Losing is a Good Thing

Last post I told you it was okay to be a loser. I would like to add on to that thought process and talk more about losing.

One of the most common traits that companies hire for in their sales professionals is a competitive drive. As I have mentioned before sales is analogous to sports. It takes a certain competitive drive to maintain you through bad times. A part of being competitive is that you don’t like, nor want to lose. But I am here to tell you that actually losing is a good thing. A couple of key things to keep in mind when you lose: (1) Lose early, (2) Lose often and (3) Learn from your losses.

Lose Early
The number of sales opportunities you close per year fall on a spectrum between 1 and hundreds or thousands. On one side, like perhaps a Yacht broker or Airplane sales professional for companies like Boeing or Airbus you may only a few opportunities per year. On the other side could be supplies rep that may have multiple opportunities close every single day. I would argue regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, you need to lose early.

Let’s take the example of a sales professional for Boeing, his name is Eric. Eric has 5 opportunities this year. He has them divided into three categories. The first, his best account, always buys from Boeing and he is 95% sure they will buy again from him. The second group is an airline that has only bought Airbus in the past and he is normally just column fodder in these deals. The RFP looks as if it is clearly influenced by the Airbus Rep. This group is the opposite of the first group. The third group is the wild cards. Sometimes they buy from him and sometimes they buy from Airbus. Eric needs to look at his 5 opportunities and put his focus on the one that is going to close. I would use the magic email from last week’s post to try and gauge the priorities of each of the prospects and make sure we close out the opportunities that are not going to close this year and put our focus on the ones that are going to close.

Lose Often

Many sales reps like to keep their success rate or close ratio high. So instead of closing an opportunity as closed lost, they will push the date out a few months or even a few years so that it still looks like it is open and they only close the ones that are going to be closed Win. I urge you it is better to close the opportunities as a loss and reopen then if it becomes more likely to win then to leave them all open. By losing early in the sales process, you spend less time on the bad opportunities and more time on the ones that will win.

Learn from your Losses

Navy Seals perform what are called after action reviews.  AARs are done after training and after missions.  They all check their egos at the door and go about reviewing the mission to determine what they could have done better.

Regardless of how an opportunity closes, a win or a loss; it is important that you learn from all of your opportunities. When someone buys from you; ask the following questions: “What was your key reason for choosing us? What parts of the sales process were good? What could we be doing better in our sales process to help you buy?” There are a lot of questions that could be asked. If you lose a deal, you need to ask the same types of questions. The key to making this work is setting the stage early in the sales process that regardless of what happens that you would like to get these answers and then when you get the answer back to not focus on trying to resell the prospect or to overcome their objections. Simply take their feedback and learn from it.

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