I was reflecting on my last posting – “Target a struggling competitor” – and it got me thinking about how important it is to lose a sale in the right way. You always want to leave the door open with your prospect for future dialogue. I have seen so many suppliers (and I have to say it is more often the larger suppliers) who seem to take the loss of a sale very personally.
They seem to lose the plot and react unpredictably, often making attempts to overturn the decision by escalating their contact to more senior levels of management within the prospect organisation. This strategy never ends well in the long term.
Things can happen in the prospect’s business which you can benefit from, even after you lose a sale – provided you retain a good relationship with the prospect. If you destroy that relationship, which attempting to overturn a buying decision by escalating to top management will do, then you aren’t going to receive any further sales opportunities.
I have seen situations where the buyer suddenly leaves to join another company. When his new company comes to the market in search of a new supplier, any supplier that destroyed their relationship on losing the earlier sale won’t be invited to engage.
I have also been involved in situations when the chosen supplier made such a hash of executing their contract, the buyer terminated the contract and turned to another supplier (my company) to save the day. They were under so much pressure to get things moving after this failed attempt, they accepted our price without any negotiation.
Your chances of winning these orders are much lower if your reaction at losing the original sale was threatening / disruptive to the prospect. Here is the 5 stage strategy I have used after losing sales to improve future success.
- Lose graciously. Accept defeat without making it awkward for your prospect. Let your prospect know you are very disappointed but remain happy to be considered for any future opportunities.
- Arrange to get feedback. Engage the prospect (by telephone or meeting) to find out what you did well, what wasn’t so good, the factors that made the difference between you and the winning supplier. What did you do that the prospect didn’t like and what didn’t you do what the prospect was expecting?
- Reflect on your performance. This is probably the hardest stage. All salespeople think they are near perfect but, of course, this is just an illusion. Could you have foreseen this outcome? Had the prospect been properly qualified?
- Review all your other prospect situations. Are there other sales situations where you could have made or be about to make similar mistakes. Requalify them and apply the lessons you learned from stages 2 and 3 above.
- Remain in regular contact. This will set you apart from all other suppliers. Regularly, and not too frequently, contact you prospect to see how the contract is progressing and offer to help where you can. Reiterate your interest in working with them and get some “crystal-ball perspective” on what new opportunities are on the horizon. New opportunities will appear and you need to be in the race to win the sale.
- Begin today to respond more positively to losing sales opportunities. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with your ex-prospect until new opportunities arise.
- Ask for direct feedback from your prospect for every lost sale. Listen carefully and act on the feedback.
- Apply the lessons learned to other prospect situations. You don’t want to lose other sales for the same reason(s).