How to Win Sales and Why You Lose

What are the top 3 reasons you don’t win opportunities? Can you list, right now, with confidence, the top reasons you lose and the relative frequency of each reason?

I don’t know what the specific causes are for you, but I do know the reasons are a subset of just two predictable factors.

Selling successfully has similarities to traveling to a foreign country. To have a successful trip to a foreign land, you need to do some planning, understand the culture and language, know how to communicate, know how to navigate, etc. If any of these elements are weak or missing, the trip will not go as well. The same is true in sales opportunities. You will be much more successful the better you understand what is absolutely essential to master before you start the process.

So the critical question becomes: If you have a short, finite list of predictable reasons you lose deals, what does that say you should do? (This is not a rhetorical question. Do you really know what this is for you? You can’t improve what you don’t measure.)

Simply put, if you are serious about winning more deals, you absolutely MUST understand the reason you lose (your ‘loss factors’) and have the discipline to do everything in your power to address those factors. To transform your sales results (not just incrementally improve them, but transform your results), you have to know why you lose and have a specific action plan to improve. You must install a cadence of discipline and accountability (as Chris McChesney describes in the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals.)

There is a wealth of data, looking across thousands of sales interactions, that clearly shows the major factors of why sellers don’t win deals.  I like simple, so I sorted the factors that you can control into two major categories:

  1. How you think (your mindset), and
  2. What you do/say (your skillset).

Of these two major buckets (mindset and skillset), most salespeople seriously under invest in improving their skillset, and the vast majority of people do very little to improve their mindset. Most don’t have an accurate picture of how their mindset impacts their sales interactions, and even fewer have any clear idea of how to improve it.

The good news? There are things you can do right now to improve a critical aspect of your mindset.

OK, I have to say this at this point, I have coached and/or been involved in literally thousands of sales opportunities, and this is one of those items that is a simple idea but not that easy to change. This means most people reading this will think “Got it. That’s interesting…” Then they’ll tuck the idea away and move back into their daily lives without actually committing to working on this aspect of themselves every week or month.

This is your choice, how serious are you about improving?

If this is important enough for you to want to change, what can you do to enhance your mindset?

Every sale involves decisions around trust. The more complex the sale, the more trust is needed. Without trust, or with low trust, most sales fall apart. So what can you control about how quickly and how much someone trusts you?

There is an ‘equation’ that is helpful to identify what you can control.

The equation is:

 TRUST = Credibility X Reliability X Intimacy / Perceived Self Interest  

(Adapted from The Trusted Advisor. Maister, Green and Galford, 2000)

Most sales conversations tend to gravitate towards talking about possible solutions. (Why this happens and the foundational importance of moving off of your solutions has been discussed numerous times in this blog and elsewhere.) Meanwhile, the buyer is making decisions in their mind (invisible and unspoken) about whether they believe you and what you are saying (credibility) and whether they think you can do what you say (reliability). Their decisions are highly influenced on how well they THINK they know you (intimacy).

So the more a person knows you, the more they have made decisions about you and formed perceptions about how reliable and credible you are. (Thus the difficulty in selling to prospects you don’t know and with whom you have no referral. An effective referral provides a temporary “hall pass” to the intimacy factor by a transfer of perception about credibility and reliability.)

I multiply the factors in the equation times each other to represent the idea that if any of them are zero, then trust will equal zero in this equation.

The big idea is in the denominator – Perceived Self Interest. The prospect is invisibly judging whose interests you are serving before you even speak. Your self-interest exists, is more visible than you think, and is one of the most critical and yet overlooked factors in winning and losing deals. It is a VERY common blind spot for even good salespeople. (Note: Good is an enemy of Great.)

What can you do to understand and enhance the perception of your self-interest? You have to align your self-interest to their success. The paradox: The more you focus on your needs, the LESS successful you will be in selling. You have to build a firewall between your needs (re: quota) and the prospects’ needs. How do you do this? You focus on THEIR numbers, and your numbers will take care of themselves.

Want to eliminate this factor from your “list of reasons I lose deals”?

  1. Get VERY clear on your selling intent.
  2. Answer this question with confidence, comfort and sincerity: Whose needs are you REALLY serving?
  3. Get feedback and coaching on the degree to which your self-interest shows up in your language and behaviors. (News Flash! Your intent shows up in your language, and your prospects have a perception of your intent. What is their perception and how will you improve that perception? The cliché is “People don’t care what you know until they know you care.” It is a cliché for a reason… It is a truth you can live by.)
  4. Let every thing you think, say, do and feel reflect what you believe deep in your bones. Your task is to help this person(s) succeed. So what is the dialogue needed to see if you are a good fit? Facilitate that dialogue and let NO be ok. (Oddly, if NO from a prospect is not a real option, you are focused on your needs, and it will become apparent to them.)

Now go find some prospects that would LOVE to have you helping them. I sincerely hope that something in this blog will enhance your ability to help your clients succeed.

Ian Edwards | How to Win Sales & Why You Lose Sales DealsBy Ian Edwards

Transforming sales performance has been Ian’s focus for over 16 years. He has helped individuals, teams and organizations improve how they find, engage and win new business. Of all the things you could do, what is it that you MUST do to advance the current opportunity as well as your mindset and skills?

photo credit: OUCHcharley via photopin cc

Join the Conversation!!!

What are the top reasons YOU don’t win sales and what have you done to overcome those obstacles?

Share your stories below!