A few nights ago I was having a beer
after work with a few friends and colleagues. I was in a relatively good mood
and so someone asked why. I explained that a prospective client that I’d been
dealing with for several months made a decision. They chose to hire another
firm and not mine. I couldn’t have been happier with their decision.
I think my friend stopped breathing for
a moment as he looked at me as if I had three heads. “Why in the world are you happy
that they turned you down”, he asked. My response quite simply was because
sometimes with a loss you actually come out with a win. Here’s what I shared
This prospective client initially seemed
perfect, maybe too perfect. They were an ideal size for my firm both in revenue
and market share. They seemed open to new ideas, especially as we shared recent
experiences and successes with other clients. The director of marketing had
been there about three years and seemed to have a very good grasp on their needs
and where they currently sit within their respective industry. Pleasantries
were exchanged and plans for continuing conversations were laid.
Well, over the course of the next eight
weeks we met her manager, the vice president of sales and marketing. He was not
at all pleasant. He did not like the idea of “outsiders” coming in and “telling
him what to do with his website and web marketing”, and he did not show very
much respect for the woman that was his director of marketing. I was surprised
that she actually sat through meetings and took his verbal abuse. Then came the
director of information technology. He crawled right out of a time warp. It is
as if 1996 to 2014 did not happen. His ideas were old and antiquated. He was
gruff and somewhat abusive too. It’s not often I say this, but in terms of
technology and business, he had no grasp on reality.
Yet, at every turn where I wanted to run
the other way, the director of marketing kept asking me back and asking for my
help. Now, knowing there were many red flags, I addressed my concerns with her
and took these concerns into consideration when estimating the cost of their
project. Ultimately, I priced my company right out of consideration. And, as
expected, her vice president of marketing called me directly to voice his
displeasure in my proposal and he was vulgar on the telephone. Two days later I
received the email stating this prospective client went with a different
After I explained this situation to my
friend, he bought me another beer, thanked me for sharing my story, and then
asked if I would come in and meet with his team. He is rather high up in
management within his organization, more from an operations standpoint than
sales, but believes his company all too often enters bad relationships in spite
of the warning signs.
As with any relationship, it may take a
little time for someone to show their true colors. Sales relationships are no
different. Be careful when the warning signs point to you running far away.
Follow your gut feeling. When you lose a deal, be careful to chalk it up to a
loss, because in reality it may be a great win.