Turning rejection into a future close is possible, but tough.
Here’s a common scenario: Your company/firm identified a prospect through business development and marketing tactics, you then completed the due diligence on their business and industry, understood their possible needs, and presented an outstanding proposal — only to be rejected in the end. Losing never feels good but don’t count yourself out just yet. If you stay in touch with those “no’s” on a regular basis, you might ultimately win 10 percent of their business in the future, which can go directly to your ROI.
Since you’ve already invested time and dollars and were close to getting a deal, your client/customer acquisition effort could pay off in the future. And if you think about it, the prospect has done the same thing — putting in their investment of time, caring enough to meet with you, exchanging ideas, discussing their needs and your offerings, and perhaps actually reviewing your proposal. They know you. It’s now up to you to build that relationship. Start by asking what stood out in your proposal, what did your competition offer, and what were the strengths and what were the areas of improvement you need to work on.
This is the time for a post-mortem, a really tough, introspective look at the marketing and business development strategies, sales techniques and closing tactics your team uses. If you made it far enough to be invited to get your firm/company considered, what targets were missed? Was your brand strong enough to be “left in the room” after your presentation? Did your “takeaway” message resonate with the prospects? During the prospect discussion, do you believe you showed enough of an understanding of their needs? Were your solutions clearly accepted by the buyers? Review the discussion points, questions, pauses and interruptions. Were you listening? Had you prepared and practiced before the meeting?
Find out which company/firm won the business, then find out everything you can about them. Try to identify from the client/company’s perspective what your proposal was lacking that they believed the competitors might deliver?
Also remember that if you made it to the final round, they know and (hopefully) appreciate you. Stay in touch and look for that 10 percent conversion of new business in the future.
What if a particular prospect continues to tell you “no” in the future, even if you’ve stayed in touch? It’s time to consider Peter Drucker’s Creative Abandonment theory. His approach means that when you’ve been making efforts that aren’t working, and your costs and time are no longer worthwhile, make a decision. If it’s not producing and looks as though it won’t, or you can’t afford to put in more time and energy to fix it, abandon it. Put it on your lowest category of lead follow ups, but not in a discard file. Use that same money and time elsewhere. Make this type of evaluation a part of regularly scheduled management reviews. Abandoning prospects is never an easy decision to make, but is sometimes critical to do.
With negatives always go positives. Employ multiple tactics to overcome the “no’s” and, for that matter, keep the “yes’s” listening. Keep those communication lines open by sending relevant articles. Invite them to an event. Update them on legal and tax changes that might impact their business and industry. Become active in industry associations. And, most importantly, actively build and support relationships with them and their team members. If you’re writing a new article or drafting a speech, send it to them for comment. Whether they respond or not, you’ve let them know that you value their experience. And if you do get a well-reasoned reply, ask if you can include it as a quote in the content.
You can keep yourself and your team in the “closing zone.” Today’s marketplace is exceedingly challenging, but there’s a reason that some continue to slug away for decades until that iron wall of resistance totters. The intellectual and professional rewards are extraordinary. And, there’s the sweet satisfaction of knowing that you’ve succeeded where many other worthy aspirants have failed.
Stay in touch and you stand an excellent chance of winning that contract in the future.
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Dr. Allan Colman is a business development executive, speaker and author. As CEO of the Closers Group, a business development advisory, Colman has spent more than three decades helping law firms and professional service firms generate more revenue. In addition to his thriving consulting firm, Colman co-founded and served as Senior VP of DecisionQuest, and previously served as president of the MCO Company and Litigation Sciences, as well as the leader of a 5,600-employee public agency. He is also Professor of Marketing at California State University Dominguez Hills. His new book is The Revenue Accelerator: The 21 Boosters to Launch Your Startup (Made for Success and Blackstone Publishing, Aug. 23, 2022). Learn more at closersgroup.com.