It was an exciting time to be an appreciated member of a sales team finally. My motivation was at an all-time high to pursue the larger companies in my territory. Most of my teammates focused on the medium-sized businesses, but I always included a few Fortune 500 and 100 companies on my list.
Due to their complexity, larger companies inevitably require a far longer sales cycle. The typical sales routine does not work. Visits to multiple levels of employees produce a variety of answers. Some of the responses are contradictory to the previous. I began to view moving through the corporations as navigating a maze while finding my way.
The better salespeople recognize they will not win every sale they attempt. The stronger ones come to accept that the wins are only about one-fourth of their total sales attempts. Instead of beating themselves up for a loss, they concentrate on a full pipeline so that opportunity is always available.
One day, I was very close to finalizing the sale at a large company. After many months of varying departmental visits, I was almost at the finish line. I was finally invited in to meet the person who would be authorizing the purchase. Adrenaline was on a high, and I was all smiles as I walked into the office with paperwork in hand.
But the worst happened, the sale fell through to another vendor. The executive admitted that everyone on his staff enjoyed their meetings and wanted to work with me. However, the decision rested with him, and he decided to go with a competing vendor. My parting words were, ‘I’m here for you should you change your mind.’
I exited somewhat bewildered as to why I lost the sale. Habitually, I reviewed everything up to the point of a loss or a win. Often, we will realize errors that we can avoid in the future or which strategies to continue. That evening, my mind was on a replay of all the events leading up to the loss.
The next morning, I was still puzzled by what took place the day before. As I entered the office, a call came through. One employee confided that everyone was equally taken aback and profoundly disappointed. To my further surprise, the person asked if I could meet her at a nearby park to learn the underlying facts for the loss. She was fearful that someone might be listening in on the phone call. I agreed to meet.
Meeting in the park and hearing the reason for my loss was more astonishing. The representative had been a former football player. He and his team celebrated a Super Bowl victory. Desperate to make a sale or be fired, the former player made a promise to the executive. His offer indicated a willingness to lose for the win. In exchange for the sale, he said he would give the executive his gold ring commemorating the football team victory. The executive became the proud owner of the ring.
The gesture was incomprehensible to me. Another sale will replace the one lost. But the opportunity to earn another ring would never be his. From my perspective, the former football player lost far more than he gained.
In the end, the irony extended to both of us. We landed with a new employer on the same sales team. Over time, we became friendly. Looking back, although I lost the previous sale, I was the one who walked away without regret, unwilling to lose for a win.
The ultimate sales goal is for both the client and the salesperson to enjoy the results. Always work for the win-win!