The Truth About Losing a Sale... and how to avoid the next one

From Miller Heiman's Sales Performance Tips: Anyone who sells for a living can tell stories about how a deal fell through. No matter how expert or experienced you are, the pang of disappointment that comes when your competition wins is always uncomfortable. Read on as Miller Heiman sales consultant Pam Switzer shares insights straight from a decision-maker interview - about why a sale was lost.
Anyone who sells for a living can tell stories about how a deal fell through. No matter how expert or experienced you are, the pang of disappointment that comes when your competition wins is always uncomfortable.

Recently Miller Heiman sales consultant Pam Switzer had an opportunity to interview the head of a government-funded Health Center. Pam shares insights straight from a decision-maker - about why a sale was lost.

A lost sale

Pam tells readers: I've been conducting interviews with decision-makers over the past several months with a view towards developing an understanding of how institutions view the sales industry and how we in the industry might be able to provide added value to these organizations.

During my interview with the administrator of a government-funded Health Center, he revealed that capital funds were more readily available, that operating budgets were currently the most squeezed, and that the government is changing its methodology of evaluating centers like his.

Who won and why

I had become aware of this account because one of my clients had just recently lost a sale at this institution. Without revealing my client, I asked about the decision making process they followed and the criteria they used in determining which vendor to proceed with.

The administrator asked me, "Of the three vendors bidding on this four million dollar contract, how many do you think met with me?" The answer? ONE. I asked him if the successful vendor was the one who met with him and he smiled and said yes. I inquired about the final decision criteria. He said that despite the fact that the other two vendors had technically superior solutions---yes he actually said that for those of you who sell on features---the chosen vendor had built their proposal in such a way that the entire acquisition, including training and service, could be funded with the capital budget and not the operating budget.

In other words, the successful vendor asked great questions and then built their solution around what the decision maker needed.

He was incredulous that more medical device and Pharma reps didn't call on him. "I make a lot of these decisions," he said. "Why would they not want to understand what my needs are from an institutional and personal win perspective?"

So what is the key learning for all of us in this.

  • Meet with administration.

  • Ask them what their ideal solution looks like.

  • Formulate your solution to their needs, and tailor your proposal accordingly.

  • Don't depend on product superiority to do your selling for you.


The truth about losing a sale.

There is always a specific, clearly identifiable reason that a sale is lost. But it's not about who won the battle of features and benefits. If we listen to buyer decision-makers, they tell us the simple truth of how to win.


Miller Heiman has been a thought leader and innovator in the sales arena for almost thirty years, helping clients worldwide win high-value complex deals, protect and grow key accounts, manage talent and optimize sales strategies and operations.

With a prestigious client list that includes Fortune 500 clients, Miller Heiman helps companies in major industries to build high performance sales teams that deliver consistent sustainable results.
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