The Sales Profession is a Cruel Teacher

The profession of selling is a tough teacher. You quickly learn that when you take shortcuts, make assumptions, and stray from basics and essentials – you burn.

A letter from your sales manager

Dear Sales Expert,

I am writing this to you long after you came to me to discuss your last lost deal. The pain on your face and the crack of your voice was too much for me. I took a step back and I wasn’t as direct, direct, or honest as I needed to know why you lost this deal.

I want you to understand that I hurt when you hurt. That’s because I was in your place and made the same mistakes. The sales profession is a tough teacher and I swing and play the miserable dance of empathy because you, like so many before you, are damned for learning these lessons the hard way.

That’s why I couldn’t hit you with that real fact today as I’m doing one on one. I had no heart.

I felt you did a good job at proposing. Your potential client asked you to show them the best price and value. You worked with our in-house team and got approvals for your proposed package. You’ve met all the key stakeholders in the potential client and thought you’ve made a good discovery. The buy signs were there and they gave you all indication that the account belonged to you. You set it above expectations and you guarantee our leadership team that you will shut it down.

Instead, she lost the deal to a competitor she didn’t know existed. You invested six months in this deal and all you have to show is the egg that covers your entire face. I know it hurts, and I know it’s heavy.

You didn’t do your job

But, you should know the truth and the truth is that the reason you didn’t buy us is because you didn’t convince stakeholders of your business condition. Your finding was poor, and so were your relationships. You took things for granted and allowed confirmation bias to obfuscate your objectivity. You skipped steps in the selling process. This is why you were stunned.

You did not do your job.

This is why you failed.

Do you want to get mad at me now that I’m there? Do you want to object? Let’s review what stakeholders have to say:

  1. They really loved you and our company.
  2. Price was not the issue. We were able to compete.
  3. But, stakeholders felt that your competitor’s solutions align better with their desired results.

Go look in the mirror. You own this.

The conclusion is inevitable. The person responsible for losing this transaction is you. And she was just defeated by a competitor who didn’t make the same stupid mistakes.

I know it’s embarrassing, but excuses suffice. Go look in the mirror. You own this.

I’m not telling you this is mean. I certainly do not want to add to your charm. But, I think if you know this fact and can face it, then next time you’ll adjust your approach, track the sale, ask better questions, build deeper relationships, and really listen.

The profession of selling is a tough teacher. You quickly learn that when you take shortcuts, make assumptions, and stay away from the basics and essentials you burn.

I’m sorry you lost the job and I hope you take this lesson to hear it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

with great admiration,

Your Sales Manager


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