Sales Lessons from a Painful Loss

Failure sucks.

There are generally some great sales lessons to be learned in most any failure though if you are strong enough to look objectively.

At one "hot" sales job I had I made a major mistake.

8 states in the northwestern US were my sales territory. This included Colorado (which has some phenomenal skiing).

I didn't seek it out, but a prominent ski resort near Vail Colorado came in as a sales lead.

Pretty cool I thought.

So of course I engaged the sale.

Over a period of months (most of them during ski season) I made 4 or 5 expensive sales trips to sell a business software system to that ski resort.

I should have been able to close that sale in 2 or 3 trips.

But the deal never closed.

In fact I bulldogged that deal way too long.

I got blinded a bit by the how cool I thought it would be to land this ski resort as a customer.

I also didn't listen to my sales intuition.

Turns out that the business director I was working with never could get the money approved by her board of directors.

She thought she could change their decision, but she didn't have the guts to tell me this.

And I had yet to find the nuts to continue asking hard questions like this at that my point in my sales career.

I mainly relied on my own belief that persistence was on of my greatest strengths. I sort of believed that if I just kept after a deal long enough, then I could get it.

Everyone in my small company new about this deal I was working.

So the loss turned out to be quite embarrassing.

Through this loss, I learned at an emotional, gut level, three important sales lessons that some of the smarter senior sales people I knew had been telling me for a long time.

Sales Lesson #1
Don't Fall in Love With Any Deal

It's easy when you are in the heat of a sale, to get seduced by the prospect.

Sometimes this happens because the sale would be a nice feather in your cap (like in my case the name-brand ski resort).

Other times you get seduced chasing a really, really, really large sale.

Or yet you may simply get seduced by great rapport with your primary sales contact that makes you think you're a shoe-in for the sale.

Unfortunately, when you fall in love with a deal you block yourself from being able to follow the next two lessons...

Sales Lesson #2
Ask Hard Questions Throughout the Sale

Had I continued asking and re-asking budget and approval related questions over-time, I would have found out months earlier that this deal had gone bad.

I could have gotten out on my own terms, and at least saved my reputation for being in control of my sales.

Instead, I had to explain my now high-profile loss to my Sales VP, my President and my CEO. I had to own up to how I muffed it by hanging on too long.

Sales Lesson #3
Have the Courage to Walk at Any Time

You must have the courage to walk from at any time.

You should have rules for what is a good prospect, what is a good sale, what is a good customer. If your rules aren't being met, and if you can't change things in your favor with a reasonable effort, then walk.

You cannot close every sale. But you can stay in control of the sales process.

When you do so, you preserve your energy, your motivation and your reputation.

Related Sales Tips

How To Avoid Surprise Sales Losses


Originally published in the EGOPOWER sales newsletter.
Find the complete listing of sales articles here.


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