Many times people say things like, “I hate losing more than I love winning” or “2nd place is the first loser” or “I can’t stand losing”. All of these statements are true for any successful salesperson, but the truly great sales folks know that no one in this business bats 1.000. Not the best of the best win every time, and it’s up to you to decide how that reality affects you.
My Dad has said that my youth and early adulthood baseball career has set me up for success in sales and business development. The best players in the history of the game hit just over .300 (and recently under .300). We know that if we let one out affect us too greatly, there’s a good chance the next at bat is going to end in a similar fashion. We also know that you can’t get every out alone. There’s never even been a great pitcher who has recorded every out for their team. We know we need a good team around us to make big plays to win games. If they don’t make the plays, you can’t get too down on them, because you may need them to help you make that next out. Many more lessons around relationships and understanding tendencies and strategies can come from playing baseball, but maybe that’s another blog post.
The point of all of this is that if we know we are going to take a number of losses along the way, it’d be ridiculous to beat ourselves up about every loss that comes along. Now I’m not saying be excited or pumped about losing business. Your boss will notice if you don’t care at all and that’s obviously worse than caring too much. What your boss will take notice on is how you come back from those losses and how it makes you a stronger salesperson.
Here’s things I try to focus on with every loss:
- What could I have done differently? Did I ask enough questions in the discovery process to really understand the ask or the initiative we were trying to solve for? Starting from my first conversation with a prospect, or even the first time I looked up this company, I’ll go back and see where there may have been gaps along the way. Many of these gaps may not have had an impact, but it’s on me to understand what gaps did make an impact.
- What could the team have done differently? This sounds like I’m saying, “How do I pass the buck?” Quite the opposite. On large business development initiatives there are a lot of subject matter experts that are going to be involved in the process. It is on any business development lead to manage the process and know your internal team enough to know the exact time to bring in an SME, when to pull them out, and how many people really need to be involved or even informed. This is difficult, but it goes back to the idea of helping put your teammates in the right positions to succeed.
- Was this even the right fit? Why or why not? Again, not making excuses, but in order to pursue the right opportunities you need to understand if similar initiatives are just going to send you down a black hole that doesn’t have an opportunity at the end. Sometimes it takes getting all the way through large opportunities to really understand if something is right or not.
You should have a post-mortem for all losses (and wins). If you can come up with three strong responses to each of these questions, you’ll be able to continue to evolve your business development process and be on your way to more and more wins.
So, don’t beat yourself up too much on that lost project and don’t linger on it too long. Answer those 3 questions and get back at it. No one has time to sulk on losses.