Let’s Talk About Failure

Chances are you got into selling because you are at least somewhat competitive. You like to win. You probably have some great win stories. More than likely you have many stories where you saved the day. The elevator ride that you turned into a meeting, the presentation you nailed. These are all very good. Congratulations!

Let’s talk about failure. Do you want to share your worst mistakes? Where you messed up the presentation

I didn’t think so. I didn’t at first either.
But, if you lose a deal, you will go through the stages of mourning, especially if it was a big deal with a long sell cycle. You will beat yourself up for losing, and you will replay the whole process. So, why not learn from the loss?

So in the interest of sharing, I’ll start.

In 2004, one of my clients decided they would build a new hospital. They had been customers for many years. I immediately began planning my strategy to win the new contract. I estimated the total potential new business was $2.5M. My goal was to win three categories of business, hospital beds, furniture, and stretchers. in three of my assigned product categories.

I began setting up product demonstrations and needs analysis meetings to prove the efficacy of my solutions. I met with decision makers and shared insights. I sought to provide value.

I thought I knew all the clinical decision makers, facility decision makers, and thought leaders. I set up two different site visits to our corporate location to review our portfolio and discuss the solutions. I understood the technical requirements, clinical requirements and facility requirements. My products were priced competitively, and I had built in volume purchase incentive. I thought I had the entire deal wired.

In mid-2005, after I had worked on all these different areas, I was called into the purchasing director’s office. He said the words I wanted to hear….

“Mike, you won the product evaluation. The nurses favored your products over all the others.”

But then he added this. But, you won’t be getting the order.

I was shocked. How could I have lost?

By now, you have probably already figured out what I missed. Do you know?

I missed a few things. First, I didn’t understand the politics of the decision process. I also didn’t know the ultimate economic buyer. A very painful and expensive lesson to learn.

Now that I have broken the ice let’s talk about failure. We can learn much more if we examine our losses and find what we left uncovered.

Leave your stories in the comments on my below.

Later, I’ll share a powerful tool to minimize the losses, before they happen.


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