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  • Writer's pictureWillem Lambrechts

NLP and Sales Part II : success has many fathers, failure is an orphan

A couple of years ago, I was involved, as a, or rather, as the sales rep in a multi-million Euro deal between a major bank and a young, very promising,  technology company. Obviously, as the sales rep I was just a member of the sales team that consisted of specialist sales, product manager, engineers and senior managers, each playing his or her role in the process. After a sales cycle of more than a year that included prospection, presentations, workshops, successful POC's , etc....the file got on the table of the Executive Board. Although all indicators were green, we finally got a big red light. The bank would not enter into a contract with the tech company.

One could call it the archetype of failure in sales. Big question popping up : What did we do wrong? What was it that ultimately turned an almost certain deal into a big loss? Of course, throughout the whole process we experienced a roller-coaster of perceived successes and failures. Very much depended on who we were talking to and how big we esteemed the influence of our counter-parties in the decision process.

I am convinced that the answer to the question is to be found in the way we translate any feedback we received into success or failure. To put it very simple and straight forward : a yes was cataloged under success, a no under failure. We did not welcome the yes and the no as equally valuable feedback. In other words, we embraced the yes and argued or (even worse) ignored the no. We simply had hard to believe that all stakeholders in the decision, the pro's and then cons, only had the best in mind for their business. And ironically enough, the cons provided the most precious feedback. That became obvious and clear in a personal meeting with a key member of the Board. The ultimate no was the ultimate ... feedback!

The second basic assumption of NLP is : "Failure does not exist, there only is feedback" .

In his strongly recommended book "Never Split the Difference", author Chris Voss rightfully states : every negotiation starts with "no" .

Does this imply that every "no" means the start of a negotiation? Obviously not! Is it always a valuable piece of feedback? Absolutely! The matter is to have the "no" put in frame, context and perspective. Then it suddenly becomes a precious lesson learned, with possibly more value than the "failed" deal.

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