Are you a good loser?

The old saying goes, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll still show you a loser.”

Does it hurt to lose? Yes. If it feels good to win then it feels bad to lose. In fact, if you don’t feel bad about losing a deal, I question how much you cared to begin with. That old idea that “it’s the customer’s loss, not yours” is baloney. Losing hurts.

Can you be a good loser, though? I was talking to an old friend about what it means to be a good loser. I think you can be a gracious loser. My friend, Lamar, has an interesting perspective on this and he has been around business for a long time. When the salesman in him loses, he feels he failed the customer.

This is a salesman who has always believed in what he sold. When he failed to convince the customer to buy his product over the competition, he would take responsibility for the loss and blame himself for letting the customer down. It may have sounded something like this: “I’m sorry, Mr. Buyer that I let you down. I obviously didn’t provide you with enough information to persuade you that my equipment is better. It’s my fault that you chose the other product. What really bothers me is the money you could have saved by using my product. I’m sorry.”

Now, this is a guy who hates to lose. I like it! That’s passion – passion for the product and passion for the sale. Thanks, Lamar, for sharing your thoughts.

Chase the right business

Salespeople spend less than one-third of their time face-to-face with customers. In a forty-hour week, this means that salespeople only spend twelve hours selling in front of the customer. Twelve hours per week to produce enough revenue to make sales quota. Whew! With so little margin for error, salespeople cannot afford to squander any time on low-priority prospects or customers. What is low priority?

Let’s ask that question differently. What is high priority? Certainly, customers that realize your company is not a non-profit organization rank higher on the sales food chain. But, selling price alone is not the sole determinant of high-priority customers or prospects. Accounts that are high cost-to-serve, high aggravation factor, high maintenance (accounts that sap your resources) deserve closer scrutiny. The margins may appear substantial, but you must consider the other costs associated with servicing the account.

Talk to your sales manager and ask these questions:

What is fundamentally good business for our company? Why?

What business do we want to pursue? Why?

What business do we want to avoid? Why?

Volume business is seductive and buyers know this. It’s an incredible stroke to one’s sales ego to claim that you landed the biggest fish in the pond. And if you are a distributor, your suppliers love the volume because it helps them carry their burden. What about all the other fish in the pond?

At the end of the day, it is neither volume nor gross margin that determines your viability. It is net profit, for that is what you take to the bank. To maximize fully your face time with customers, you must first ask “What customers should I invest time with?”

Tom Reilly is the author of Value-Added Selling and Customer Service is more than a department: It’s an attitude! Reilly is also a professional speaker and you may reach him through his Web site:

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