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I Lost a Sale


I lost a sale this week. Usually this doesn’t bother me very much. But in this case, I was particularly upset. Not at the prospect, but at my self. After a thorough after action review of the sale, it became very clear that this one was all on me.

What follows are the VERY COSTLY lessons I had to painfully re-learn after I didn’t make the sale:

Lesson #1: Pride Comes Before a Fall
Usually if someone doesn’t want what I’m offering, they either ignore me or ask me politely (or sometimes not so politely) to leave them alone. However, in this case, a prospect reached out to me. In-bound leads are the BEST, especially when they are referred (which in this case, it was). I thought I had this sale “in the bag”. 

The company in question reached out to me well over 2 months ago to ask about my negotiation training for their sales team. After an initial call, that went very well with one of their sales executives, he said, “Let’s move forward to the ‘next step’. Please send me a proposal and let’s get you on a call with my colleagues in the leadership team.” 

I thought, “Splendid! This guy is on board. After the second call, I’ll get the whole team bought in and we’ll set them up and get some training done.”

Do you see what I did wrong? 

I let arrogance get the best of me. I allowed myself to believe that after the initial call, the prospect was clearly ‘in’ and all I had to do was get the rest of the group on board. I got cocky and let my guard down. This allowed them to set the pace and the next move. Ever watch a boxing match where the one boxer gets cocky and let’s their guard down? It never works out well. Arrogance is very dangerous. So often we think that the worst effect of arrogance is that it causes others to be repelled. But much more dangerous than that is what we allow ourselves to do while in it’s presence. When we get arrogant we abandon discipline and training in favor of feeling good about ourselves.

Lesson #2: Challenge the Customer
Once the other party begins to set the pace and the next move, it becomes significantly more difficult to come to a conclusion that becomes beneficial, but not impossible. I had MANY opportunities during the subsequent meeting, and the one after that, and the one after that to challenge the customer and provide insight into where their negotiation practices may need improvement and work. 

But I didn’t. 


Arrogance and assumption.

I was answering THEIR questions and providing ZERO insight. I wasn’t asking nearly enough calibrated questions to get to the root of their REAL needs. I missed every single opportunity to turn it around.

Lesson #3: Ask For the Sale
Even at the end, when it was clear that I could still, after all that, salvage the sale and close, I didn’t. 

I assumed too much and didn’t ask for the sales. 

MAJOR mistake. 

I teach this stuff, and here I was assuming that this was “in the bag”. I was totally blind to everything that had happened and that was happening.

I was caught totally off guard when they said, “Thanks Mark, but we’ve decided to move in another direction.” 

I said, “Pardon?”

And then the call ended. 

After several bangs of my fist on the desk in anger and shouting MANY less than desirable words, I forced myself to complete an after action review and think very deeply about what just occurred and what should have been a VERY easy sale. 

I didn’t want to do it. I was angry and confused. I still believed I was right and they clearly had missed the plot. 

After several glasses of wine that evening and a VERY thorough after action review, mapping out every interaction, I realized something. It was all on me. And it all started with 1 VERY COSTLY mistake: Arrogance.

Mistakes, we all make them (even the people who teach how to avoid them). 

The trick is to learn from them and HOPEFULLY not repeat them.

So the next time you make a mistake on a negotiation or sale, and you will, don’t beat yourself up (shit happens), but force yourself to reflect on the ENTIRE negotiation (beginning to end) to determine where things went wrong and what you could have done differently.