Why doesn’t the best solution (yours) always win?

One frustration that many professionals share with me is that they sometimes lose competitive opportunities to professionals they know to be less skilled than they are.

How can this happen? It makes no sense that somebody would hire the less effective solution, right?

Wrong. Here are two reasons why the best solution doesn’t always win:

First, what you think is the best solution may not be what the client thinks is the best solution. I’ve been hired to interview prospects/clients in order to discover why they didn’t hire a particular professional services firm. Often, it turns out that the prospective client had a very different set of criteria for hiring a professional. In one case, a prospect didn’t hire the most knowledgeable professional in a particular industry because they wanted a fresh point of view from somebody without any industry experience. While the professional who didn’t get the job couldn’t understand how someone with no industry experience could be useful, the prospective client thought differently.

Lesson: Be sure you know your client’s criteria for the best solution. Don’t guess or project your own views.

Second, to win an engagement you need to have two things in place: A solution that works; and the relationships/political capital to win. Many times the lesser or two solutions wins because that particular professional has strong enough relationships with the prospective clients to get the right decision makers on his or her side.

For instance, I recently worked with perhaps the top writing and presentation coach in the country. But at the end of the day, I found her to be short sighted and obnoxious. Even though she has the best credentials of anyone in my network, I recently hired somebody else that I like working with much more. He is “good enough” to get results, and I want to work with him.

As David Maister says, the two questions any potential client asks are:

1. Can you do the work?

2. Do I want to work with you?

That’s why the best solution doesn’t always win.


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