We lost a sale and went back for more
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We lost a sale and went back for more

Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople made a challenging sale despite price objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Here, Brian MacIver of BMAC Sales Consultants in London, England, tells how a lost-sales analysis led to a huge win.

Last year, I was hired as a sales consultant by an organization that had missed out on a big sale. My job was to find out why. I began by calling the buyer and asking to debrief them.

Set up to lose
When I heard what the buyer had to say, I saw immediately that my client had been set up to lose.

Before the sale, the buyer had made a “decision matrix” with three columns: Preferred Supplier, Do Nothing, and New Kid on the Block. In other words, they already knew who they wanted. My client’s role was as a stalking horse to keep Preferred Supplier honest.

And my client had played right into their hands. Sensing the buyer’s lack of commitment, they’d put an inexperienced salesperson to the job. They hadn’t done a good needs assessment or insisted on meeting with real decision makers. And then they’d proposed an off-the-shelf solution that was close but not quite right.

Fool me twice?
It gets worse.

I learned that my client now had another big sales opportunity in the works – with the same company. And they were going about it exactly the same way! After just one meeting with the buyer, they’d already delivered a “preliminary” off-the-shelf proposal.

Before we ended up with another sales disaster, I suggested we take a timeout and reassess.

First thing: Was this a real opportunity or another setup? We called back, insisted on talking to the real decision makers – and found we had a real shot this time. “Half measures killed you last time,” I told my client. “So you have to decide: Are you in or out? And if you’re in, you have to go all in.”

“We’re all in,” my client said.

We set up more meetings – this time with the prospect’s users, technical staff and financial staff. It soon became apparent that our “preliminary” proposal was off base. In fact, we had no off-the-shelf solution that would work.

That’s when my client saw what “all in” really meant. I told them: “You’ll need to make changes to your product, wrap it with a tailored service offering and tie it all up with an irresistible financing package.”

Most of my client’s people were up for the challenge. But their finance people wouldn’t budge. “Can’t be done,” they said. “We need positive cash flow on day one.” That led to some more head-scratching and horse-trading, both internally and with our prospect. But by now the prospect could see where we were headed, and together we figured out a way to make it all work.

Our closest competitor offered a standard solution, meeting most of the prospect’s needs, at a fair price. Then they went away on holiday. That wasn’t good enough.

We won the deal, and not just because we had the better offer. “We were really impressed by your commitment to making this work,” the buyer told us. “That’s what won you this sale.”

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