Most of us only focus forwards and keeps on moving, mostly without looking back or thinking about what we could have done differently in our different business relationships.
Once things starts to unfold or worse fall apart, we react differently dependable upon what has worked earlier or not, most of us just think “win some or lose some, that’s the name of the game”.
So in hindsight you can learn a lot, but we rarely take the time to try and analyze what we did and what we could have done differently and if that would have altered the outcome in our favor.
Back in my days as a salesmanager and as a sales coach we gave a weekly report of businesses we had won and why we got the deal with the customer, and a little bit about the competition.
Over the years the conclusion of many business deals was that if we won a deal it was because of the good relationship we had built with the client, but if we lost a deal it was always because of price and not because of our relationship with the client.
The conclusion we came to when we followed several business deals over time was that most sales reps never could see what they have done wrong and it was all too easy to blame it on the client or that they got a lower piece from someone else.
We could also conclude that in most cases we only did respond to pressure by lowering our price, ever rarely did we alter the scoop in such a way where it would suit the client or our offer better.
In most cases we countered an argument from the client by arguing the opposite or by giving a lot of different reasons for why they should see it our way.
Even in those situation it happens that we blamed the client and said to each other , what a idiot, why can’t he see it our way.
Worse, in some cases we just went home and started over building arguments rather than trying to analyze what we could have done differently until next time we would see the client.
When we tried to increase our hit rate we decided to upgrade our arguments with a lot of ppt slides and do a well rehearsed presentation were the client could ask some questions either under or after the presentation.
Some of the questions we countered with was what we saw as a good argument , and in other cases we challenged the client by asking counter questions instead.
We even had an argumentbank where we could withdraw different arguments to use once we would meet our client again, in som cases it was obvious we were not getting through to the client, and we got the famous last words from them.
“Thank you for your presentation, we will get back to you as soon as possible”
Once we followed up, we were given the information, that they had decided to move on with another supplier.
In hindsight looking back on all those years, I realize that the time I have put into arguing, persuading and giving in on price towards my clients and the time our sales reps focused on convincing our clients, that in most cases it was a waste of time.
If I ever would be able to give myself some good advice in hindsight it would be something like this:
- Stop arguing, start listening and trade information.
- Try to understand your client, Do not try to convince him all the time.
- Use open questions, do not manipulate by trying to force him to see it your way by using yes and no questions.
- Once you think you understand your client and what they want, explain it back to your customer.
- Learn how to package and re package your proposal rather than lowering your prize over and over again.
- Don’t use ppt if you can, especially not long presentations, try to understand if there are other formats you can use instead that the client prefers.
But most important, bring someone else that you trust to observe you and your clients when you interact with each other, you will be amazed about what feedback you could get from a good coach, especially if you are open for learning and to improve your skills.
It is actually possible to have a good long term relationship with your clients and still do a great deal more for both of you, there are other variables to trade with, many more than just money.
Bell Blomquist Consulting
Lead Negotiator Consultant