Overworked businessman with head in hands sitting at desk in office

Today’s post is from our newsletter distributed yesterday.  In the coming days, I will elaborate on each of the “ten ways to lose” here on the blog.  I look forward to your comments!

I have several clients whose products and services are demonstrably better than those of their competitors, based on independently verifiable measures.

Nevertheless, these clients do not always win their deals—in fact, when we first meet them, they are typically losing out on many deals where they offered a superior solution.

Why is that? How can that happen? If you base your sales strategy on “we’re the best,” you’re bound to lose. Here are ten reasons that I’ve observed in working with clients:
  1. Your service is too specialized. It’s great to have a niche. But if you are the only one in that niche, there’s a serious danger that you don’t really have a market. The companies you’re trying to sell to are not only unfamiliar with you, perhaps they’ve never heard of or thought about the service you provide. So you have to sell them twice: once, that they should consider buying the service you provide, and second, that they should buy it now, from you.
  2. Your story is too complex. If you have a very comprehensive service or if your service is highly customized, it may appear too complicated in the mind of your buyers. They will seek simpler solutions (yes, these may be inferior) to avoid having to deal with the complexity you are bringing to the table.
  3. Your rules of engagement are too rigid. Today’s customers are being cultivated to get whatever they want. They want this AND that AND that AND this as well, and they want it on their terms. If you have strict rules about how, when, and under what circumstances you will deliver, you may leave business on the table unless you reconsider.
  4. Your message is stale. Maybe you are the leading authority in your market space. Over time, it’s possible that your message to market has become wordy, pompous, even old-fashioned. You run the risk that an inferior upstart will capture a new tagline or a new promise and appeal to your market.
  5. Your message is “overkill.” When you are the best, and you know it, there’s a great temptation to document all the ways and all the reasons for which you are the best. That kind of message can backfire because it’s too hard to follow, too hard to understand, and especially too hard for your buyers to explain to their bosses.
  6. You are out of touch with your changing market. How long have you been “the best?” What are your competitors doing? What are you missing? When you stop thinking like an underdog, you can miss minor and even major signs that the marketplace needs and priorities are changing.
  7. You are internally focused. Some companies that are the best in their field are completely focused on R&D to develop new products and services. You have the resources and the market share to sustain that approach, but you may be missing out on your message to the market.
  8. Your company is too modest. This one is sooooo hard for me to understand. But yes, we have clients who think that promoting the background and talents of their team, or documenting a few of their wins, or identifying key brands in their customer portfolio is inappropriate bragging.
  9. Your team is complacent. You’ve been so good for so long that your team expects that it will always be business as usual. You’re not scanning the market, not tracking old and new competitors, not learning every day about what’s going on in the lives of your customers.
  10. You underestimate the buyers’ fears. You are totally focused on the great advantages that you provide with your products and services. You consistently make a rational case for the sale of your products, unaware that 99% of buying decisions are made on irrational, emotional bases, led primarily by fear of making a bad decision.
Do you sometimes lose even when you are clearly the best?  We’d love to hear about your experiences and how you rebounded!
  • Bobby Burnett says:

    I love Barbara’s book ‘Whale Hunting’, and had the pleasure to meet her at a Whale Hunting seminar about a year ago. She is a true visionary. Very relevant & insightful information and strategy.

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