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Reference Story for the Win

I've got a great tool to increase your capacity to win more business. It's a simple way to turn a case study into a story that you (or your team!) can easily share in a conversation with a prospective client.

It's a framework from one of my favs, The New Solution Selling by Keith Eades. Here's what it looks like:

situation that a similar client was facing critical issue reasons for critical issue or problem capabilities (when, who, and what they want) what you provided result

Here's what a reference story looks like in action

When a prospective client reveals a struggle instead of jumping in with a solution, I share a story with them. Here is one of mine as an example:

It sounds like you've got a great solution; no doubt losing an RFP is a frustrating experience! That sounds like a problem one of my clients was facing recently.

A few months ago, Mario, the president of an ad agency, came to me to figure out how he could win more RFPs. He felt that his firm was doing ok, but soon they will be vying for a critical contract. And he did not want to lose.

In our initial interview, I discovered that they had not updated their content in five years. A new section of capabilities they developed over the past few years was nowhere to be found. There was nothing that set them apart from other firms.

Mario didn't have the data on why they were losing out on contracts, so I recommended that they obtain scoring records. I suspected they had lost previous contracts due to lack of process, awareness, and clarity.

Our first step was to make the main messaging pop. We added in their new capabilities and brought out some skills that Mario was hiding by accident—things he did not feel were important but actually provided some key differentiators for his positioning. Then we revamped the templated sections he will use for RFPs to be more readable (i.e., we cut the jargon, abbreviations, and passive language). We added the social proof to show they had the knowledge and capacity required to sustain the work. And finally, we put a plan in place for go/no go on future RFPs that included team capability in preparing for the RFP and the actual work, and most importantly, whether the team had been in front of the decision makers prior to release.

As a result, the clarity helped him attract some critical talent. Mario's team, now empowered with fresh content, began to sell so that he could work on other parts of the business. And my favorite part is that although the big RFP was pushed back, they won an unexpected opportunity that nearly doubled their revenue goal for the last half of the year.

Boom. You've now dropped a case study in a conversation. I don't know about you, but I've been sold to a lot and no one has used this tactic on me. Instead, I've been pointed to a website or boring proposal. Then there is the dreaded "let me show this presentation" in the middle of a Zoom call with a stranger. Please don't be that guy.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!


Imagine if lifestyle coaching and brand marketing had a baby…that's how I can help you.

  1. Mindset. Mindset and accountability coaching to identify and destroy hidden obstacles.

  2. Message. Clear up confusion from the inside out to win more business.

  3. Market. When you're serious about quality at every touchpoint in the customer journey.


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