Scar Tissue

In a workshop at OutBound, I was sharing the 10 Commitments from The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales as a framework for accelerating deals. An attendee asked me about deals I had lost as a salesperson, and more specifically, the painful ones. I used that opportunity to share a horrible loss I incurred after getting a verbal commitment on a Friday and a call to tell me “we are going with your competitor” the following Monday morning.

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Reflecting on that deal made me think about how one learns to sell, and how we accumulate scar tissue along the way. In the wild, scar tissue on, say, a Lion, is an indication it has fought and taken some damage. The fact that the lion is still alive means it survived, and more scars are a likely indication the lion is a competent fighter and a survivor—and also one who knew when to cut its losses and run (or maybe many scars means its just the kind of lion that has a way of finding trouble).

You often more from your losses than your wins. Losses tend to present the areas where you are weak, where your strategy is somehow off, or where you are overconfident. In the lost deal I shared, I believed I was displacing the current provider, and because I never asked if the client was entertaining other companies, he never mentioned it until he called me to tell me he signed a contract with them–leaving me with a $2,000,000 scar. I would that were my only scar, but over the course of a career, you accumulate them.

To learn from your losses, you have to start with the belief that you are the reason you lost the deal, something many salespeople struggle to admit to themselves and others. To protect their ego and save face, they tell a story about how their client went with a lower price and how their contact said they were a close second, absolving themselves of responsibility—and avoiding the scar.

No one wins every deal. Nor do they win all the deals they should have won by doing excellent work that should have resulted in a W. Scar tissue is evidence that you are doing the work, playing the game, and picking up a few scrapes along the way.

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