24 August 2005

How to win a deal after it's already been lost

Some of the best communicators I have ever met are salespeople. And one of the most interesting salespeople I have ever met is Tony Tyson.

Tony is in charge of “closed lost” analysis at a company that sells complex solutions in a crowded market. In a recent interview, Tony told me that he converts about 50 percent of the “closed lost” deals he investigates to “closed won” using the following approach.

You don’t have to be a salesperson to learn from Tony’s approach. It’s about optimism, persistence and a spirit of inquiry.

First principles:

  1. Rule number 1: You MUST believe in the product and believe you can win.

  2. Keep in mind that you have a fiduciary duty to both yourself and your company

  3. Keep your conversations “All about business”

Closed lost analysis

  • On your first call, say (Probably by voicemail initially)

  • I am working on improving our customer engagement process

  • I understand you recently decided not to work with us (or to go with another solution)

  • I want to understand how you arrived at your decision

  • Did you understand our solution fully?

  • I want to understand how my sales reps can improve

  • I would like to ask for 5 minutes of your time, to help me understand what happened.

  • I am not trying to change your mind, I just want to understand what happened.

  • In the live phone call, repeat the above, but you may want to explore the following:

  • Maybe the rep didn’t do a good job explaining our solution

  • Maybe there was something you missed

  • Continue to probe until you are satisfied. It doesn’t surprise me that Tony gets results with such a sincere and customer-oriented approach.

You don't need to take Tony's word for it either. Here's some proof that this works.

Here are some other gems from my interview with Tony:


  1. Set aside one day a week just for cold calls: Make 40 calls that day

  2. Knock on every appropriate door in your territory

  3. Being aggressive about internal resources is half the game

Dealing with prospects:

  • Nobody will give you a dime unless they have a problem that you can solve

  • Telling people they can save money is not a way to win. They need to see you as an investment

  • If they don’t see the problem, you have to show them. If they don’t see it after one sales call, move on

  • If you can solve a problem you should expect them to buy it

  • Once you have identified the problem, ask for commitment: “If we can meet your criteria, will you commit to buy our solution?”

  • Ask your prospect if they can make the decision.

  • If they say yes and you have doubts, ask: “Once you decide to proceed, what happens next?” If they say no, ask who can

  • If they say it’s a team, you are talking to the wrong person

  • People have to like you and feel comfortable dealing with you. They have to understand you’re not in it for yourself.

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Nick said...

Great advice here...
I want to buy those cute animated sales cards! Where are they from?

Unknown said...

We developed them at XPLANE and they are still in "beta." Do you think there's a market?

If so, would you want them in digital form like I use them (Website, PowerPoint) or would you want a printed deck of cards?

Air Time said...

Dave - I'm glad I stumbled on this blog. You seem to have some good advice and I will definitely be coming back.

Air Time said...

by the way, there is a word verification tool you can use to get rid of spam, or do what I do, which is just have a post-dated post called Blam catchers. All the junk comments end up in there.

Gina said...

I'm a buyer for a small company. I also happen to sit at our main phone. This is not a good combination, because what it means is I deal with salespeople all day long- the kind I want to hear from, and the kind I really don't.

The two points in this post that I agree with are: 1)Nobody will give you a dime until they have a problem you can solve, and 2) Be personable and real. I like it when salespeople are friendly and to the point. I really like them when they are helping me out of a jam.

What I DON'T want to hear is that I have somehow misunderstood a salesman's solution. I know my business, I know what it needs, and I do my homework. If you got kicked to the curb, you probably deserved it. Offer me something better, not excuses that make your failure my fault.

Just some thoughts from the other side of the phone.

Unknown said...

Good points.

Unknown said...

Implemented the great tip from Air Time today. Blammers beware!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely outstanding! Whether you're in sales or marketing this is a must read article!

Jean said...

Thid is common sense for any effective sales pro. Am amazed that people find this approach novel!

Unknown said...

Hi Jean,

I'm very happy to be accused of advocating common sense.