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16.11.16

Would your book pass the ‘Shredder Test’?

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There is a growing trend for experts to write books, but few have written a book series. Business development expert, Robyn Haydon, is the exception.

Haydon is an early adopter of self-publishing. She wrote her first book 10 years ago, and used it to launch her consultancy.

‘I’m a business development advisor for people who go after large customers and contracts in multiple millions of dollars. I help people who want training and coaching to write winning proposals, and I also work with them on the proposals themselves.’

Originally trained in marketing, Haydon’s role in a large industrial company included bids and tenders. When she left to travel and then have a family, she got some great advice from a former boss.

He said to me, “There are not a lot of people in [the bids and tenders] space and you are really good at it; you should focus on that.”

A worried start

Haydon’s son Zac, was three months old when Haydon started her first book: ‘The Shredder Test: A step-by-step guide to writing winning proposals’.

She noticed that an international consultant who she admired had written a book and won more respect.

‘I saw a bit of gap in the market for my area and I also wanted to be of service. There were people who asked for help and couldn’t afford me. A lot people have said how much that book has helped them. They quote my own words back to me!’

Anxious about her writing abilities, however, Haydon she spent six months writing and rewriting the manuscript. ‘No one I knew had written a book and I had no one to talk to’, she says. ‘I worried that people were going to hate it – which was the complete opposite of what happened. Had I had someone to reassure me, it would have been different.’

She turned to her partner, Steph, who encouraged her and edited the book.

Meeting a niche that really needed help

At 34,000 words and 161 pages, the book was warmly welcomed by its niche audience, who felt the pressure of being responsible for winning millions of dollars for their companies. Many work in complex-services industries, such as engineering, construction and logistics, and health and human services. They wanted a step-by-step guide and Haydon’s book delivered. She sold it from her website and, as word spread, copies were snapped up.

The book immediately elevated her as an authority on the tender process, and she was invited to speak at conferences broadening her networks and opening new business opportunities. ‘In my view, no one can sell you like you can sell yourself,’ she says. ‘People really need to know how to do this themselves; they can’t contract it out.’

The book created opportunities for her online and in-house training in new industries.

‘A good example of that is engineering. I had no background in that area. But it wasn’t me going out and approaching people; it was people approaching me.’

For Haydon, there is a personal satisfaction in reaching more people with her messages: ‘I love helping people who really do great work to win the work they love doing.’

The second in the series

It was Matt Church, the founder of The Thought Leaders Business School, who challenged Haydon to write the second in her series: Winning Again:  A retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers.

The idea of a second book hadn’t occurred to Haydon; however, she knew her clients well enough to know that retention was a big issue for some of them. Although the market is even smaller than Haydon’s original niche, it’s one that is a sore point for companies. Losing a client often costs jobs, including senior ones. And winning new clients always involves greater investment than retaining existing ones.

Haydon has found that many companies are underprepared to rebid for work, and often affronted because they see it as ‘having to apply for your own job’.

A door opener

Haydon published her second book (36,000 words) at the end of 2014. The target market is chief executives and chief operating officers of very large companies. After Haydon speaks to CEO groups, she finds that participants buy multiple copies, and book her to do training.

Unlike her first book, Haydon found the writing process easier. She spent a year gathering case studies and stories from a dozen clients in her target market, using the mobile app Rev.com to record and transcribe them.

Remarkably, the structure for the book came to Haydon in a dream while on holidays. She dreamed of a model, a ladder, that showed the ascending value of her approach. Haydon says she often gets her best ideas while relaxing on holidays, or in the shower, for example.

The next logical topic

After writing two books, Haydon gained great clarity about her ideas (intellectual property) and its value. And there was a missing piece, an idea that sat above the others: ‘VALUE: How to talk about what you do so people want to buy it’.

In this book, Haydon captures the key principles that underline business development – not marketing and sales, but a focus on building the value of products and services in the minds of your market.

For Haydon, it represents a new business opportunity. Every company and consultancy longs to encapsulate the value of their products and services. But it is surprising hard to do, which opens a big market opportunity to Haydon.

She published and launched Value in July. The book generated a lot of press – more than her previous books because of its broad appeal. ‘I’ve been invited to speak a lot; it is a universal topic.’

For example, the ideas in the book can be adapted to getting promotions as well as winning new business. They apply as much to small business as to big business. Haydon has been invited to speak at a book club run by women engineers.

Lessons learned

Haydon’s first book took six months, the second six weeks and the third, six days to write.

  1. I have learned the first thing to do is my structure. I gather my material and then apply myself for a concerted period. There is no better time than December/ January for writing a book.
  2. Have someone to work on it with you. It is a big project, and you need to be coached through it. I started with the advantage of being a [tender] writer, but even I found it a big leap. To have someone help would have made a big difference.
  3. Invest in good design and stock (paper). You do not want a crappy book that looks like it is self-published.
  4. If you put time and energy into a book, it will do things for you and take you places that you can’t imagine now. You have to trust.

 

PS: Want more? You might like: Every day without a business book is costing you money

 

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