Let me set up a scenario for you that might sound familiar: You’ve worked hard to secure business with a prospect whose business you really wanted. Although there are a handful of competitors, it really should come down to you and one other strong competitor. Your prospect finally decides whom to give their business to, and it isn’t you, or your strong competitor. Your prospect tells you they have chosen a vendor whose reputation is spotty at best, and you know that this vendor isn’t qualified to conduct the business they’ve just won. Now what?
The first instinct is to tell the prospect that they’ve made a mistake. Someone has to do it, and you might as well be the one. At least you’ll be in good favor with them, or when they become disillusioned with their current vendor, they can turn to you. That might be instinctive, but it’s a dangerous move. It’s not your place to warn the prospect of another vendor, and you don’t want to be perceived as taking cheap shots at the competition.
The next instinct is to dig in, and keep fighting. There are boatloads of old sales books and old school managers that would be proud of you. Again, that might be instinctive, but it’s another dangerous move. The fact that you have a prospect’s ear, after you have lost the business, is a classy move by the prospect. Many run and hide for fear they will have to deal with a stubborn and whining salesperson who can’t take “no” for an answer.
So, if you’re not going to tell the prospect they’ve made a mistake, and you’re not going to try to keep selling, what do you do? I think your response should sound something like this…
“Of course I’m disappointed, but I certainly respect your decision. I appreciate the opportunity that you gave me to earn your business. With your permission, I’d like to check back in with you in about three months, (or a period of time that makes sense in your particular line of work,) to simply hear how you are managing. Would that be okay with you?”
You are not taking a big risk with that question, and the rewards could be substantial. Most prospects will respect a salesperson who is dignified and has the ability to lose gracefully. But you’ve also done something that’s very important. You’ve cleared the way to move through any screens, and take a proactive approach to following-up with this prospect. If the vendor they chose is as mismatched as you predict, your timing will be appreciated. If the vendor they chose is doing the job, your disciplined follow-up will also be appreciated, and continue to lay a foundation for future work. Most importantly, you won’t be the salesperson who attacks the competition, or the whining salesperson who can’t take “no” for an answer. Instead, you’ll be the vendor who handled things in a classy manner – just like your client.