Sorry you lost that big deal...

Dear Joshua,

So sorry to hear you lost the big deal… 'Internal options' and 'do nothing' are without a doubt the biggest competition for B2B enterprise selling… yet we’re all wired to emotionally obsess about our market competitors.

The key to winning against both of these is two-fold:

  1. Understand and manage the internal politics… but did you have someone in the power-base working with you or manipulating the situation for you because they wanted you to win?
  2. Use ‘risk as a weapon’. It's important for them to see the danger of being left behind in the market, plus their lack of experience in your area, as two massive risks. They need a specialist expert which is you.

I can’t tell you how many times I had the support of the project team and recommenders only to lose the deal at the final hurdle… so painful! It’s so frustrating when the CXO level engages but then says: “Phil is who I defer to as our expert in these matters.” Yet Phil wouldn’t know if his own hair was on fire, or as we say in Australia, “whether a bus was parked up his arse.”

But many times, it’s just something you cannot change. I've seen many deals blow-up because we went above someone’s head and pissed them off… they became an enemy and white-anted us from within. It's like this crazy contradictory strategy has to be executed:

  • Engage high with a stake in the ground at C-level
  • Work with their project team / recommenders / evaluators to get them on board without feeling threatened

The senior decision maker says “I’m not an expert in this so talk with my people.” Then his people think: "Hmmm, if we recommend this new solution, it undermines us and some of us could lose our jobs! Certainly the boss will be thinking, why weren’t you guys already doing this?"

As sexy as it sounds, software as a service is still a tough value prop to sell, especially with regular bad press on failed implementations and fly-by-night operators pushing 'vapourware.'

Not easy, but you’ve got to tell the CXO early that his team won’t like this, they’ll feel threatened, and they’ll say they can do it better and cheaper internally. Then ask him/her: "What will you do when they come to you with that message after we’ve educated them?”

I had someone e-mail me last week from one of these posts [they really did] asking for my advice on selling professional services… I regard it as the toughest of selling. Not just because it's an ‘intangible’ product but because you're taking on internal politics and the law of self-interest lurking within everyone down the chain — smiling assassins, politely absorbing all of your information and then knifing you in the back when you’ve left the premises.


Damien Drost, Sales Mentor

Damien and Joshua are from my book, The Joshua Principle. If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Joe Hunt