My friend Trent had been a major league ballplayer and a damn good one. His fastball averaged over 95 mph. Then a freak accident ended his career. He wound up in sales training, just as I had.
Last week, we were commiserating over coffee. Despite the ups and downs and challenges of this business, he always seemed upbeat. On the other hand, that morning, I was anything but.
“We lost a major deal last week…” I sighed.
“It seemed like it couldn’t go wrong – it was a warm referral, and we gave them everything they asked for.”
Trent nodded, encouraging me to continue.
“They asked for a fully customized sales training program for their US and UK teams- we said yes.
“They asked us to jam both Negotiation and Objection handling training in one day, instead of the usual three, maximizing the use of time- we said yes.
“They asked for comprehensive after-training support. We said yes, and included a coaching component at no additional charge for 8-12 weeks.
“They asked for a gamification and engagement tool to enhance the training. We agreed to provide one at no cost, and even showed them Mock-up scenarios, sample quizzes, and trial accounts.
Trent nodded again. I continued, “Then, they asked to move the date of the training-we said yes.
“They said they loved our approach and program, but explained they had a very tight budget for this training. They asked about our best possible price. We then agreed to give them a 30% discount! I was sure I had closed the sale….”
“Lastly, they asked for a reference in the same vertical – we provided one and arranged the call.”
“But, in the end, we lost the deal! ” I shook my head.
“I was so stunned, I called to find out ‘Why?’ I have to give them credit, they took my call. They said they ‘went with a local company because it was more convenient to work with.’ “ I shook my head again and stared dejectedly into my coffee.
Trent looked at me and simply said, “Remember the best major league ballplayers only bat about 300. Even the great Ty Cobb’s average was just 366. No one bats 1000, Ed. No one, even when all the stars seem to be in alignment. Even when we’ve had a bad day, we know that the next game may be a winning one. ”
I still think about Trent’s wise advice, and today I’m passing it along to you.
Don’t let circumstances you can’t control to control you. Sometimes you can do everything you can, everything right, and still not win the business. Yes, it hurts, just like striking out does. Let’s not fool each other here. But, tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to tell your story.
That is good sports analogy. Another valuable sales lesson jumps out at me from this story…What if instead of “chasing the deal” by saying yes to changes, you had used your knowledge of what works best to guide them…by saying no to them up front when they asked for a modification that your expertise told you would lessen the value they received? Best case they recognized your subject matter depth and desire to do what is best for them enabling you to shape the best program for them. Worst case you kill the deal early and thus could have spent all the time spent working on a poor client fit opportunity to work on a sweet spot opportunity.
That is an interesting approach Bruce. What would be exact words you would use to say No for: ” We want full customization of the sales training program?”
Hi Ed, When the request opposes what you know works best is when you say no …of course customization to be relevant to their solution in their markets is normal and required. As an expert in the field one should be bold and tell them what works and what doesn’t work with your sales consultant hat on. If they insist on spending their money and precious time on things that won’t have value, I would let them do it with another company. Your reputation and references where you truly added value to a clients profitable sales growth is what will grow your practice. The lesson here is simply do the right thing and sometimes that causes you to “lose early” and move on to best fit prospects.
Love it Bruce! “Lose early” and keep your sanity.
Fully agree with Bruce.
Too many acceptances on your end. I realize you are trying to accommodate the client; but I’d find a compromise to agree perhaps on just one request, but be strict on others. If they want you, it’s for your skills and not because you catered to every request they’ve made. I say this – if it didn’t work out, it was never your client to begin with. It’s a learning curve for you as well, so no loss here.
Thank you Karen!
The potential client asked for too much for what they could afford. It wasn’t a good fit from the start. Tomorrow is indeed another day to find a better opportunity. Good story!
Good point Andree! We all are trying too hard and offer everything upfront.