Losing a deal is never a pleasant experience. Depending on how large the potential contract was, you may have spent weeks or months working with the other firm and trying to convince them to work with you. When all of that work goes down the drain and you’re left with nothing, it can be a disheartening feeling. Fortunately, just because the client said no to you, doesn’t mean all is lost. There are several action steps that you can take to ensure that your brand isn’t hurt. These steps are straightforward, and they may even lead to you getting sales from this same client down the road.
Look Out for the Loophole
Even though in most cases a no is final, it doesn’t always have to be. Sometimes a company may reject your proposal, but still be willing to consider you for the contract if you make changes to your product or presentation. With this in mind, take every initial no with a grain of salt. Wait a minute, or a day, before responding to the client’s refusal. Instead of feeling beaten down, come back to them with an updated proposal. Many times this won’t work, but even if you only get one out of five clients to change their mind, that can still represent a significant amount of business. Especially since getting back to a client with an updated proposal will cost you almost nothing. It’s all upside with no downside. Finally, if the no really is solid, consider using the steps below as you see fit
Position Yourself as a Backup Vendor
Large companies and firms like to have a supply chain with some depth. Even though they’ve just chosen your competitor to be their primary supplier, that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t consider you as a backup vendor. In fact, in most cases a company will be happy to give you the position, especially if it was a close call between you and your competitor. Being a company’s backup firm is an easy way to keep your name relevant and get more business down the line. This is a great move to make because it won’t cost you a dime, and it can potentially lead to lucrative contracts later on.
Learn from Your Failure
After a week or two, once some of the emotions have cooled, get into contact with the purchasing agent at the firm and find out what exactly you did wrong, and why they chose a competitor over you. This can give you some actionable insight into what exactly went wrong, and what changes you can make in the future to remedy the problem. When talking to to a company representative though, it’s important to not criticize the other vendor that they selected over you. To do so would be to effectively criticize their intelligence and decision making skills. No good will come of that and the whole topic should be avoided.
Continue to Build the Relationship
Even though you’ve just lost the deal to a competing firm, you may be surprised by just how willing a company is to continue a relationship with you. After all, unless there was a large personality clash during the proposal process, them choosing another company over you is nothing personal. The competitor simply offered more, or was in a better situation to supply them with what they needed. In your situation then it pays to keep in contact with the firm. Position yourself as a backup supplier, and maintain a professional relationship. Not only can this help you to make future sales to this company, it may very well also help you to sell to other companies in the same industry. The next tip is an easy way to make that happen.
Ask for Referrals
It might seem counter intuitive to ask for referrals from a company who has just rejected your proposal. However, more often than not this will work. If you’ve spent weeks or months dealing with this firm, they’ll have a very clear idea of how your business works and exactly what you’re capable of supplying. With that knowledge it will be easy for them to write you a referral letter and they’ll probably be happy to do it. This is a step that many businesses would never think of, and yet it can be an easy and extremely cost effective way to gain new clients.
Reach Out to Everyone at the Company
The structures at companies are constantly changing, and reorganization is a way of life. That’s why it’s important to work on building a good working relationship with a variety of people at the company who has just turned you down. It makes sense to focus most on the person who is responsible for purchasing now. However, it’s important to also remember that they may not always be the person in charge. It makes sense to build a relationship with a group of people in the organization, even if they don’t have any power at the moment. Down the line you might find out that these people are the decision makers and because of your relationship with them, your company is the go-to choice for new deals.
Focus on Both the Good and the Bad
After losing a big deal it’s tempting to focus on everything that went wrong and point fingers at those people who didn’t live up to expectations. However, it’s important to also look at what you did right. If at the end it came down to your company and your competitor, you should feel good that you were able to make it to the very last round. Reinforce all of the correct decisions that you made, and don’t focus on the failure any more than you have to. Ultimately beating yourself up over a lost deal can do more harm to your brand than a competitor can. If you let the deal cause a loss of momentum and confidence, you might as well give up on trying to win the next big contract. Stay positive, change what you did wrong, but also be sure to congratulate everyone for the good effort that they made.