Be Gracious in Defeat

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
November 19, 2010

No one wins every sales opportunity (unless they are competing for too few opportunities). It is inevitable that sometime, even if you have done everything right, you still may lose. When you are fortunate enough to deserve to win, you need to be humble in victory, respecting your competitor and their effort.

When you lose, you must be gracious in defeat.

You Must Be Grateful for the Opportunity

Whether you lost fair and square to a salesperson that flat out beat you, or whether you lost a behind-the-scenes political battle for the hearts and minds of your dream clients, you were given the opportunity to compete. Even if you don’t believe you were given a fair chance, you must still be gracious enough to appreciate the opportunity that you were given.

Being unhappy, upset, out of sorts, or sour grapes isn’t the behavior of a confident professional. Complaining about the process after the fact does nothing to endear you to your dream client, and it doesn’t win friends or influence people.

Disappearing, saying nothing at all, or ignoring the dream client you were so actively and aggressively pursuing isn’t the mark of a professional either. You can be disappointed. But, you played. You developed the relationships. You took your shot. You lost.

Being gracious in defeat means handling these losses well, thanking all of your contacts within your dream client company for their time and their help, and maintaining your professionalism.

How you handle defeat says everything about who you are.

More still, how you handle your loss will be remembered.

Make No Mistake

Make no mistake about this: You must sell up until the very last minute, until you receive word that a contract has been signed and you are certain that ink is actually dry. You never say die, and you fire every weapon in your arsenal.

Ask for another opportunity to re-present. Ask for audience with those members of the buying committee that aren’t in your corner. Do all that you must. But when you have lost the opportunity, don’t sulk and walk away and don’t overreact and say—or do—something that you will later regret.

Make no mistake about this either: when it’s over, it’s over.

Except it’s never really over . . . unless you behave badly.

No One Loves a Sore Loser

Even if you are upset and unhappy, even if you believe that you should have won and that you did everything you were supposed to do, how you behave will determine whether or not you will have another chance to compete when your opportunity is eventually reborn.

At some point in the future, your dream client will become dissatisfied. Their circumstances will change. Their needs will change. How you believe will determine how you are thought of when that opportunity is reborn.

The end of the sales cycle when you lose is merely the beginning of the next round of your nurturing campaign. If your dream client was important to pursue all the way through to the end, they are still worth pursuing now.

Your gracious, appreciative, and professional behavior will be remembered. It will serve you by ensuring that the contacts you have made through the process still allow you to maintain contact, without which you will never know when your opportunity reappears.

Being a sore loser, being combative, or being ungrateful will get you nothing and nowhere.


    1. Look over the last year’s worth of lost opportunities. Have you sent a thank you letter to each of these dream clients? Have you thanked the contacts for their time and the access to their ideas—and their help, when it was given?
    1. How have you behaved since your loss? Have you nurtured the relationships with the same vigor as when you were deep in the pursuit of the opportunity?
  1. How will the way you competed and the way you handled losing be remembered? Will it be remembered as gracious, grateful, and professional? Will it leave an impression at all? Or will you, like so many other, disappear without a trace, giving evidence that winning wasn’t all that important to you, that you are dispassionate, and that your dream client may have been correct in their decision to choose a competitor?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4729.

Read my interview with Tom Peters (Part One and Part Two).

Read my featured guest post on the Top Ten Sales blogs.

Read my monthly post on Sales Bloggers Union.

Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 19, 2010
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
salescall-planner-ebook-v3-1-cover (1)