I was six months into my new business development role and just wrapped up a call with a large prospect. They gave me the verbal for a huge project, and I was on cloud nine. Before I even sent a recap email, I was daydreaming of what this meant for me. This deal alone would allow me to hit my annual quota, be the lead sales rep for my team (in my first year) and put me in a great place financially. I wouldn’t have to check my bank account before going out and no more ramen noodle and peanut butter sandwich diet! But the deal never came. The prospect made a last-minute decision to go with the competitor and when I received their email message, I felt crushed. All I wanted to do was quit sales.
Here is why:
1. I Didn't Ask the Tough Questions
Throughout the sales process, there were questions I was asking myself in my head, but I never asked the prospect. A combination of “the fear of looking dumb” and me “assuming I already knew the answer” prevented me from asking. And it came back to bite me in the end. Had I asked, “If you decide not to move forward with us, what is your plan B?” I could have found out other options they were exploring and why. “What are the criteria factors that you are using in your decision process?” would have allowed me to understand how and why they are going to make their decision. On the last call I could have easily asked “Is there anything that would prevent you from moving forward with us?” instead of daydreaming. I would have uncovered and alleviated their concern regarding the ability of my company to supply the project with speed (which is ultimately why I lost the deal). At Butler Street, we teach if there is a difficult or uncomfortable question you think you should ask, then you need to ask it.
For Leaders: Coaching your team on what tough questions need to be asked in every deal and role practicing how to ask them is a necessity for success. Some questions can be intimidating to ask but the answers will reduce surprises in the end.
2. I Cut Corners with Poor Call Planning
I failed at asking tough questions because I failed at planning for the calls. The year prior, I had established a great relationship with the prospect through lunches, happy hours, etc. When I heard the news of the project, I knew my relationship with the prospect was strong and I was very familiar with their company. In my mind, I didn’t need to plan my calls. But planning my calls and reviewing my call plans would have pointed out key questions I hadn’t thought to ask. It would have allowed me to stay focused around the objectives of the calls instead of going off on tangents about sports. To this day, I am still friends with that prospect. And to this day, I still haven’t received a dime for that deal.