Every salesperson loses some deals. No one wins one hundred percent of the opportunities they pursue, even though they generally win a higher percentage of the ones they create. There is a difference between wanting to win a deal and executing a sales approach that massively improves your chances of success. The way to improve your efficiency in sales is by improving your effectiveness. To motivate yourself to do that, remember that losing a deal comes with a cost, which can be significant.
Using Your Time Well
When you lose a deal, you also lose the time you spent pursuing it. If not for that deal, you might have spent that time prospecting and getting meetings with your dream clients or pursuing some other deal. Salespeople are always working against the clock. The hours—and days—you spent pursuing a deal is time that you cannot recover.
Losing a deal after spending twelve weeks pursuing it is heartbreaking, but you can win another deal. What you can’t get back is the time you lost as the calendar changed from June to October.
This is not to suggest that you shouldn’t have pursued the deal. Just the opposite, in fact: if you are going to pursue a deal, especially one that will cost you a significant amount of time, using that time wisely means executing a sales approach that improves your chances of winning. For instance, say your client wants to control the sales process, so they refuse to allow you to do additional discovery.
You know that the extra work would allow you to help them with the best solution and hear from the stakeholders who are going to be affected by any change. Since the lack of access and information will hurt you later, you are better off arguing for the opportunity to have those necessary conversations now.
Big Deals and Wasted Time
When salespeople are pursuing an opportunity, particularly a large deal, they can get wrapped around the axle, doing little else because they are so focused on winning a single big contract. Losing big deals means a lot of wasted effort, but as we’ll see later it’s not a complete loss.
Here’s my point: you might have noticed that some salespeople (not you, of course) stop prospecting and creating new opportunities when they have a whale on the line. It seems right to focus all your effort and energy on big deals. And you should do everything in your power to win the deal—but not to the exclusion of everything else.
There is no reason that the pursuit of any single deal, no matter how large, should command all your time and attention. No deal should prevent you from pursuing other opportunities or cause you to reduce the time and effort you spend creating new opportunities. Time is your single, finite, non-renewable commodity; you should treat it as if it is the most precious asset you have.
When you lose a deal and have neglected the work you should have been doing to create new deals, you have lost time that you cannot recover. You have also lost the deals that you might have created and won, had you not convi3nced yourself that one big deal was enough.
The Gods of Sales punish those who postpone the work they need to do now and smile upon those who continue to prospect, even when they have a full pipeline. They will continue to punish you until you learn to make the appropriate sacrifices and have chanted the mantra “What do you look like Thursday afternoon” the appropriate number of times.
The Time Before Your Second Chance
Of all the ways you might be disappointed by a lost deal, the highest cost may not be the time you lost pursuing the deal or pretending to work because you were confident that you were going to win. The biggest cost is sometimes the time you lose before you get a second attempt to win the client’s business.
If you live in the red ocean, where the struggle to live, thrive, and survive requires you to compete and displace a competitor to win new business, losing can mean being locked out for years—or longer. When you lose a deal, especially one that is competitive, you might be three or more years away from your next opportunity to compete for that client’s business.
And it can get worse: your competitor may do such a good job that they are able to retain the account for a decade or more.
There is also the possibility that your competitor will fail miserably, giving you a second shot at the brass ring after a short six months. When your client accepts something less than they need, especially when they refuse to make the right investment, you should stay close and follow up every thirty days.
It’s Too Expensive to Lose
My goal here is to convince you to improve your effectiveness and use a modern sales process, one that increases your ability to win the deals you pursue. It’s also to encourage you to have the difficult conversations that would allow you to better serve your prospective client, by helping them make better decisions about the future of their business while increasing the likelihood of choosing you as their partner.
Given the choice between working harder to improve your sales effectiveness or going through the motions and losing, you are better off developing yourself and winning. It is better to be the one with the three-year exclusive contract than to see your competition with ink on paper and find yourself on the wrong side of a locked door.
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