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Bad Decisions–We Hate Them

by David Brock on October 22nd, 2010

“The customer just made a bad decision!”  I hear this all the time from disappointed sales people, it’s always just after they learn they have lost a deal.  Usually the rant goes on, “they don’t get it,” or even worse, “they’re stupid.”

I understand the disappointment, no one likes to lose.  We’re competitive and goal oriented.  We want to win, we want to earn a commission.  We should be upset at losing.  Where I get unglued is blaming the customer, thinking the customer is wrong or even stupid.  When I hear those statements, I can guess the deal was lost at qualification, and the sales person just continued to lose the deal until they were told by the customer in that last phone call.

Blaming the customer on the loss is just another indicator of “Me”centric sales people and organizations.  “Me” centricity is the sales person who focuses on their pitch, their product, and convincing the customer of product superiority without really understanding the customer need.  “Me” centricity is the person that doesn’t understand what the customer is trying to achieve, or their problems, or their goals.  “Me” centricity is the sales person that doesn’t understand their customer’s business and can’t frame their solution and value in terms relevant to the customer.  In fact, “Me” focused sales people don’t care about the value the solution provides the customer, they care about the value the sale provides to themselves.

“Me” centric sales people are more worried about their quota and commission, than they are about the customer’s business problem.  “Me” centric sales people are never at fault, it’s always the customer, the competition, or the product, or a company policy.

Customer focused or customer centric sales professionals/organization never blame the customer for a loss.  They carefully examine the sales situation, what they did, whether they understood  what the customer was trying to achieve.  Did they present the right solution?  Did they differentiate their solution and demonstrate compelling value–not only with the solution, but throughout the customer’s buying process?  Could they have done better?  Did the competition do a better job?  What could we have done differently? 

Customer focused sales professionals, while disappointed with a loss, take the opportunity to learn and improve.   They execute better in the next opportunity.

Most importantly customer focused sales people understand the impact of a bad decision on a customer.  They know that while a sale or commission may have been lost, if a customer makes a bad decision, their business may fail, they may lose millions of dollars, they may fail to launch a product or meet commitments to their customers.  Or, they may lose their jobs!  (My thanks to Donal Daly of T Group, for pointing this out so vividly).

The other day, I was asked to talk about being a “trusted advisor,”  customer focused sales professionals tend to be trusted advisors.  Being a trusted advisor imposes a heavy responsibility on the sales professional.  Customers are putting their businesses, their jobs, their futures in our hands.  They are trusting that making a decision for us is a good decision.  They know they cannot afford to make a bad decision.

Customer focused, trusted advisors will not let their customers make bad decisions.  They care about the results the customer achieves.  Customer focused sales professionals will compete vigorously, demonstrating every day, in every interaction that the customer is making the right decision.  They create compelling value, based on a deep understanding of what the customer’s problem is, what they need to achieve, what risk they can take.  They present solutions that address all these issues, every customer priority, demonstrting vividly the value it creates for the customer.  Customer focused sales professionals will not let their customers make bad decisions.  If their solution is the wrong solution, if it will be a bad decision for the customer, they back off.  They know they build trust and retain the customer by always doing the right thing.

Customer focused sales professionals never blame their customers for a loss.  But the interesting thing, customer focused sales professionals tend to win more!  Kind of funny how that works.

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  1. Agree with you David. Leave your ego at the door. Also maybe the need is to focus on the buying process instead of just the selling process. Leanne Hoagland-Smith author of Be the Red Jacket in the Sea of Gray Suits

    • Focusing on the customer, their buying process and creating value throughout their process is critical and differentiating. Thanks for the comment Leanne

  2. I work for an organization where we provide a third party perspective to determine the true reasons you win and lose your most strategic opportunity pursuits. We interview the sales team and then conduct face-to-face interviews with several client executives who were involved in the evaluation to get the real insight on the client’s decision. Ultimately, our goal is to help your organization to know the truth and to develop strategies and tactics to minimize the reasons you lose on subsequent sales pursuits and capitalize on what’s working. You’ll be surprised by how much the client will tell us versus what they tell your sales team.

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