Why Lost Deals Are Almost Impossible To Save

It looks like a client of mine is about to lose a big deal.

The problem, the sales person has no idea what they are selling and although they made it to the finals on sheer luck and the strength of the features, it’s not looking good.

When I say the sales person doesn’t know what they are selling, I mean he doesn’t know why the client needs to buy. He doesn’t know what the motives for change are. He knows very little about the competition. He doesn’t know if the competition is a better fit, because he doesn’t know what the prospect is trying to do. For all intents and purposes, he knows nothing about what he’s selling, why the prospect needs it and the impact to their organization.

This is why he’s gonna lose this deal.

To make matters worse, he doesn’t have a relationship with the decision maker. As you can see, he is in deep shit.

On the surface all of these issues are a problem, but it’s the result of these misteps that I want to call out. Because this sales person has little to no clue on what’s happening in this sales, he’s in NO position to try and save it.

To save a deal, we have to be ready and capable of challenging the customer. Saving deals rests almost solely on our ability to challenge our customer and when we can’t we’re fucked. We’ve heard a lot about challenging prospects, and there is no time in selling where challenging a customer is more critical than when trying to save a deal you’re about to lose.

When we’re in a position where a deal requires saving, it’s because we messed up somewhere. We didn’t deliver the right value, we missed the buying signals, we didn’t understand the buying process, we didn’t understand the clients motivations, we didn’t understand the competition and more. This is where the irony comes in. It’s these very things, this very information we need to save the deal. When we don’t have this information, saving a deal is almost impossible. We can’t argue why our solution is a better choice and that they are making a bad decision. We can’t because we don’t know what their problems are. We don’t know anything about the competition and we can’t even get to the decision maker. Without this stuff, you can forget about saving anything.

Saving a deal is as complex as the deal itself, that’s why few can be saved.

Saving deals requires the same things that selling the deal required. Therefore, in order to save a deal you need to know, why the customer is buying in the first place and what they expect to get from buying. You need to know what future state they are trying to achieve. You need to know why; why it matters and why the current state is not acceptable. You need to know what other options they have and who your competing with. In other words, what other possible solutions are available to them and how does your solution stack up to the alternatives. Without knowing these things you won’t save the deal.

I’m not saying deals can’t be saved, because they can be. I’ve seen it. But it doesn’t happen very often for all the reasons I mentioned above.

When a deal is saved, one of two things happens. The sales person already knew all the above and made a mistake somewhere in the selling process. When this is the case they are able to pivot their deal strategy quickly in order to get the buyer to reevaluate their decision. The sales person identifies a “gap” in the buyers decision process and they are able to highlight the gap and it’s negative consequences to the buyer. By doing this, the buyer opens the deal to the sales person for further evaluation to ensure they are making the right choice. (This doesn’t include dropping your pants on price. In my opinion, it’s not “saving a deal” if you’re whoring yourself out by dropping the price big time to get back in the game). This isn’t common, but it happens. Things can be missed in the sale, creating gaps. Saving a deal when this happens is hard,  but not impossible. It all rests on the strength of the solution.

The  other scenario, and it’s extremely rare, is when a sales person recognizes they have non of the above and are able to get the buyer to slow down the process and give them a chance to recalibrate. When this happens, it’s usually because the sales person has a strong relationship with the buyer or someone very influential. In essence what happens is, the sales person falls on their sword and says, they didn’t do a good job in articulating the value proposition and ask for another chance to demonstrate why their product/service is critical to the buyer. If the buyer says yes, they use this precious time to get all the discovery info they DIDN’T get initially and deliver a stronger value proposition on the fly. But, I’m telling your this is no small order and rarely works. Just thinking about it is giving me anxiety.

Saving deals is a bitch. It’s a position you don’t want to be in. If you’re in a position where you have to “save it,” nine out of ten times it’s because you fucked up. You didn’t sell it right.

There is nothing heroic about saving a deal, unless you were brought into clean up someone else’s mess. Saving a deal is more like plunging your own toilet. You’re happy you were able to get the shit to go down, but everyone’s pissed it happened in the first place.

Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to save deals. It’s just bad selling.