One of the toughest coaching calls we get is someone losing an existing account, or of losing a deal where they were in the race and thought it was a sure win.
Many times the Win / Loss occurred well before the decision. Let’s call it the “Big Deal Gone Bad”.
Mike the owner is worried. Without any warning, his sales team has just lost two big pieces of business that they had enjoyed for many years. To add insult to injury he also just found out that two other big deals they had been working on for months are going to a competitor. All of this comes as a great surprise and he knows these events will create an interruption of cash flow, make quota look impossible and set in motion a whirlwind of damage control, finger pointing and endless post mortems.
By the time business owners discover these facts too often the account is well past the point of no return. They have worked their way through the Defection Process right in front of us without our even seeing it. Management’s response is to give in to major demands, blame the sales team or write them off as a “bad customer”. Mike just isn’t willing to admit that he and his team ignored all the signals and let complacency dictate their approach.
There is a definite progression in the Defection / Loss Model:
Step 1: An Event or Catalyst that starts the defection model in motion
- Lack of calling high enough in the client or prospect’s organization
- Lack of response to a problem or complaint
- Not knowing competition is knocking at their door
- Change in Management or Decision team
- Indifference of the sales or customer service rep
- Poorly planned sales meetings
Step 2: Client Introspection:
- Is this just the tip of the iceberg?
- Why do they fight us on everything?
- Maybe I should be looking at other options
- Their agenda always seems more important than ours
- I deserve more respect than this
Step 3: Due Diligence: It’s time for them to do their homework so they:
- Request copies of contracts and ask about renewal dates
- Start making unreasonable complaints (looking for a reason to quit)
- Stall on renewal or add on services
- Don’t return phone calls
- Make no requests for service or follow up
- Seriously consider the alternatives and the competition
Step 4: Deciding to defect:
- Keep it on the “QT”
- Plan their exit strategy
- Prepare to SPIN their reasons for leaving
- Build their case against you
- Make the Announcement
- Make it Official
If you are alert and take corrective action in step one and two, your chances of saving the account are impressive. Once they move to step three your success rate drops considerably and at step four it will take a miracle.
Related: Why You Need to Be a Sales Lifeguard
Take a look at your accounts; take their pulse and temperature to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Where are they on the 1 to 10 scale? Have you asked “What do we have to do to lose you?” Have you put the “In the Ways” in the way? Have you talked to the account about your “biggest fear”?
Don’t take anything for granted. For your top existing accounts or deals that are on the table ask yourself if you really truly know what they are thinking and what the real truth looks like?
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