The 4 Failure Points

Certain outcomes are so critical to success in sales that we can consider them failure points. If you miss that outcome, whether you’re creating an opportunity or pursuing one, your sales conversation will stall and you may lose the deal altogether. The four most common failure points arise when your conversation doesn’t create enough value for the decision-makers, decision-shapers, and other stakeholders you are engaged with.

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Failure #1: Rejected Meeting Requests

One of the reasons salespeople complain about cold calls and other outreach tools designed to acquire a meeting is that they often encounter the first and most common failure point: having their meeting request rejected. This failure comes when you break the Trading Value Rule, forgetting that you must trade enough value in exchange for space on your contact’s schedule, to persuade them that they’ll benefit from spending time with you.

You can never project that you are a value creator and a potential partner by relying on gimmicks—including “can you give me twenty seconds,” “is now a good time,” and “is now a bad time”—or by asking questions that should be part of a future sales meeting. Nor can you present yourself as a consultative advisor by asking via email if your contact was eaten by an alligator; your client won’t find your "cute" approach worth their time.

Failure #2: The Wrong Kind of Certainty

If you've been here for a while, you know that I often write about how using a commoditized discovery call leads to lost deals. Discovery is a critical stage in the sales conversation, a gate you must pass through to move forward. What causes a lot of salespeople to wash out here is a failure to recognize the Certainty Sequence.

Your clients suffer from a form of dissonance, caused by being unable to make sense of their world and their disappointing results, so they often start with uncertainty. Traditional discovery focuses on “why us,” attempting to create certainty of positive outcomes (“buy our solution and you’ll be fine”) right away. But a far better approach is to create the certainty of negative outcomes should the client refuse to change at all.

When your client asks you to call them next week to schedule a follow-up meeting, pesos to pastries, you won’t see them anytime soon. No matter how much you promised them better results, you experienced this failure point because your first conversation wasn't valuable.

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Failure #3: Losing Conversational Control

While the modern sales process is often non-linear, there is still a set of conversations that you and your client need to have so you can move forward together. Each one of these conversations is a potential failure point, including your consultation on the best way to help the client improve their results, the conversation about ways to build consensus, an agreement on the right investment, and the opportunity to resolve the client's concerns. But the biggest threat of failure here is allowing your contacts to skip these conversations, making it more difficult for them to complete their buyer's journey, one that requires your thoughtful facilitation as you recognize what your client needs.

A large part of avoiding failure points comes down to your ability to help with your client's buyer's journey. In this case, the failure comes from not leading the client or not controlling the process for and with them. Your job is to prevent them from harming their future results by doing whatever is necessary to make the best decision, one they can realistically execute.

Failure #4: Losing the Contract

One of the foulest failure points is getting to the end of the conversation only to find that your client isn't willing to sign your contract. When they tell you that they "have to think about it," 'talk it over with their team," or "look at it later,” the real message is that you have failed to convince them of your value. They just try to let you down easy by being polite.

When your client decides not to move forward, it is because they don't believe that buying from you is their best option. They might believe someone else offers more, or they might not be confident enough in the outcome to pursue the changes required of them. The Certainty Sequence would suggest that your client isn't convinced that they will achieve the better results they need, regardless of what they do or don't do.

The Root of All Failures

The root of all these failure points is a lack of value creation. That includes the failure to create the appropriate value at the appropriate time, the value that matches your client's needs. Keep testing your approach by asking this question: “how can my prospective client make better decisions and improve their results as a result of our conversation?”

The ability to look directly at your results and to take full accountability for any failure points will eventually allow you to make the corrections you need, to ensure that your next sales conversation is both more valuable and more effective.

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Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
October 19, 2021
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