer, was happy that the team had executed the annual plan after recovering from the aftermath of the pandemic, but expat CEO Andrew was infuriated over the pathetic Bid-Win ratio showcasing missed opportunities and lost deals. Kumar could hear Andrew’s mind thinking of missed variable pay being calculated in terms of $Mn. A vortex of negative energy flew in with a drama being played out, characterizing the CEO as a Prosecutor and Chief Revenue Officer as a victim. Kumar was hesitant to don the hat of a protector.
Amrit, the COO, suggested creating an Ishikawa diagram to get to the root cause of lost deals. As the fish bone diagram grew bigger, so did the blame game in the room. A war broke out with Sales, Pre Sales, Delivery, Finance and Operations pointing fingers at each other without realizing 4 fingers are pointing at themselves. The Service Line Heads and vertical heads were also at loggerheads. At this stage, Andrew declared the buck stops with the sales team who are responsible for the numbers. Kumar was asked to show the last 5 year’s performance and every single metric was analyzed in depth. Tired of the analysis paralysis, Amrit concluded that MNC’s global bid management framework was robust. If it was not, then Raj and his team would be browsing career portals by now. So, what was ailing the system?
Sandeep, the talent leader who was a silent spectator till now steps in with a quote “Are we tapping our biggest competitive advantage? “. Andrew looked puzzled and asked what it is. Sandeep asked the team if they are ready to hear a bad finding for not excelling in the field. Since there were no nays, Sandeep said, “We are groups, masquerading as teams” and have failed to tap the biggest competitive advantage “Teamwork”. There was pin drop silence in the room.
Andrew asked his subordinates to remain in the room and requested others to proceed with their work. Sandeep was profiling the diversity of dozen leaders in the room. It was a mix of homegrown and lateral recruit leaders. Dhawan, the Vice President-Legal, was on the verge of retiring next month and the Sheela, Head of Analytics, was a millennial from IIM-Ahmedabad.
Sandeep asked Kumar to project the 5 biggest deals lost in the year, with service line (SL) wise share of revenue in the bid submitted. Different service lines were leading various pursuits with Bid Management and Sales enablement teams acting as catalysts. Sandeep asked the leaders to touch their heart and answer why the SL did not fully contribute to the bid lead by another SL leader. The shocking responses are-
- My plate was full- The leader has achieved the book of business. Has no spare resources.
- My pie was small- Share of revenue for my practice/SL is small in the deal.
- RoTi was not great- Return on Time invested vis-à-vis efforts.
- My priorities were different. I was in my comfort zone.
- I am a leader and not a cadre.
Andrew was shocked by the rot within the system. Covid had forced leaders to focus on keeping the lights-on and accelerating the rise, but missed the human-to-human connection. He asked Sandeep how leaders ‘can “team to win” big next year. Sandeep opined that an external person is required to fix the teaming issues. Andrew asked to do it on priority. Taking cue from Sandeep, CFO Sriram signaled that budget is not a constraint for this mission.
Sandeep spent a sleepless night thinking about the issue and rang his friend Ian – a sales facilitator in the morning. Ian flew down to Bangalore and started a sales facilitation discussion with the stakeholders.
Ian met Raj to understand about “Everest” a large outsourcing bid involving multi-service lines under progress. Ian walked into the war room set up for this purpose and casually chatted with the Presales, Bid management and solution architects. He found this bunch of middle managers to be sincere, hardworking, and sharing healthy camaraderie while spending sleepless nights at office working on the bid. Except for some minor issues, there was no issue in the bid management process.
Raj informed Ian that pricing discussion had been planned the next day among service line heads the next day. Yes, that’s an interesting proceeding to watch. The exercise started with each SL leader sharing his/her scope of work and efforts planned. Ian could identify the “cushion factor” as each leader presented his slide. Raj asked them to cut the flab without compromising the value proposition. The temperature in the room rose as Ian watched. After a grueling 5-hour work on effort estimation, Dinesh the Finance Manager applied the rate card leading Raj to the verge of fainting. He texted Andrew silently who later walked into the room to have the final word on the pricing.
Raj managed to submit the bid on time to client and let a few days roll with the Client Engagement team camping in client’s office to get competitive intelligence. Raj received the invite for a presentation to client CXO team in a week and it was time for the power points. Kumar acted as the deal coach, putting upa decent story board. The list of presenters was discussed and finalized. Digisoft team landed in client office and Ian observed the dynamics in the meeting room. Raj’s facial reaction summed it all. The presentation was decent though not great.
Ian reached Andrew’s office along with Raj. Sandeep was already there to hear Ian’s findings and solution. Ian shared the good news — Digisoft has got people with good heart but what they lacked was the art of orchestration. Orchestration is an acquired skill, and, in a sales organization, the frontline Sales Manager is the Music Director.
Raj looked a relieved man on hearing Ian’s observation and tried to follow up with the right words of wisdom. Ian being a seasoned sales coach stopped his sermon and asked Raj how did he rate sales team members on their ability to orchestrate internally and in front of clients? Raj’s silence for a few minutes spoke more than words could express. Raj expressed his vulnerability and said he, as a leader, must act as a role model for his team in orchestration. The inability to do so has resulted in service lines pulling in differently and not aligning effectively in front of the client. Raj added that Digisoft’s pitch could be music to ears or a cacophony depending on the rhythm of orchestration.
At this juncture, Sandeep said he felt miserable for not having identified the lack of alignment at SL heads level and fixed the issue early. He said Teaming2Win was the agenda he would drive in 2023. Andrew said, “Better now than later” and asked Ian to guide them on a live pursuit to practice teaming in the true sense to win.
Digisoft is an exceptional case where the issues of teaming and orchestration are identified and are going to be fixed. However, a plethora of other organizations exist in a world of denial posing a sense of artificial harmony as against having constructive conflict on issues pertaining to clients and markets. The sooner the dysfunctions are fixed, and orchestration enhanced – the greater will be the revenue capture by the sales organizations. Are you game for it in 2023?