The Green Sheet Online Edition
September 11, 2017 • Issue 17:09:01
Learning from loss leads to future wins
Early in my payments career, I helped a national salesperson with a proposal for a merchant with $100 million in annual revenue. It had been a long 18 months since I had written the initial request for proposal (RFP), and we were one of two finalists. Finally, we received word the board was making a decision on Tuesday, and we would know by 3 p.m. if we were selected.
The RFP was 108 pages, and there were three formal presentations, including one in front of the merchant's board of directors. Eight people from our company were at the meeting, representing various departments. The time commitment was significant over those 18 months, so we were all anxious to hear the results. This wasn't my deal, but I had an emotional involvement and was sweating the results along with the salesperson and many others.
Finally, Tuesday arrived, but 3 p.m. came and went. There was no call. At 4 p.m., we finally heard they chose our competitor.
A pivotal meeting
The next morning we held a meeting with all departments involved in the sales process. We conducted a post mortem, an autopsy of the sale, so to speak. I sat in the back of the room and expected to hear a long discussion about what we did wrong. Looking at the lead salesperson, though, I did not see the devastation I expected. Before the meeting, I had asked him what he expected. He replied, "You watch." So I did.
The head of sales came in, and his words surprised me. "We did better than I expected and had a shot all the way up to the end. Good job everyone. What did we do right with this opportunity?"
This wasn't a dressing down about our failure, but instead a discussion of what was successful about the offering, lessons learned and how to incorporate those lessons in the next offering. He closed with, "So which opportunity is up next on the list?"
I was shocked, then relieved that there was no dressing down. We had not failed. The sales process was a success even though the merchant signed elsewhere. There were lessons learned that would be put in place to help our future efforts.
From this, I realized there are three successful results from any sales effort:
- Positive next step
I learned from this experience that not all lost sales stop there. Many rejections are filled with lessons that may make the next no a yes. Contrary to a common belief that you should move quickly to the next opportunity after a no, you have to pause long enough to find the lessons so you don't ignore or repeat them. That effort should begin immediately after the final no by asking the following questions:
- Why did I see this as an opportunity? We tend to think that just because merchants currently accept payments, they are obvious opportunities for us to sign. That isn't the case in many instances. The two most obvious reasons are that they may have a non-compatible POS system or they sell a product that ultimately doesn't fit your credit policy. Not so obvious reasons may be that they only care about cost savings or treat you like an adversary. All point to reasons not to sign them or invest the time.
If you identify that a particular merchant ultimately wasn't an opportunity, the lesson learned is to find ways to probe and question earlier to identify if the merchant was a fit.
- What was the main decision-making factor? A no doesn't come in a vacuum. You may have been rejected solely because of a merchant's disgust with other payment professionals. Or you may have said or done something that soured the merchant. There is also a chance that the reason had nothing to do with you and your services.
The lesson learned is to recognize the reasons why people make their decisions, and react early to them. Be prepared to walk quickly if a merchant can't address your questions.
- Was any pain point missed or not identified? People sign for personal, compelling, or emotional reasons. If we listen well, we can identify those reasons and adapt our response to their needs. It's especially important to ask questions that generate an emotional response.
The lesson learned is that you should listen to a prospect's answers closely and pause before responding. This way you can structure your answer to directly meet their feelings.
I felt terrible when we lost that large opportunity, but the lessons learned made me more successful. Not all of my subsequent RFPs have met with success, but gaining the ability to apply what I learn, as well as determine the reasons for losses, has been empowering. Don't miss out on your chances to learn. They will lead to more sales, and more money.
Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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