Over 20 of the top 1% sales professionals that you’ve heard on the Sales Success Stories Podcast are either writing or have already submitted their stories for a collaborative book project we’re all working on together. A book like this that consists 100% of real stories from real sales professionals should have a great title, so we’re calling it Sales Success Stories!
More details about the project and the opportunity to pre-purchase, and even get thanked in the book itself, are available here: top1.fm/book
In between the regular interview episodes until the book is published in October you’ll find a sample story like this one. You can either listen to the episode and hear DeJuan read his story, or read the full text below.
Here’s one of the three stories that DeJuan has submitted for the book. Enjoy!
Let Me Know if Anything Changes
Losing a sale can be devastating, no matter the deal size.
I mean the time, effort and energy we expend to get to the finish line is real.
To get all the way there and not get the deal across impacts so many areas of our lives.
I believe there is a specific type of fatigue that stems from hearing ‘thanks for all your time, we’ve decided to go another route.’
Several years into my career, my final responses to this rebuff were almost always identical.
I’d often ask the normal “what made you decide to go that route?” and then finally I’d muster the strength to utter the dreaded 8-word cliché:
“No problem, let me know if anything changes.”
In 5+ years, amazingly nothing ever changed! Certainly not enough changed to prompt a prospect to whom I said that to call me.
Honestly, I never thought twice about whether my statement would ever even garner a future response.
I was on auto-response when the deal was lost, and being that disconnected from the prospect at the end, probably meant I was disconnected from the beginning.
It wasn’t until I started hearing talk about concepts like servant-leadership, service first and customer-centrism that I had an epiphany of sorts.
Well, not the kind of epiphany that leads to wholesale change, but I had enough interest to try some short-term experimentation with these concepts.
The first thing I tried ended up being a game-changer, and I can point to at least three consistent results that persist to this day.
Instead of the dismissive and uncaring “let me know if anything changes,” I shifted my focus to what I term the “continuity of service.”
I would make helping my prospect my primary goal in my sales meetings. I know many of you are thinking, “DUH!!! What other goals would you have?”
If I’m honest, I had a ton of goals in my meetings during that time. However, at least 90% were singular and self-serving. I wanted the prospect to know all the things my solution could do for them, how long we’d taken to develop these unique features, what other clients were saying about our solution, etc.
Even my discovery process was about me and us, rarely about them.
‘Continuity of service’ implied that service had a starting point, but no end. This was the thought that changed the tide.
Listen, I wish I could tell you I immediately went from 0-100, and I tripled my sales THAT year. It definitely didn’t happen that way, so here’s the real.
What changed was my mindset, and therefore my language. Mentally, I went into meetings with the question “what does service look like for this prospect?”
This question alone meant that I had to ask different questions, listen more completely (complete listening is something I’ll address later), and develop a creativity that up to this point I’d lacked.
Losing a deal took on an entirely different meaning to me, as I began to think of the loss as yet another opportunity. My prospect-facing statement of ‘let me know if anything changes,’ morphed into the internal question. “How can I bring value to this prospect from this point, until they either become a client or a source of clients in the future?”
“I’d love it if you’d use me as a resource.”
Exchanging one dismissive statement for a veiled call to action, I began to get traction.
Initially, I was deathly afraid that telling folks to use me as a resource would result in a time suck with no real return.
What if every prospect tried to use me for free information, free access to software or something of the sort? How could I manage requests coming in from every angle, while still trying to do my job?
Years later, I’ve not had such an occurrence and I’ve seen great results to boot.
Specificity has been key, however. I found that saying, “I’d love it if you’d use me as a resource” alone would leave the prospect without guidance on what that even means.
Once I started unpacking that for them, people would actually take me up on it, see the value in my service and solution, and several times boomerang to become clients.
Here’s a real and practical example:
After several meetings and a couple of demos, I met with the VP of Tax at a large corporation. I was hoping to get the contract signed that day. All the I’s had been dotted and t’s crossed, at least in my estimation.
When I get there, we exchange pleasantries and everything was going smoothly. In the midst of this, I state that based on our prior meetings, it seemed natural that we move forward unless there were other questions that had come up.
He looked at me and started, “Well…..” Immediately I thought “Houston, we have a problem.”
The VP began to explain to me his rationale for continuing with their current solution for another year. I let him know the reasons for my disagreement, reiterated to him the value that we’d uncovered during our times together, and ended with the unpacking I referred to earlier.
“I’d love it if you’d use me as a resource. Your team told me that comparative content between the 37 states you do business in is near-impossible to collect efficiently. Based on that, I want to serve you all. I’ll send this to the team also, but please let me know when a project requires such a comparative. I’m more than happy to create that chart in real time and send it to you all.
I know that you also periodically deliver time-specific reports to the CFO around developments in the foreign countries you all have interests in. Let me help you there as well. Prior to your next CFO roundtable, let me know the date-range you’re presenting on, and which jurisdictions. I’ll help supplement your research with a summary of all developments from those countries.
The VP looks at me and says, “wow, I really appreciate the offer.” I look him in the eyes and respond “no, I’m serious—no strings attached, I’d be excited to serve your organization in this way. If I don’t hear from you in a couple weeks, I’ll reach out to offer again. In addition, if I come across any content or events that I think would benefit you all, I’ll send it your way.”
Again, he responded with gratitude.
A week goes by, and I get an email from one of his tax managers that I’d never met with. “DeJuan, Stephen told us that you’d be willing to help us out from time to time. We’re actually just starting a project dealing with CTC Reporting, and would like to compare what we’re finding to what you guys have.” He enumerated the 11 countries in question along with the specific topics, and within 15 minutes, I’d had a comparative chart built and sent over.
Along with that, I sent some special reports and news articles that I knew would matter to them.
A few days later, I get a call from the VP asking me if I’d be willing to come back in and do a demo with their International team. Apparently, the detail of the content I’d sent them went beyond what they could find anywhere else, and they were interested in what it would look like to add our international coverage to their current platform.
Spoiler alert: I went in and demoed to the International team. The response was overwhelming and the VP decided that instead of spending for two platforms, he’d consolidate spend and simply replace their current solution with our full platform.
Service=Sales in this case.
It doesn’t always turn out this easily this quickly, to be sure. There have been times that I’ve needed to provide valuable content over the course of a year or more in order to acquire a new client.
The point is three-fold.
- Service should be the default setting for Sales Professionals.
- Consistency in service builds value that can’t be uncovered during discovery calls, nor articulated in a pitch.
- Commitment to service even after a “loss” is a powerful differentiator.
You may not be in an industry like the one I’m in, so this may look different for you.
Applying the three points above, however where could you implement this approach in your business?
Want more? DeJuan was the star of Episode 6: Bloomberg BNA’s DeJuan Brown – Creating Value Through Seeking to Serve