England losing out in the bid for the World Cup was a tremendous disappointment for all football fans across the UK, but the wider financial implications of the millions of pounds that the whole country would have benefited from was also a huge blow.
Amongst the general disappointment, the post mortem finger pointing and blaming has been brutal, there has been confusion, discrediting of the winners bids and also a more detailed look at FIFA as a business.
Whereas all the above is inevitable (especially a more detailed look at FIFA) there should also be a look at the bid process and the way in which the bid was put together, for all sales professionals there are some key questions that have been raised, and frustrations that we deal with on a daily basis are being exposed to the general public.
Understand Buyers Need
Sales, at its most basic level, is about understanding need, understanding the demand and the ‘want’ of the buyer. In this circumstance the England bid needed to fully understand what FIFA wanted. In hindsight it appears that one of the most fundamental ‘wants’, was that the World Cup should go to a ‘new’ nation. A nation that had never hosted the World Cup.
A sales colleague of mine has often said that there are two reasons why a sale is lost;
1.) You got out sold
2.) You should never have been there
In the post result interviews it was apparent that Shearer, Linekar and Beckham felt that they were outsold, that they had lost. Of course they would, as sportsmen they deal in winning and losing in this way, but the reality is that they shouldn’t have been there. The bid was one that they were never going to, and could never win based on one of the key demands of the buyer.
So was the question not asked? Did the team not understand the needs of the selectors well enough? In the initial stages of the meetings, before the bid was even put together did anyone look to discover whether the England bid would ever succeed as a country that has previously hosted the event? Or did the bid just rely on the ability to ‘wow’ the committee with famous faces and some extravagant lunch dinners?
Though the latter always looks to be a pivotal and possibly effective strategy, a fair assumption is that these questions probably were asked. There was no impression made or communicated by FIFA that the £11m cost of the England bid was pointless because we had already hosted the World Cup.
Are Buyers Liars?
This brings us to the next frustration that sales professionals deal with on a daily basis, some use the phrase ‘buyers are liars’ but this may be a touch too derisory for the current business climate. However, the England bid team did seem to be lied to about who was going to vote for them (or so they have expressed).
Why this does happen or should happen has always been a mystery, but it will not be the last time that a deal will go wrong in this manner. There was no reason to lie about who committee members were going to vote for, in fact, all it really did was make the whole thing even more farcical – the FA’s relationship with FIFA has never been lower.
Rather than look at the frustrations of the ‘all buyers are liars’ cop out, the reality that needs to be understood by sales professionals is a more difficult process. The key issue here was that the buyer didn’t yet know what they wanted. Though the result points to FIFA understanding what they wanted, did they know beforehand?
If they did, surely someone would have told the England World Cup bid team to pull out, or better still, not come forward.
The sales profession is constantly looking to change its perception of being amateur, unprofessional, or being full of fly-by-nights, sharks or cowboys, but on a daily basis we also need to deal with and try to find solutions for unsure buyers, dishonest buyers, or at worst, liars.
Before we bring out the violins we also need to appreciate that this is business, this is actually just life. As a true professional we need to look to eradicate the possibility of this as soon as possible, we need to sharpen those questioning skills now more than ever, understand the importance of qualification.
There is sure to be more to the World Cup bid than this, but the basic outlines that have begun to reveal themselves do point to some of the daily frustrations that sales professionals go through every day and need to understand how to avoid.