So you got pretty badly burned during your last sale. Things started off well, and with the best intentions - a vendor and a buyer coming together to form a partnership, one providing the tools the other would use to reach success. Only things didn’t turn out that way. Your sales teams didn’t get along, and the features you were promising seemed to displease the buyer before they even got to try them. By the end everyone was avoiding one-another’s e-mails, and you had to accept that the sale was dead - you marked it as a loss and tried to move on with your life.
Now, however, the past has come back to haunt you - you’re doing win/loss, which means that either you or someone you contracted is going to be reaching out to your ex-buyer and trying to get them to talk. You can only imagine what an excruciating process that will be - how long before they hang up the phone? Thirty seconds into the call? Twenty? It doesn’t matter - they’re just going to slag your team anyways, the jerks.
But to your surprise, the lost buyer not only talks, they’re actually eager to share their thoughts. Your win/loss analyst says they had a hard time getting them off the phone. Not only did they want to talk, but what they wanted to say was more than just harsh words. You’re shocked by this - but you shouldn’t be. The psychology of loss interviews is a fascinating one so let’s dive in starting with Why do Buyer’s want to talk? Why should you listen? and What it all means?
Why They Talk
There are three primary reasons that motivate lost deals to talk. The first is creating a better industry. While it may sound like a pretty lofty goal, everyone wants the space in which their company operates to be a better place. You may have lost your buyer because you ultimately didn’t have the features or product line they most needed. In engaging with you via a loss call, they may be relishing the opportunity to try and craft a product line that might be sold to them in the future - one that is better-attuned to their needs. In turn, they are improving the broader marketplace for everyone caught in their predicament. Your lost client is envisioning a future when the tools they work with match the tools that everyone else is working with - so that they don’t have to ask ‘can your company’s tools do x and y’ - they’ll already know. And that will make cooperation and partnership easier.
Acknowledging the Effort
Sales is hard. The pressure to succeed, need to travel and long hours take a mental & physical toll regardless of how many deals you win or lose. Working on a deal takes your effort, your team’s effort, and your company’s effort as a whole - and its work you do without any guarantee of payoff. The founder of history, Herodotus, said that one of the purposes of history was “preserving the due meed of glory” - in others, that it was worth preserving what people had struggled to achieve, even if they failed to achieve it. Your Buyer wants that time & effort to have been for something, even if it is just acknowledgement. Sometimes a loss occurs and no one is to blame - things just did not work out. All that time and work, however, is still worth remembering.
Unloading Angry Feelings
There’s more to this than just being insulting - a lost buyer who agrees to a loss call has more on their mind that just talking smack about you and your company. There’s a deeper need here to vent, to unload, to find a willing ear that cares about the issues the buyer had with the sale. Regardless of whether or not you think the buyer’s grievances were valid, they certainly think they were - and giving them an opportunity to express that goes a long way to getting them on the phone in the first place, and hitting those two points we see above. But also, for your sake - and you may not want to hear this, but… their complaints? They might be valid. The problems your buyer had may have been genuine - and this is your opportunity to swallow your pride and listen to what they have to say. This may be the key to avoiding losses in the future - by diving into what they have to say, no matter how angry, real value may emerge
Placing that Call
It’s worth listening to what lost Buyers have to say - they want to talk to you, want their story told, want their due meed of glory. They want the opportunity to discuss what went wrong, and try to improve the process for the future so that things may not go wrong the next time. More than anything they just want to know that someone wants to listen to them - that their point of view has value, is worth knowing. At Eigenworks our motto is ‘Know Your Buyer’ - and that holds true both for those that ultimately buy, and those that do not. Know who is looking to buy from you - and learn why it is that that they don’t.