Half A Million Deal On The Strength Of Personality

By Christmas 1997 I was the MD of a multi-million pound IT services business and bored to tears. My partner and I had our usual festive lunch and based upon this fact and our firm belief that “if you lose passion for your business sooner or later you’ll lose your business” we decided the time had come to sell up.

The last remnant of the once mighty Software Knowledge - a coaster

The last remnant of the once mighty Software Knowledge – a coaster

We had connections with two of the big four consultancies: one through a “fastest growing private company” thing we used to feature in and one through a mutual friend and so we approached both.

After the initial meeting they both asked for very similar information with which to do their research and produce their pitch. So far so good and all very exciting. Then the day came for them to present to us – we arranged for both presentations to be on the same day.

The first team did a great job of presenting their approach and what they felt they could get for us and if I’d needed to make a decision there and then I would have gone with them. What you’d expect from one of the “Big 4” I guess.

After lunch we sat in the second presentation which was remarkably similar to the first. In fact if you hadn’t known it was impossible, you could’ve been forgiven for assuming that both teams had written their presentations together in the same room they were so identical. But we had to make a decision.

In the end we went with Mark Asplin and his team at KPMG, for 3 reasons: –

  1. He seemed to really understand us as people: our fears, what we wanted and the enormity of what we were about to do.
  2. He insisted I call up at least one person he had recently sold a business for and take a personal reference. That impressed me a lot!
  3. We just got on with him more than the other guy.

The reason I’ve written this blog is simple. In today’s corporate world of tenders, supplier lists and purchasing departments its sometimes easy to forget that given the choice people will always buy from those that they like, trust and feel valued by

Mark’s fee was £500k; he earned every penny and he won the deal because he demonstrated his abilities (Big 4 – never in question really), his understanding of us as people and we liked him and his team.

Never underestimate the power of personality.

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