Learning from the losses

From my years in proposals, and from my time working to secure contracts for Bredemarket, I’ve had a lot of experience with win/loss situations. Often we compete for things, and we usually either win the things, or lose them.

But sometimes things are a little more complex. Take the example of my first three Bredemarket opportunities. At the time I wasn’t trying to win independent consulting contracts; I was trying to secure full-time employment. I’ve told the story before, but here’s a brief version of the story as a set of win/loss experiences.

CompanyDid I get the job?Did I get a consulting contract?
Company #1No, I wasn’t trying to get a job with this company. The head of the company approached me for consulting work.Yes, I got a consulting contract. (Actually multiple contracts.)
Company #2No, I didn’t get the job. Yes, I got a consulting contract.
Company #3No, I didn’t get the job.No, I didn’t get a consulting contract. (Yet.)
Three companies, no jobs, two consulting contracts. Did I win, or did I lose?

In terms of job offers, I got exactly zero job offers from these three companies. But I did get consulting contracts from two of the companies. So as a true marketing professional, I will officially declare a 67% win rate, unless I want to round it up even further and declare a 70% win rate.

But throughout my experiences, I’ve found that I’ve learned a lot from the losses. I’ve told a number of stories in this regard, but today I’m going to share a story that I haven’t shared publicly until now. So gather round while I tell my story. (No pranking.)

Photograph of sculpture “The Storyteller”, featuring Ken Kesey, in Eugene, Oregon. By Original work: Pete HelzerDepiction: Jonesey95 – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48410264

Once I was competing for an opportunity to market two products for a firm. The two products competed in markets that were outside my identity (biometrics / secure documents) comfort zone, so I had to do some cramming to learn about the products and their markets. As I crammed, I discovered three “opportunities to excel,” or what some people refer to as “challenges.” Or “land mines.”

  1. Who? First, the two products had come to the firm by way of acquisitions, so the market was confused about not only the names of the products, but the name of the company that was now offering the products. Market confusion is never good.
  2. Um…who? Second, if you looked at the markets for these two products, this firm’s offerings weren’t widely known to some people. In my competitive research, I was checking a lot of sites that listed leading players in the two markets, and this firm’s offerings weren’t always listed. Market apathy is never good.
  3. What? Third, the markets themselves were somewhat complex and ill-defined. The markets had a number of sub-markets, and some competitor products would concentrate on some sub-markets, while others would concentrate on others. It was cumbersome to compare these two products and evaluate the competitors and sort-of competitors. Market complexity is never good.

Anyway, despite my cramming sessions on these two products and their respective markets, I did not win the opportunity to market these two products for the firm. Someone else got that opportunity. (I never even got to show off my cramming knowledge, which is probably just as well.)

So now I can sit back and watch how the winner will take advantage of these opportunities to excel. Since the firm now has someone who can market these two products, I expect that we will all hear more about them soon.

But what did I personally learn from this experience?

  1. First, I learned that it’s possible to extrapolate from your own experience to analyze new opportunities. (Actually, I already knew that, but it was good to have a reminder.)
  2. Second, I learned a lot about these two markets, these two products, and their competitors. I won’t share this here, but maybe I’ll have an opportunity to share it some day. (If I can remember the results of my cramming exercises.)
  3. Third, I was reminded (yet again) that a loss can sometimes be a win. After all, I got a blog post out of the experience.


Fourth…as I was trying to find a good illustration for “cramming” for this post (as you can see, I didn’t), I discovered an alternate term for cramming: swotting.

Marketers know that the acronym SWOT can also refer to Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

By Syassine – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31368987

SWOT analysis is a technique to size up a product, a market, or a company.

Ironically, I didn’t perform any SWOTting while I was swotting.

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