When the Pitch Goes Awry: “Losing” a Deal
A friend of mine emphasizes—and rightly—that you can’t lose something that you don’t have in the first place.
Which means you can’t lose a deal. If a prospect chooses to go elsewhere or stick with the status quo, you didn’t lose the business.
But you didn’t win it, either.
And who doesn’t want to close a deal? Anyone in sales will gush over the buzz of a win. Closing new business means all sorts of good things: A fresh, fun project to tackle; money in the door; work for existing staff; possibly even jobs for additional people. And so on.
A sale doesn’t solve everything, yet it sure helps.
So when a deal doesn’t go your way, the doldrums can strike with a vengeance. For me, combatting them means proactively reviewing the process from lead generation through to getting a final answer after reviewing recommendations with the prospect and, if necessary, following up. I think through every step of the journey—in tandem with my team, when applicable—and assess what went awry and where.
If you can identify missteps at any point in a process, you can better prevent them in the future. When it comes to sales, I’ve noticed a few key areas for especial review:
What came in the door? If your products don’t suit the companies coming over the transom, perhaps your marketing doesn’t attract your ideal customer. (You have profiled your target client, right?)
What did you pursue? Don’t chase every rabbit that pops its head above the warren. Not everything that hits your radar makes a prime target—even with the best marketing.
Where did you go off process? How you sell makes a huge difference to your success. Have a process designed for your target audience and your specific product offering and follow it, even if the prospect wants to take you off track. As every step has a purpose, you can’t afford to get overly excited or confident and skip ahead.
With whom did you speak? The decision maker may delegate vender vetting. If the delegate has decision-making authority, go right ahead. Yet if she simply gathers information to hand to someone else, she may not give you the vantage point needed to position your product effectively.
Did you blather? Unless you understand a prospect’s needs and challenges, you can’t show how your product will help achieve her goals. And if she can’t see how your product will help, she won’t want it. So shut up and listen.
Questions—did you ask them? In preparing for sales meetings, you should develop a full list of questions that will help you understand your prospect, his world, and his needs. Without good questions, you can’t truly determine whether the prospect fits your customer profile—or which of your products best fits his situation. And having questions will help you avoid talking too much.
How do you postmortem the opportunities that got away?
P.S.—Hat tip to the ridiculously amazing Jeff Jenkins, who suggested this post. Though he’s my cousin, I speak of his rock-star-ness without bias. Even near strangers would back up my estimation here, folks. Follow him.