I was six months into my new business development role and just wrapped up a call with a large prospect. They gave me the verbal for a huge project, and I was on cloud nine. Before I even sent a recap email, I was daydreaming of what this meant for me. This deal alone would allow me to hit my annual quota, be the lead sales rep for my team (in my first year) and put me in a great place financially. I wouldn’t have to check my bank account before going out and no more ramen noodle and peanut butter sandwich diet! But the deal never came. The prospect made a last-minute decision to go with the competitor and when I received their email message, I felt crushed. All I wanted to do was quit sales.
Here is why:
1. I Didn't Ask the Tough Questions
Throughout the sales process, there were questions I was asking myself in my head, but I never asked the prospect. A combination of “the fear of looking dumb” and me “assuming I already knew the answer” prevented me from asking. And it came back to bite me in the end. Had I asked, “If you decide not to move forward with us, what is your plan B?” I could have found out other options they were exploring and why. “What are the criteria factors that you are using in your decision process?” would have allowed me to understand how and why they are going to make their decision. On the last call I could have easily asked “Is there anything that would prevent you from moving forward with us?” instead of daydreaming. I would have uncovered and alleviated their concern regarding the ability of my company to supply the project with speed (which is ultimately why I lost the deal). At Butler Street, we teach if there is a difficult or uncomfortable question you think you should ask, then you need to ask it.
For Leaders: Coaching your team on what tough questions need to be asked in every deal and role practicing how to ask them is a necessity for success. Some questions can be intimidating to ask but the answers will reduce surprises in the end.
2. I Cut Corners with Poor Call Planning
I failed at asking tough questions because I failed at planning for the calls. The year prior, I had established a great relationship with the prospect through lunches, happy hours, etc. When I heard the news of the project, I knew my relationship with the prospect was strong and I was very familiar with their company. In my mind, I didn’t need to plan my calls. But planning my calls and reviewing my call plans would have pointed out key questions I hadn’t thought to ask. It would have allowed me to stay focused around the objectives of the calls instead of going off on tangents about sports. To this day, I am still friends with that prospect. And to this day, I still haven’t received a dime for that deal.
For Leaders: Sitting down with your team prior to calls and reviewing their call plan will help develop their skills. You will be able to see the reasoning behind why they are asking certain questions and coach them on areas of improvement.
3. I Was in My Operating Reality Instead of Theirs
As soon as I heard “Dominic, we have a large project coming up and we are going to need a lot of help on it”, I started to think about all the things I was going to get out of it. I was going to hit my quota 6 months into my new role. I was going to be the lead sales rep for my team in my first year. I was going to make a lot of money that would solve a lot of financial challenges I was facing! I was in my operating reality and it cost me the deal. By placing myself in their operating reality, I would have been able to understand why this project was so important to my prospect and his company. I would have been able to share best practices around certain challenges they were currently facing and reduce future worries. I lost the deal when I lost focus on understanding my prospect.
For Leaders: Push your team to always be in your customer’s operating reality. At Butler Street, we teach “If we solve our customers problems, we solve our own.®” By eliminating the daydreaming and thinking of what it will look like once your team closes the deal, it will help maintain focus of being in your customers operating reality and helping to solve their problems.”
The only person to blame for losing that deal was myself. Looking back on it, I wouldn’t have changed anything because it allowed me to reflect on areas I needed improvement. It pushed me to reach out to my manager for training and to share best practices with my team. It forced me to hold myself accountable and not accept socially accepted excuses. By asking the tough questions, planning thoroughly for a call, and focusing on their operating reality, you and your company will put yourself in a strong position to Become the Only Choice.
At Butler Street, we know that your success is directly correlated to the quality of your questions. This applies to sales professionals and leaders. We have multiple training offerings to help drive your success ranging from on-site instructor led programs, to regionally based workshops, to eLearning offerings. Our mission is to help companies and their people grow. Contact us to learn more.