The Science Behind Losing Deals With The Right Solution But Wrong Sales Presentation

I'll be the first to admit it: I've lost sales that were an absolute slam dunk.

I unequivocally had the best customer solution on the market, and my price, although 15% higher than the competition, was made up for in quality.

Sure, at the time, the company I represented wasn't the market leader - but they were number two. Surely that was sufficient?

How wrong I was.

Not only did we lose, but I’d put a bet down that we didn't even get shortlisted.

At the time, it was a low-point in my career, but in fact, overall, it arose from the ashes as a blessing in disguise - because it’s something I have used to stop others from doing the same.

Humans make decisions in two different ways: systematically and heuristically.

Systematically refers to decision cycles whereby the practicalities are considered: pro’s, cons, features, benefits, advantages and implications. It’s the decision-making process that most people in sales assume their customer uses, because it’s the most pragmatic.

Heuristic decision-making refers to decision cycles whereby seemingly irrelevant cues formulate a final decision. Take, for example, your thought process when picking a restaurant during a walk. Is it the sign out the front, the number of diners, or the name? In any case, there’s no bearing on the quality of the food.

As salespeople, we are conditioned to think that our product is the most important thing our customer is thinking about right now - but rarely is this the case.

The quicker we acknowledge this, the better.

In my case, the reality was that my prospect’s decision-making process was highly superficial
(and heuristic).

He went for the the nominally cheaper option with the bigger brand name, because he saw the bigger brand having the better price, and therefore the best solution. This decision would have been made within a few minutes, in the midst of back-to-back meetings during a 12-hour day.

Whilst I felt I had articulated the features, benefits and advantage of my solution well, the reality was that my prospect didn't have the capability to understand them fully, or, he may not have even cared.

In hindsight, I should have understood his heuristic mindset by focusing more on the superficial elements of my presentation: better graphics, more relevant case studies, our market share, high-level advantages (as opposed to features and benefits) and the fact that whilst locally we were number two, regionally we were the largest.

Why? Because these elements can be digested quickly.

Alternatively, I could have taken steps to get him to approach his decision systematically. In this case, I should have made clear the implications of making the wrong decision as well as what similar others in his space were doing.  I could have have articulated how profound this decision was - But I didn't give him a reason to care, and so he didn't.

Years after I left this company, I discovered that the account had been won, after it was deemed the product they purchased was not fit for purpose.  

Undeniable proof that I failed to understand the difference between systematic and heuristic decision making.