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
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
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