Losing is winning - if you’re doing it correctly.
We already celebrate the wins. We ring the bell. We Slack the team to celebrate. We spend time on the weekly meetings reviewing the key wins and success stories from the week, month and quarter.
We create cultures where winning is celebrated, as it should be.
However, we also create cultures where losing is frowned upon.
I worked in an organization where the CEO believed that there are only two types of companies - those who are our customers, and those who will eventually be our customers.
As a result, the attitude was always, “win at all costs”, and if we didn’t win, “you must have gotten outsold.”
There were triggers in our CRM; if a deal was moved to ClosedLOST in Salesforce, the executive team would receive an email notification of the change.
What was the outcome?
- Deals would suddenly disappear, to be found with a close date 9, 12, even 24 months out! Deals we have lost, buried in the future pipeline.
- Deals would suddenly move to “Suspect” in the pipeline. Anything to avoid the “ClosedLost” designation.
- Once the writing was clearly on the wall that the fit isn’t there with a prospect, the reps would work those eventual losers considerably longer than they should. Instead of cutting bait, the wrestled for weeks and months.
- If a deal is lost, the first individuals you would want to involve would be the leaders, but in these environments, those leaders are the last ones to find out. The conversation is so difficult, the rep would put off informing their manager, because they knew the manager would tell them to “move it to ClosedLost”.
- The loss reasons would never be shared, because, “We didn’t lose...they just delayed the decision” or whatever other convenient excuse a rep could give to avoid the label. As a result, the reasons we lost would unexpectedly happen again to other reps.
And team morale? It’s lowered significantly, especially in a remote environment.
With the physical and emotional cost of changing jobs now being so low, the triggers to take a recruiter call are easy to trip!
In the virtual environment, the physical cost of a job change is near zero...no changed commute, just a new laptop. The emotional cost of a job change is closer to zero than ever before, given that team members, in many cases, have never actually met the people they work for and with. It’s easy to leave someone you’ve never actually hung out with, and Zoom doesn’t not replicate the connection. It can’t.
Create a culture where you celebrate the losses along with the wins.
When a deal is lost, a rep is already being punished; in their wallet, their quota attainment, and likely their ego. Piling on drives the behaviors above, but more importantly, triggers their desire to polish their resume.
Learning requires an error signal. Children learn by making a prediction, testing that prediction, assessing the difference (the error), consolidating the difference along with a new theory, and starting over again. It’s also how adults learn!
Celebrate the losses for their effort and the lessons learned:
“What was it about their situation, environment and even our approach that didn’t fit, didn’t work or didn’t resonate?”
“If we could turn the clock back to the beginning of the cycle, what could we have done differently?”
And if the answer is, “We should have disqualified this out sooner”, all the better!
Curate the learnings.
Spot the trends. Is there something about our solution that isn’t an ideal match for a certain type of client? Their firmographics (vertical, size, geo)? The buyer demographics (certain buyer types or titles)? The environment (the prospect’s other solutions, other pre-requisites a great opportunity has that these don’t)?
Teach your team to qualify using those learnings.
Then, embrace transparency.
Teach your team to be transparent early in a sales cycle using those learnings.
“We’ve found with two other companies in your space, they need X, and we don’t have it. Can we discuss that now, up front? Because if that’s going to be important to you, we may end up saving each other a ton of time together.”
The power of unexpected honesty through transparency! It builds trust, it speeds decision making, it qualifies in deals faster, but also qualifies out deals faster, too!
And as Arthur Dunn said in 1919,
“If the truth won’t sell it, don’t sell it.”
As a salesperson, maximizing your potential is based on the most important thing you have in your inventory to sell; your time!
Sales leaders, ensure with your team that it’s ok to disqualify an opportunity, so they can spend time working opportunities they should win, but also uncovering and cultivating other opportunities that are a better fit.
Embrace a culture of winning...and LOSING. When you do, you’ll find:
- You lose less often: From the learnings, the sharing, and the better focused targeting and qualification,
- Your forecast will become more accurate: You’ll be working the deals you should win, you’ll be the first to know when a deal is going off the tracks, and your reps won’t be afraid to bury the truth,
- You’ll experience less turnover: In an environment where changing jobs is easier than ever before, creating a culture where effort & learning is cherished and celebrated, but even more important, your team members feel like you have their back, they’ll stay, put in maximum effort, and maybe even tell their friends...which means,
- Your time to hire will speed up!
Crazy? Counterintuitive? What are you & your company doing to embrace losing as winning, too?
Also, if you like it, share it! My mission is to not only make the sales profession more trusted and respected, but create leadership cultures where reps embrace transparency, improve morale, stay, and are instrinsically inspired to perform.
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