How The Toughest Deals Can Make You a Better Salesperson – Even The Ones You Don’t Win

December 11, 2017 Natalie Kolody

As we enter the holiday season, it’s easy to get lost in all the activity and celebrations. But while there are many ways to share the holiday spirit, I believe that by far the most important, and most powerful, is a simple Thank You card.

For Sales, that of course includes your customers. But while this might seem counter-intuitive to some people, I firmly believe it’s also a time to thank — or at least be thankful for — those you didn’t win.

Here’s one way to look at it, even though losing an opportunity can be difficult.

I’m a big believer in always looking for learning and growth opportunities; some of which aren’t comfortable. In fact, an old co-worker of mine once told me: “If you aren’t uncomfortable you aren’t learning.” Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful for those experiences.  Moments when you failed, came up short or just in general messed up. In Sales, those instances can be pivotal in your journey to success. Why not step back and look at the smallest of tasks that can make a world of difference.

As I sit here reflecting on 2017 — the challenges and successes alike — I recognize a great chance to appreciate some of those that helped me progress. They lie in the folks that cancelled or pushed meetings repeatedly, failed to execute on a decision after a complicated sales cycle or even chose to use another vendor (when of course I still believe we had the best business solution). How often do we go back and appreciate the lessons these lost prospects taught us?

Good deals come to those who wait…

Those pushing or cancelling meetings can mostly be lumped into a few buckets. They’re either unclear on the problem they need to solve; aren’t the sole decision maker to execute on an acquisition; lack the necessary budget; or are just trying to avoid the risk of making a wrong decision. There is certainly something I can appreciate from each of these circumstances.

When a prospect is unclear on the problem they need to solve it really is Sales’ job to help them discover the core issue. Often, we make the mistake of attempting to treat the symptoms rather than the core business problem. We need to use our expertise to guide a prospect in their discovery; it’s a far stronger solution than trying to convince them to buy something that doesn’t fit or isn’t what they need.  This process will almost always strengthen the relationship between you and the prospect and create a sense of confidence.

To these prospects I’d say: Thank you for making me work for a deal that will be far more satisfying when won.

Getting to know your “demand units”

Today the decision-making process rarely, if ever, comprises of a single individual without the influence of others.  Those primary points of contact — what SiriusDecisions refers to as “demand units” — will require evaluation, input, influence and consensus from others prior to executing with a vendor, especially a new vendor.

It is our job to identify those players and clearly understand their individual needs, priorities and role in the evaluation and buying cycle. More importantly, you should always leverage your organization to have more presence, more knowledge points and more broader relationships based on differing experiences and personalities.

To these prospects: Thank you for allowing me to expose the many talented people in my organization and their abilities to help you solve your business needs.

Nailing the ROI

Often times when you’ve identified the players and even clearly understand the business problem, you can still miss the mark when it comes to developing and articulating the real ROI.

To develop a true ROI, you have to dig into an organization, understand their resources and the financial impact of these decisions. More importantly, you must be able to tie that back to overcoming the risk of the investment.

Sometimes, the prospect themselves may not appreciate the true ROI of what you’re offering. In that case, it’s up to you to educate them without undermining them or seeming too pushy.

To these prospects: Thank you so much for trusting me with knowledge of the financial limitations you face; for exposing your risk and options to solve those challenges and most importantly collaborating with me to ensure the benefits and explanations are delivered in a fashion that is accurate, meaningful and consumable.

A lost deal is still an opportunity to learn

And of course, there are those deals that we don’t win.  While decisions in today’s business environment are often more complicated than ever before, and ROI is always of critical importance, relationship development is still a key to success. I’ve been blessed to work with amazing clients and prospects, and building the relationship is a priority — but there have been times I still didn’t get the foundation established at the needed level.

Perhaps I’ve missed that a new player was joining the evaluation, or a key player was missing. Maybe I’ve misunderstood the organization’s challenges and my focus was off. Regardless, I was not able to instill the sense of confidence that my organization was able to deliver a solid solution to the core need.

As hard as it is to say: Thank you for keeping me humble and focused on always learning to be a better partner; while not winning a deal is painful, those moments are necessary to ensure we are always learning and growing.

I’m always looking to improve my skills, build on success and make a difference for the clients I have the opportunity to engage with, while proving to be a great partner contributor to both my organization and my clients. I am so incredibly thankful to those clients that have challenged me through the different sales cycles, their unique business challenges and the extended process of driving these deals to closure.

Don’t forget to look at your challenges because both wins and losses come with learning opportunities and be thankful for the lessons learned and those who taught you!

Happy Holidays!

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