Here’s a conversation overheard in the I-Didn’t-Get-The-Sale Bar and Grill:
Joe the waiter: Hey Jane, did you get that job you said you had all locked up?
Jane the remodeling salesperson: Nope, they went with somebody I never heard of, must have been price.
Joe: You’ve been working on that job for two solid weeks. You were so sure you were going to get it; why did they go with someone else?
Jane: Who cares? We didn’t get the job. It doesn’t make any difference why.
I would not be surprised if a flash of light and some thunder followed those electrically charged words — “ It doesn’t make any difference why.” If you don’t know why you didn’t get a job, how are you going to avoid screwing up the next big proposal the same way?
Consider the kind of feedback we commonly seek when we do get the job. We bombard them with questions such as, ‘Were you super-duper satisfied, super satisfied or just ecstatic?” We ask about what they thought of the value, would they consider using us again and if they like the color of our eyes. We believe all that information is important to go forward. But how does that help with the potential clients we didn’t get?
These queries are called exit interviews and can be enormously helpful. We use them when someone resigns or is terminated to glean information about what led to a decision. It is information that can be used to make constructive changes, to avoid the pitfall in the future. If we use the concept of an exit interview when we don’t get a sale (or, hey, even when we do), the info is often very valuable.
“Why did you decide to give us the job, Mrs. Jones? I know there were other competitive prices.” Here are some remarks I received during exit interviews on jobs I thought I had locked and let get away: “We gave it to Bill because he was closer, but I think you are a better salesman.” If I was better, I would have gotten the job.
And then there was a real killer. We were doing a job for a prospect’s friends down the street. The budget and design were well received, but the job ultimately went to a competitor. When I pressed as to why we didn’t get the job, the lady looked at me (then 43 years old with well-dressed frame and smiling face) and said: “We thought we would go with someone younger.” Ouch! That’s like trying to commit suicide by rolling naked on an ant hill. At least I found out there wasn’t a good reason I lost the job, just my ego.
Years ago during a sales slump — I couldn’t close a sale selling $100 bills for 50 cents — everything was right; I just couldn’t get signatures. A friend to listened to my presentation to see what I was leaving out and boy did he find it. I was overselling. But I thought I wasn’t going far enough. Exit interviews can help with that. People will tell you that they liked everything but the part when you started explaining your contract and you made it sound too complicated, so they went with someone else.
I don’t know whether this exercise will help you or not, but try it. It’s mostly about rapport. We know that rapport is vital to sales, but read these questions and answer them honestly. Imagine that you just missed a sale and are trying to figure out why. What if the prospect said it was price? Does it mean your proposal was too expensive or that it was not perceived as a real value? How do you create the perception of value? What are the SOSs (Subtleties of Sales)? Is rapport established before the sales presentation, during the presentation, or after? Do you know when rapport has been established? If so, how do you know? Do you care when? If there is a difference when rapport is established before the presentation, what is it and how does it help? Can rapport hurt and if so, how?
Most clients will, when asked, level with you as to why you weren’t successful. The last question is how many question marks there are to this point? while you’re here ...