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I blew that one

I did it.

Well, more specifically, I didn’t do it. I lost an opportunity that I really wanted.

Gone, goodbye, see ya.

I really wanted to work with this client. They’re a managed IT services company with a remote team in South America. They needed sales training in order to help them acquire more clients, and build their sales skills to become more proficient.

As I recommend to all of my clients, I asked them why they didn’t choose me.

Here’s a thread from the email discussion I had this morning Luis, the CEO:

So there it is: the other “person showed more interest” and “was more active.”

Now I don’t know the specifics of how interest was showed or what specifically he means by “more active,” but I do know this: I didn’t do my best to win the deal.

As I think about what I could’ve done differently, or at least some reasons that led to them choosing someone else, here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • They genuinely weren’t my #1 priority. I don’t think there’s a better explanation than this. I’ve been working two other deals and several marketing initiatives throughout the time we’d been speaking, and a third large opportunity came up in the last three weeks, so they just weren’t #1. Perhaps they sensed that. I would’ve told them directly had they asked, and I also would’ve told them that I work with several clients simultaneously at any given point in time.

My follow up was lacking. I certainly could’ve followed up one additional time, between the Feb 19 and Mar 14 messages. Here’s a quick recap of the timeline:

  • Feb 12 we had an initial call;
  • Feb 13 I sent them a follow up with more detail about how I could help them;
  • Feb 14 they said they’d “discuss it” and get back to me;
  • Feb 19 I followed up with a video message (and they never replied);
  • March 14 I followed up;
  • March 19 they told me they went with someone else
  • I probably presented the wrong solution.They asked for sales training, but I didn’t pitch exactly that. Instead, I offered to start with an audit so I could determine what the problem was, i.e. were they lacking selling skills in the first place, or is there a different problem? I sensed that their sales process was lacking, and needed to be addressed first. Perhaps I didn’t communicate that effectively, or perhaps they just wanted to start with training. Either way, I believe this was an obvious mistake.
  • Perception matters greatly, perhaps more than reality. The reality is that I thought Luis and his firm were perfect clients for me, and I could do a lot to help them. Their perception was that I didn’t care all that much (or at least not as much as the person they ultimately chose). Sure, it may be true that I comparatively cared less than someone else, but what’s also true is that I genuinely wanted to work them. They didn’t feel the love.
  • I was too complacent. At the opening of the call, Luis’s partner told me that he listened to a dozen of my podcast episodes and knew me really well. He “loved” the podcast and “learned a lot.” He was “really serious” about working together. Perhaps this made me a bit complacent – I thought the deal was basically done. Wrong once again!
  • People buy for different reasons. Maybe I didn’t have the right personality or demeanor, maybe they needed to feel like a top priority, maybe they wanted me to follow up weekly or every few days. It’s hard to say exactly, but given the feedback that they chose “someone more active” and I don’t like to chase, I do think they wanted something that I’m not willing to offer. Some people perceive “active” as “desperate,” while others may perceive it as a huge benefit.

All in all, there were many different things I could’ve done differently to potentially win this one. Alas, we can’t win ‘em all!

Going through the post mortem exercise to understand why you lost, the conscious decisions you made along the way, and identifying opportunities for improvement is perhaps the best way to accelerate your own sales skill acquisition. Having outside feedback, of course, is a critical accelerant to the process.

And here’s a final point: it’s not “over.” We may still work together one day. I told them I’d write this today, and I’d send it to them, so…

Hi Luis and Diego – thanks for reading this, and I wish you luck with your trainer!