Deals are lost for many reasons. We lose deals to the competition, of course, but we also log losses due to a non-decision, meaning the consumer decided not to purchase from anyone; and, we also lose to ourselves. Maybe our delivery was tone deaf. Perhaps our team didn’t gel and sent mixed messages. It’s so easy to blame a loss on price and move on. Quickly. No one likes to dwell on the negative stuff, least of sales people who thrive (literally and figuratively) on positive feedback. Their job is to sell and their income is tied directly to how well they do that job. And it’s a tough job. That’s why a targeted sales enablement process is so important—it’s their Goose, their Erlich, (if you will.) It’s also why thorough follow-up is necessary. Win-loss analysis is critical to understanding your process from the customer’s point of view. It will help you focus on areas of strength and highlight areas that need some work.
It’s not you, it’s them
It can be difficult to get straightforward answers from buyers about why they chose your competitor. No one likes to kick you when you’re down, so they avoid the question entirely, scapegoat someone else in the organization or hang it on pricing. Drill deeper. If the decision was someone else’s, then you either didn’t do a good job of understanding the stakeholders involved or you didn’t do a good job of tailoring your message to their specific needs. If it was pricing, then perhaps the value of your product was not communicated properly or your sales reps need some training in negotiation tactics. There is always an opportunity to learn if you listen to the feedback. A common issue often neglected is the failure to position your product in the context of the competition. So often we sell as though in a vacuum, ignoring the fact that buyers are already educated on all of the products in consideration. They may already be close to a decision when we finally meet them in person to demo or pitch. Use what you know about your competition and your customer to strengthen your own case. It will show that you know what’s happening in the larger market, that your goals are aligned with the theirs and that you’re an up front, no BS kind o’ guy.
It’s not you, it’s us
Sometimes you can actually lose to the buyer. Maybe they decided the timing was off, or the person championing change left or they went ahead and built their own proprietary solution. Whatever the reason, you need to understand if you could have swung it the other way. And how. Is your implementation process too cumbersome and long? Did you address the needs of everyone in the decision chain? Why wasn’t this possibility picked up in qualifying questioning?
It actually is you, I’m afraid
Feedback as honest as this comes only in response to delicate, insightful questioning. It is so valuable. And so tough to hear. We can be our own worst enemy when trying to close a deal. It could be a personality fit problem or a lack of sales training; soft pitch skills or an issue with upper management sending the wrong message at the wrong time. The good—great!—news is that you have complete control over this one. Sure, it stings a bit at first but then you realize that you have the power to solve the problem for the next time. And there should always be a next time—a lot can happen during the implementation process, so your follow-up to the follow-up should be scheduled for six-months later. If there is any doubt or misgiving about the path they’ve set down, you have time to capitalize before apathy and inertia take over. Seize the opportunity to tune your process, your pitch and your team so that you’re ready to capitalize if you get another shot.