Every one of the following deals was worth millions of dollars a year. I lost all of them.
The New Stakeholder
I was right in the middle of the process of winning what would have been a dream client. Then, one of the stakeholders left and new person took his place.
I believed I had the consensus I needed to win the opportunity. That confidence caused me to underestimate the effect that a new stakeholder would have on the rest of a relatively large group of people. I didn’t spend enough time with him, believing I was okay. I wasn’t okay. I lost a deal I might have won had I respected the new stakeholder enough to go and discover his needs.
I Already Won
There were only two companies competing for my prospect’s business. I had five meetings with the decision-maker, and I had pages and pages of notes. I built the exact solution that he told me he wanted. I had done such a god job, he had given me a verbal commitment.
The next week he called and told me he had chosen our competitors. I asked why, and he gave me an answer: he heard something from them he never considered, but was enamored enough with the idea to change his mind. I didn’t gain a commitment to have a follow-up conversation with him should he discover he had a concern. I lost.
The Wrong Process
I received a call from a prospective client asking me to compete for their business. They were an enormous user, and I agreed to take part in their process. But I was never allowed to meet with anyone other than the purchasing manager who was in charge.
This process didn’t serve me. Really, it didn’t serve the client. I knew in my gut that it was a waste of time, but the purchasing manager was so receptive and so agreeable to most everything else I asked for, I competed. Later, it became clear that he had chosen his supplier long before he brought me into the process, and following his process did nothing to give me a real opportunity to compete. I was the stalking horse.
I should have sold him on giving me the commitment I needed, which would have been to change his process. But I naïvely believed I was really competing.
I could easily add to this list the times I was confident I created enough value to command a higher price, the times I had believed I was winning only to find out I had lost, or the times I had believed that my dream client was going to fire their partner only to have their existing supplier leverage their relationships to keep the business.
I could add the times when I tried too hard to win a deal, the times that I didn’t try hard enough, and the times my deal strategy backfired.
You don’t learn to sell without losing. When you lose, you are provided with an opportunity to learn. Provided you are honest with yourself and provided you accept the responsibility for losing.
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