Miss the mark at a sales meeting, and your business could be looking at extended repercussions. According to a recent report, business owners face at least a three-month wait before they can revisit a botched sales pitch with any chance at successfully winning the customer back.
And that's just one of the costs of sales gone wrong. In Showpad and Demand Metric's study, 60 percent of polled business owners said they see their sales meetings go south frequently, and 72 percent indicated that problem pitches cause an actual loss of revenue.
"Unfortunately, this just happened to us for an opportunity that was worth about $3 million and we'd spent a year on it," says Michael Bremmer, CEO of TelecomQuotes, a technology management company. "Second place stinks."
Put another way, losing a sales prospect can mean an immediate opportunity loss—and 59 percent of the businesses polled in the survey fell into that category.
With stakes like those in mind, let's look at some key reasons why sales fail, and then address some ways you can re-approach the pitch that's gone wrong.
Why Bad Sales Pitches Happen
Closing the deal happens about one quarter to one third (21 percent to 30 percent) of the time, on median, according to the report, but when the sales session sinks, it's most often about price. At least, that's the version of the story given by 60 percent of the professionals who were surveyed.
But the reason for a sale gone bad is seldom as simple as the service or product exceeding the target's budget. It's also often about how the sale is presented and whether your team is truly collaborating to the best effect. Consider the following data, also discovered during the study:
- A majority of sales teams want better marketing assets. While sales and marketing ideally work together to bring home new opportunities, 64 percent of the sales professionals polled said the marketing content they worked with played either a neutral or ineffective role in their efforts.
- Marketing and sales are often misaligned. While the majority of the sales teams in the study indicated dissatisfaction with marketing assets, 76 percent of the marketers who were polled evaluated their assets to be effective tools. There's clearly a disconnect between these two players in the process.
- Price is a pain-point, and silos make it worse. Marketing employees viewed sales as the department responsible for mitigating price—via great pitches—but sales teams often said the onus is on marketing to soften the impact of a pitch's dollar signs by supplying collateral that better supports the company's services and products.
No matter how you look at it, you'll find disjointed communication at the root of sales gone wrong. Reconnecting your sales and marketing departments—and getting both to give the other what they need to succeed—is clearly a critical step for business owners.
And that's a great long-term goal to have. But what can you do in the short term to recover from a missed sale? Let's turn to three strategies that can help your business do that.
Making a Bad Sale Better
"A common mistake I've seen made by salespeople is their assumption about what's crucial to the client," says Elaine Konkin, founder of bookkeeping service Dragon Books +. "They continue to converse about the assumed value rather than asking the customer about what's important."
No matter what the root cause of the botched sales pitch is, you may still have a chance to try again. Here are three steps you can take to move forward in the aftermath of a sales pitch gone wrong:
1. Gather post-pitch information. If you have a personal channel to any of the target's team, query them for details about why the pitch didn't work. Knowing what really went wrong can help you determine if you've got any chance to try again. For instance, there might be a technical solution packed into their reply. "One time I found out that the format in which we presented the solution wasn't the right one for that group," says Orit Pennington, owner of TPGTEX Label Solutions, Understanding the hurdles in front of you can help you get over them the next time around.
2. Reopen with a mea culpa. Should the prospect seem amenable to giving you a second chance, start with an apology for the sales pitch that went bad. Tell them that you know you blew your first chance, and suggest that you can better explain the value of your business. Then proceed to do so.
3. Make no repeats. Coming back to the sales table doesn't mean simply reiterating the pitch that went wrong. If they let you try again, address only the specific points that you didn't present in a successful way the first time around.
Finally, understand that sometimes you need a break between attempts. "If you do lose a big one, take a few days off and do anything but work," Bremmer says. "I went boogie-boarding at the beach."
However you press your reset button, when you do come back to work, be prepared to ask better questions and give better answers. Fixing a bad sale is largely about owning the experience, and then improving your team and your tactics so you have a better shot at closing the deal.
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