The Upside of Negative
For the fifth consecutive time, you lose a bid. Same customer. Same result. “I’ll keep trying,” you tell the client over the phone as she delivers the bad news. “I appreciate the chance to provide pricing. Please let me know if there’s anything else coming up.” That’s it? Opportunity missed. You are almost certain to see this outcome repeated, all because of something you didn’t do. Something you didn’t say.
You go online to confirm what someone said was written about your company. Yup, there it is. A one-star review and a writeup of a disastrous customer experience. Words like, “Horrible” and “Incompetent” make you cringe. The author’s name is familiar to you, as are the details of the story being told. She has every right to be disappointed and angry. That job was a stinker from start to finish.
“Oh well,” you think. “We have enough five-star ratings to offset that one.” Nothing further? Too bad. Something good could have come of this, but you decided to check your personal Facebook page instead.
Later that day you are sitting with your biggest customer, listening to rave reviews about your work. At last! Some good news! It’s been another year of great success and you let the kind words wash over you. They warm your soul and cleanse you of the two bad experiences from earlier. The client praises you for your responsiveness and quality. You are a pleasure to work with and you smile in response. “I look forward to the continuation of this winning streak,” you say, then thank everyone in the room and leave. All good, right? Well, not exactly. Like a video game, there is another level to reach. Alas, you’ll never see it because you left too soon.
While we seek out and thrive on positive comments and information, we miss the opportunity that the negative presents. You might not like what you hear, but if it can help you to become successful, you need to hear it. Unless you truly enjoy losing bids and reading lousy reviews, steps should be taken to run towards the bad stuff and not away from it. What if:
- … you asked a customer for feedback after you lose a bid? Why did they choose the winning vendor? What more could you have done? It shouldn’t take you five consecutive losing bids to notice a trend.
When asked if he was upset about failing to invent a lightbulb 1,000 times, Thomas Edison is famously misquoted as having replied, “I haven’t failed 1,000 times. I haven’t failed it all. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a lightbulb.” Just after that a lightbulb went off over his head and he invented the lightbulb. Or something like that.
Positive from a Negative
Changing the outcome of a lost bid might be as simple as sharpening your pencil. But it is equally likely that something else is in the way. Seeking out and benefiting from the negative could earn you a new customer.
- … you responded to that negative review with kindness, appreciation and empathy? Everyone makes mistakes. What does it say about you as a salesperson when you face bad news head on and offer up a solution? What does it say about your company?
Even - or perhaps especially - when the comments are particularly vile and angry, a calm and productive response can go a long way towards not only neutralizing the bad review, but demonstrating your professionalism and impressing anyone reading the exchange.
- … you used an annual account review to not only hear what you are doing right, but what you are doing wrong? There is always room for improvement and unless you seek out the negative and constantly work to earn the customer’s business, there will be room for a competitor to exploit and thus replace you as the incumbent printer.
Sales objections are another form of negative information that require your attention. Wikipedia brilliantly defines an objection as, “A request for more information.” Seen in that light, an opportunity arises. Seen as a stiff-arm, they can shut you down entirely.
“Your price is too high.” “We already have a vendor.” Run away from these statements and the quest is over. Run towards them with more information and you accept the challenge that comes with being a salesperson.
Don’t Sell on Price
Of course your price is too high. If price is your lead sled dog, expect constant failure. Solve the problem and earn the order. The problem is not that they are spending too much on their print. The problem is something else. Solve that and you will have earned a profitable order in the process and a loyal customer.
Of course they already have a vendor. Is it your expectation that they will rejoice when a print salesperson walks in the door? What is different about you? What can you do for them that’s not already being done? Expect the negative. Prepare for it. For as sure as McDonald’s sells hamburgers, it’s coming your way.
Interestingly, nearly every successful salesperson will say some version of, “Getting here was a lot harder than I thought. In fact, had I known how difficult it was going to be, I might not have tried.” Some even add, “And while I had encouragement along the way, I was especially motivated because someone told me I’d never make it.”
An Inner Drive to Succeed
Perhaps you, too, have been told, “You can’t” or “You won’t” or the ultimate, “In fact, you’ll never ...” These words are punishing blows to the ego. They can deflate the soul or they can ignite the fire. It’s your choice.
Don Miguel Ruiz, author of “The Four Agreements,” would tell you not to take these words personally. To do so drinks their poison. Instead, use them to fuel your success. However, he would also tell you to hear the compliments - the positive - but not take them personally either.
Rejection can become a building block to your success. Imagine two framed pieces of paper in your office. On the wall hangs both the Salesperson of the Year award you received and a rejection letter from a company that is now your biggest competitor. The former makes you proud. The latter stirs a negative emotion, something that you tap into when self-doubt creeps in.
It’s the chip on Tom Brady’s shoulder - the fact that he was passed over his entire career and remembering that he was drafted 199th in the sixth round - that drives the G.O.A.T. Thirty-one NFL teams ignored him, a fact that haunts both parties. For a time, Google even answered the question, “Who owns the Jets?” with, “Tom Brady.” Ouch.
Where is your upside of negative? How can you use the bad for good? Loss, disappointment and defeat. These experiences can be the reason for your failure or your success. Use them to explain or use them to motivate. It’s your call.