A deal, or sales opportunity has a life of it’s own. When we win, life continues. When we lose, you can say the deal has died. Dead or alive, it’s not a bad idea to understand what contributed to the cause. In this blog we’ll open up an old dead lost deal file and see what we find.
The opportunity I’m dissecting is the first large deal I personally worked on. It was technically complex, had a big price tag and there were many decision makers involved. I was uncomfortable throughout the process. I know now that I was in over my head. My manager was there to help, but this was my deal and my account. Mine to win…or to lose. I lost. The opportunity was dead. The official reason for death was identified as price. The competition under bid us and stole the deal, or so it seemed to us.
My manager, my managers’ manager and I talked about things we could’ve done differently, but we were more interested in licking our wounds and blaming the competition for low balling us. The deal was dead and we had no chance of changing their mind, so the last thing we wanted to do was have a “Lost Deal Autopsy.” After all, that might uncover evidence that the real reason was something other than competitor price.
It’s been over thirty years since that deal died. With time and experience to aid me, as well as a more objective perspective I’d like to re-open the deceased deal and see if price really was the cause of death.
Autopsy Report on the Lost Deal
Seller: Rene Zamora
Deal: Large Central System for a Hospital
1. Was a need and budget clearly identified and confirmed? Yes
2. Was the buying process and all decision makers, users and influencers identified early in the process? Yes and No. The seller’s company was the incumbent so he had access to all the players but never sat down and agreed on the buying process. He approached the sale more like a replacement than a new system to a new customer. Corners were cut and assumptions made based on current relationships.
3. Did the seller gain the trust of everyone involved in the buying decision? No, he was young, charismatic and a little unprofessional at times. He was not well versed in their industry as this market was new to him. Although he was tenacious and willing to meet with anyone, his lack of experience and understanding of the customer’s environment came through and the buyers held back important information.
4. Did the seller use his technical team properly to help with the deal? Yes and No. The technical team was used and available but the seller was not educated on how to best use them. His technical team worked with the tech folks on their own initiative and the seller tagged along. It will never be known if the technical team was used properly as the seller was too new to a complex selling process.
5. Was the seller’s product capable of meeting the needs of the customer? Yes
6. Was the seller’s price acceptable to the customer? Yes
7. Was the customer happy with the service the sellers company provided in the past? Yes
8. Did the seller act as an advisor and challenge the customer’s perspective if needed to help the customer reach their objectives? No. As mentioned earlier, the seller was a green horn and was not knowledgeable enough on the product or customer to make advisements.
Autopsy Findings. The cause of death to this deal was that the seller and the manager were outsold. The seller was not properly trained and prepared for this selling situation and the manager should never have put him on the lead until he was. In the end the competition out sold the seller by building more trust, being more in tune to the buying process and having a more knowledgeable seller leading the process. It’s further noted that the seller was counting on the incumbent position to carry more weight and took short cuts in the selling process.
There you have it. I was outsold, but we never admitted it back then. We pointed blame outward instead of looking inward. We missed the opportunity to make sure we were better when the next large deal came around. I know how much it can hurt after losing a big deal so getting together too soon to have an autopsy might not work well. I would suggest you wait a week or longer and then sit down with cool heads and examine how you worked the deal. See what the real reason was and learn from that knowledge. Be better the next time.
The same can be done when you win a big deal. Don’t assume because you won, you were your best. Sometimes we’ll get lucky if the competition drops the ball. Win or lose it’s smart to review your process to make sure you followed what you know is your best practice. If you do, you’ll be able to reinforce the good habits and shore up any weaknesses. In the end, you’ll have more parties than funerals.