The Fabric of Opportunity in B2B Selling

Stu Perlmeter

Satisfying our Need for Certainty

As companies wrestle with the pain and disappointment of losing a sale to a competitor, especially when confidence was high that they would win, some interesting psychology comes into play. Some of this psychology is helpful, some decidedly not – but it’s all very human.

Human nature drives a strong need for explanation or reasons, and people who chose sales roles as a career are usually more competitive than most – they need an answer.  And they will generally look for one that is quick and definitive, focused only on that one loss, rather than answers that are objective and based on deep prospect insights across losses.   That can lead to ineffective and even misguided sales strategies.

There is some randomness to sales opportunities– at least some spurious, surprising events that change the outcome, without a chance to respond in a way that tilts the decision in the company’s favor. But there are also controllable decision drivers that need to be examined and understood.

Does that mean that the news of a new business loss should be met with just a shoulder-shrug? Hardly. In that stressful moment in which the loss becomes apparent, how you handle that disappointment truly matters and what you learn from the loss matters even more.

Learning from Losses and (and Wins)

So, what do you do? How do you think about it? What is the best course of action? All important questions because the answers shape the future in important ways. It is critical to understand in a deep and methodical way what drove the purchase decision in a specific deal.  But just as important, rather than thinking of enterprise sales opportunities as a series of one-offs; independent events that do not impact one another, it’s helpful to think of them as a fabric of interwoven events that do connect.

As experts in doing sales post-mortems, known as Win-Loss Analysis, we look very carefully not only at each individual sales opportunity but at the themes and trends across multiple opportunities. Themes are like patterns that cut across opportunities and only when looked at together make any sense. Trends require even more data points, but are absolutely necessary to point to focused, intentional improvement efforts, fed by the kind of learning that comes from each pursuit.

Moving Forward

To be clear, we don’t advocate shoulder shrugs in response to sales losses. We advocate for deep, focused introspection that looks across opportunities. Only when many losses – and wins – are examined as a group, do the patterns appear. These learnings can be quite powerful when examined in this way. The fabric is already woven. It is your task to recognize it and take the necessary action.

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About the Author

Stu Perlmeter

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Stu brings 30 years of marketing and research experience to 1st Resource, which he founded in 1996. Stu’s primary expertise is in understanding the market insights that tie to success formulas for companies seeking to grow their business in strategic ways.