I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan
Failure is a part of sales. It’s inevitable. If you’re a veteran, you have probably failed more times than you can remember. If you’re a newbie, it’s going to happen, probably sooner rather than later.
As any successful salesperson will tell you, though, failure is actually a good thing. The only way you can get better is by learning where you’ve gone wrong. And one of the best ways to uncover areas for improvement is by failing.
Of course, you can only learn from failure by being introspective. What went wrong? What could you have done differently or better? It can be hard, and sometimes downright impossible, to objectively critique your own performance. Having a coach or mentor may help. Either way, a failure can only be helpful if you’re willing to acknowledge it, accept responsibility, and look for ways to improve.
Are you ready to do a post-mortem on your last failed sales proposal? Start with the questions below. By answering these questions, you should be able to identify gaps in your process and how to improve your performance next time.
Were you pitching to the right person?
There’s nothing worse than pitching to a prospect, getting their buy-in and support, and then finding out at the last minute that their boss won’t approve the deal. You can’t close a deal unless you’re pitching to the person who will make the final decision.
The good news is that this is an easy fix. When you enter into conversations with a prospect, alway, always, always identify the final decision-maker. Who has the authority to say yes or no? Whose opinion will have the most influence in the buying decision?
Sometimes finding out this information is as simple as asking, “Who will make the final buying decision?” Other times, you might be working with a group of people with no clear authority structure. You’ll have to ask enough questions to determine who wields the influence and who has the power to allocate money or resources.
Were you in their budget?
This is another mistake that is far too common, but very easy to fix. Losing a sale because of price is painful, but you could have avoided that pain by asking about budget upfront.
I’ve coached many salespeople who felt uncomfortable asking about budget. They don’t want to know the answer because it might eliminate the prospect from their funnel.
However, that’s the whole point of asking the question. If a prospect can’t afford your services, wouldn’t you rather know sooner rather than later? By not asking the question, you’re risking the possibility that you will waste time on someone who will never become a customer.
Always ask about budget, and do it as early in your process as possible. Assuming they can afford you, move forward and clearly state how your price represents tremendous value for them. Because it’s all about them!
What was their downside?
Sometimes a proposal might fail because of obvious reasons like budget issues. Other times, you don’t get the full story. They decide to go with a competitor. Or they don’t take any action at all. Why? The reasons may not be clear
The question may come down to their downside. Specifically, what did they risk by not choosing you? If you can’t answer that question, chances are good that they didn’t see any risk in going with a different option. Positioning the cost of not going with you or using your product/service from an ROI perspective can be very compelling.
In all likelihood, this has nothing to do with your proposal, but is really based on your fact-finding in the early stages of the sales process. Did you truly understand their problem? And did you spell out what would happen if they didn’t follow your recommended solution?
A common mistake I see is salespeople basing their recommendations solely off of what the prospect tells them. Steve Jobs once said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Great salespeople understand that quote. Your prospect may tell you that their problem is X, but with some digging and some penetrating questions, you discover that their problem is far bigger and far more complex than X. By uncovering their true problem, you elevate yourself from salesperson to trusted consultant.
If your deal mysteriously goes up in smoke, ask yourself whether you truly got to the root of their problem. And did you offer a creative and compelling solution? Did you clearly articulate the risk they would face by not going with your solution?
Did you make it about them or you?
We’ve all seen these kinds of sales presentations. They’re about the seller, not the prospect. They’re usually full of mind-numbing drivel about the seller’s experience, their mission, their staff, and maybe even their other clients.
That stuff is all well and good, but it misses a key point. By and large, your prospect doesn’t really care about you. They only care about you to the extent that you can help them. They’re the one with the problem. You’re the one who is there to solve it.
Look at your failed presentation and see how much time you spend talking about yourself and your company. How much time do you spend on the client’s issue? If the scale is tipped in your favor, you need to recalibrate your presentation.
Also, remember that your prospect is probably considering a few different options. They’re only going to remember a couple of quick points from each possible solution. What do you want their takeaway to be from your proposal? That you’re experienced and have a mission statement? Or that you have a unique solution to their problem?
As I mentioned, sometimes it’s hard to take an objective, constructive view of our own work. If your sales presentations are falling flat, you may need an outsider to take a look. I regularly help my coaching clients review their presentations and identify areas for improvement.
Let’s talk about your last proposal. Schedule your no-cost coaching call today. I look forward to helping you learn from past mistakes so you can take your results to the next level.
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