By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®
Often times after a painful loss (large transaction/long sales cycle), sellers will be asked to find out why they lost in hopes of getting smarter about things to do or avoid. While that all seems to be logical, it is difficult to find out why a seller loses.
Informing sellers that they’ve lost in an odd way is analogous to trying to make a clean break from someone you were dating in school. The person who wants to end the relationship tries to leave little room for discussion. One of the more effective techniques in achieving this goal was for the person wanting to end the relationship to say, “I’m not good enough. You deserve better.” or another commonly used excuse, “It’s not you, it’s me.” This leaves virtually nothing to talk about or discuss, is self-deprecating and places no blame on the person being dumped.
In a similar fashion when a company has evaluated 4 vendors and chooses the winner, they have to deliver bad news to the other 3 vendors and want to do it in a way that closes things down quickly. To start, a white lie softens the blow: “We’ve chosen another vendor but wanted you to know it was a difficult decision and unfortunately you came in second.” While usually unaware, it’s as though all eliminated vendors wind up in a 3-way tie. The most common reasons given are:
- “The pricing was very close. If only you had been a little cheaper.” Some sellers take this at face value and blame price for the loss. When you step back, had you been the vendor of choice you would have been given a chance to ”sharpen your pencil.” In my mind the only time sellers can blame price for losses is when the buyer gave them a number that they couldn’t meet.
- Another way to let sellers down is to say: “It was a hard decision. If only you had (a feature name) this could have had a different outcome. That’s why I chose Vendor A and you were a close second.” Once again it may be time to step back. If you spend a great deal of time in this opportunity and didn’t realize there was a key feature that you were missing, then this opportunity wasn’t qualified.
Beyond that there are times when the feature cited wasn’t the cause of the loss. My view is that many sellers file loss reports and are relieved to be able to pass along features as reasons for losses. Sadly, there are occasions where changes in offerings are made that won’t make much of a difference.
One of my Partners says in all of his years in selling, he has never met Column C. Most of the time I believe the primary reason opportunities are lost is that sellers get out-sold. Rest assured, few if any buyers would share that with a salesperson. Most people will choose to avoid uncomfortable conversations.