Friday, January 20, 2012

No Prize for Second In Sales

Verdi passed by Tyler Gitou’s office looking dejected. Then he passed again. And again. Tyler smiled and got the hint.

“Verdi, is there something you’d like to talk about?” he called out to him.

Verdi came into the office sat down. “I thought you’d never ask. I just needed someone to talk to.”

“What’s the problem?” Tyler asked.

“Well, we lost the deal to a competitor. I just got the call this morning and I’m trying to figure out how to break it to the team. This was a three month process and they all worked so hard on the proposal!”

“That is tough,” Tyler said. “You had a great team too.”

“Oh, the best in the firm!” Verdi said. “In fact, the client even complimented me on their performance. He said when we started we were in last place in a field of five. But our proposal and presentations were so good we jumped the other bids and finished in second.”

“No kidding! What do you get for second place?” Tyler asked.

Verdi was confused. “What do you mean?”

“You said you started in last and finished in second. The bidder who finished in first got the deal. What did you get?”

Verdi was taken aback. “We didn’t get anything.”

“So what’s the difference between finishing in second and finishing last?”

“Well, it shows how well we did.”

“But not well enough to win,” Tyler said. “The only bidder who got anything from the process was the one who finished first. They got the deal. Everyone else got nothing.”

Verdi was getting annoyed. “What’s your point? Our team worked really hard on this.”

“My point is you started in last place and you finished in last place. In sales, there is no such thing as ‘second place’ if the result is no business.”

“But we built our relationship with the client. Before this the client really didn’t know who we were. We had no business. Now we have credibility.”

“Terrific,” Tyler said. “At what cost? How much time and effort did you spend for ‘credibility’ that could have been done with some focused meetings? How many opportunities did you sacrifice elsewhere to focus resources on this deal?”

“You know Mr. Gitou, everything is clearer in hindsight. No disrespect intended but I don’t need a lecture telling me this was a waste of time.”

“I appreciate that, Verdi, and I am sorry if I am being too direct,” Tyler said. “But if you can’t derive some lessons learned from this loss, then it really was a waste of time and money.”

“That’s fair,” Verdi said. “So how do we analyze the loss?”

“Go back to the beginning. How did you make the decision to submit a proposal?”

“I told you,” Verdi said. “This was a new client and we wanted to try and get some business. Our main competitor has been in there for 10 years and controls the infrastructure so we were looking for a way to get into the account.”

“And how else did you qualify the deal?” Tyler asked.

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“You had a brand new client that your competition owned and you decided to bid? That’s it?”

“We have to start somewhere! Are you saying we should never pursue a deal unless we know we’re going to win?”

“No, I’m saying you shouldn’t pursue a deal unless you know HOW you are going to win. Let’s go over your sales strategy and see if we can figure out what we might do differently next time to get a different outcome.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Hate My Client Part 2

“Mr. Gitou, I am dealing with a difficult CIO at a financial services company. What does a red car or green car have to do with that?” Verdi asked.

“Verdi, what color car do most people drive?” Tyler asked.

“What? I don’t know. I guess I’d say blue.”

“Really? And what color car do you drive?”

Verdi shrugged. “Blue.”

“Perfect,” Tyler said. “You are a great example of Self-Affirmation. You drive a blue car. As a result, your perception is oriented to look for other blue cars because it affirms your decision to buy a blue car. I myself never realized how many people have gray cars until I bought my first gray car.”

“That’s interesting but what does it have to do with my client being a jerk?” Verdi asked.

“When people reach conclusions they often seek out data that support those conclusions,” Tyler said. “They want to confirm they were right. You, for example, notice more blue cars than any other color because it confirms for you that blue was a good choice. Likewise, once you decided that your client was a jerk, which is a difficult conclusion to reach about someone you work with every day, you become oriented to look for jerk-like behavior to confirm you are right.”

“I can see how that would happen,” Verdi said. “And as a result, I probably don’t pay attention to the positive behavior.”

“That’s right. You seek the supporting data for your conclusion and disregard data that might indicate you are wrong. Self-rationalization also plays into the problem. We are always hesitant to admit we are wrong or made a mistake. Until you are willing to really question your own performance and behavior, you will always be content to blame the problem on the client.”

“I am willing to try,” Verdi said. “How do I start the process?”

“Go back to what I said: get out of your red car and get into a green car. The ‘red car’ represents a negative mind set and while you drive that red car you see many more red cars, or more negativity. When you get into a ‘green car’ mentality, or a positive state of mind, you will see more positive actions on the part of your client.”

“So this is about changing my frame of reference with regard to my client?”

“Exactly. Instead of thinking negatively about your relationship, start to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship. Every time you have a negative thought, you are back in the red car. A Deal Whisperer knows that if you change your attitude, you’ll change your relationship. Tell me, what do you like about this client as compared to other ones?”

“Well, he does hire us for a lot of consulting work and appreciates our people,” Verdi said. “But he always challenges me on the rates. He’ll ask for a discount every time.”

“Why does he do that?” Tyler asked.

“Either he perceives we are more expensive than other vendors, or he feels like he has to ‘win’ something.”

“Why don’t you ask?”

Verdi paused. “Ask why he wants a discount?”

“No, ask why he is asking for a discount. The answer is bound to be interesting. Maybe he will say, ‘because I think you are overcharging me compared to other vendors’ and then you can show him how you compare. Or maybe he says, ‘because I think you have room to move’ in which case you can share some of your own business challenges with him and why this is the best price you can offer. Either way it is going to start a dialogue where you are trying to understand his point of view rather than thinking of him as a jerk because he asks for a rate cut.”

Verdi nodded. “That’s a good suggestion. Thanks Mr. Gitou.” Verdi stood and was about to leave, and then stopped. “By the way, did you ever think that maybe the reason I see more blue cars is because blue is the most popular color?”

Tyler laughed. “It’s white. Blue is the sixth most popular.”