I’ve had the privilege of conducting “Win/Loss/No Decision Sales Cycle Analysis Studies” for leading companies including IBM, EMC, ATT, Acxiom, and PayPal. To accomplish these studies I have interviewed hundreds of C-level executives and countless mid-level managers and lower-level personnel. Click here to learn more about Win-Loss Analysis.
Losing is always hard. Learning you are the loser in the eleventh hour of a deal is a frustrating, humbling, and embarrassing event. In this circumstance, perhaps it’s time to honestly ask yourself the following six questions.
1. Did I take the customer’s word at face value? For a moment, let’s put ourselves in the position of the customer. As the customer, you are going to meet with multiple vendors, watch their presentations, and read their marketing collateral. Each vendor, most likely, has equally talented, friendly, and professional salespeople who come to your office. However, you will select only one product. Given that, how will you behave with each vendor? Will you tell each one the truth? Probably not.
It is basic human nature to want to avoid confrontation. This is particularly true when you are meeting in person, face-to-face. In addition, our society has implicit guidelines of behavior. We are taught at an early age that if we have nothing nice to say, then we shouldn’t say anything at all. Therefore, it is much more comfortable for the prospect to say something they think you want to hear than the actual truth.
2. Did I have an internal Coach within the account? In order to win every deal you need a constant, accurate source of information revealing the internal machinations of the customer’s selection process. For many years, the term “coach” has been used by all types of salespeople, selling every conceivable product, to define the person within an account who provides this privileged intelligence and confidential information.
Why would someone coach one salesperson versus another? To establish a relationship with a coach, Heavy Hitters (truly great salespeople) build a different type of rapport with the customer. At the foundation is a special relationship, a personal friendship between two individuals. True Coaches not only want you to win; they’re your friends and allies. Winning without one is next to impossible.
3. Did I recognize the turning point? Every deal has a critical moment or turning point that determines the winner and the losers. In some cases, the turning point is easy to spot. For example, a salesperson may be presenting a solution and encounters a deal-breaking objection that he or she is unable to overcome. Even though the customer remains cordial for the rest of the meeting, a turning point has occurred and the deal is lost. In most cases, the turning point occurs when the salesperson isn’t present. It’s in casual hallway conversations or internal e-mails that selection team members share opinions that influence vendor’s futures. This proprietary information is only reveled when you have an internal spy.
4. Did I misinterpret information? The sales cycle is a formalized information-and-activity exchange. Customers are trying to gather as much information about vendors in order to determine if they are appropriate long-term partners. Meanwhile, salespeople are trying to gather as much information about the customer in order to determine if they can win the deal. Information is communicated back and forth, and each message that is sent must also be received and interpreted correctly.
However, an obstacle is inherent in this process. Each message is subject to a person’s interpretation and filtering. Some information is ignored, some information is misinterpreted, and some information is generalized. Therefore, do you really know if your arguments were interpreted correctly? More importantly, did you interpret your customer’s messages correctly?
5. Did I truly know the decision-maker’s motivations and values? Heavy Hitters always delve beneath the surface, the technical and business criteria, to uncover individual motivations. Customers may have their “official” reasons for purchase decisions; however, there is also an “off the record” truth. The final decision is really driven by the desire to fulfill self-centered needs on the part of a few individuals. Therefore, like a psychologist, Heavy Hitters concentrate on eliciting the deep feelings and desires from the “patient.” In this case, they are trying to determine the principles, standards, incentives, and priorities of the key decision makers. Always in the back of their minds is the question, “What is driving this person’s behavior and how will my product help achieve their needs?”
6. Did I listen to my sales intuition? Successful salespeople are continually cataloguing their successes and failures. They store patterns of individual and company behavior and link them to the sales process. From this base of intuitive knowledge they are able to decide which deals to work and create and execute account strategies. It’s your sales intuition that’s responsible for predicting the future.
While you have learned that you must be persistent and energetic to succeed, sometimes it is far more important to listen to your sales intuition so you don’t waste your time on non-winnable accounts in the first place.