Know What You Do Not Know — Anticipating or being aware of requirements, factors, events or circumstances not (immediately) identifiable is invaluable. You do not have to know exactly what you do not know; rather you need to be proactive, on the lookout, plan for the unknown, and be ready when it rears its head.
You walk out of the client debrief for your loss review thinking: I didn’t think they (competitor) could do that. I didn’t think they (client) wanted that. I didn’t know that was important to them (client). How would I have known that? You did not know what you did not know. It cost you big time.
You have to treat every acquisition as a fight for your life. Jobs are at stake. Precious revenue is on the line. Perhaps even a bonus. But most important, winning is paramount. And an important area of focus in any bid, or for many activities, is to know what you don’t know.
Just How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?
Treat your acquisition journey as a quest for the unknown. Do not be held to the status quo and preconceptions. Go beyond your clients to your client’s client, perhaps even fully considering why some individuals or groups are not your client’s clients. Treat every response to your questions as a quest for the full story, knowing behind every comment or response, there is further information. Reach for the added question that may open an unknown door leading to game-changing insight. Go beyond solving the problem to identifying all the problems.
Are you talking to the right people? Are you going beyond the gatekeeper, to the sources themselves? Think about why some information is hidden or not being shared by your sources(s). Is it protection, being defensive, or the individual just does not know as is often the case with gatekeepers? Talk to program personnel. Talk to those “in the know.”
No doubt you have knowledge, but do you have the understanding of the knowledge. Talk to others about your thoughts and insight, certainly those with backgrounds diverse from yours. There is more than one way to interpret information collected. Connect the dots, look for patterns; figure out how disparate data fits. Look for the gaps. Test out your logic. Rely on your observations and intuition. Avoid prejudices, biases and predeterminations.
Remember, finding the unknowns or holes/gaps in your plan/solution is not a weakness, it is a strength.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on each skill/attribute of a bonafide Business Development Director provided by Bob Lam. Bob is the principal and founder of Bob Lam Solutions and is affiliated with GovProp.