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Sales Strategy
Things Change - 4 Steps to Winning Back a Sale
Dec 12, 2009 | Jim Domanski lock

What do you do when you lose a sale?

If you are like the vast majority of sales reps, you simply move on. End of story. And there's nothing wrong with that. But suppose there was a way you could win back one or two of those sales.

This article looks at how you can possibly win back some of the sales you have lost. At the very least, it will show you how to position yourself for the next sale down the road. We'll look at what you can send and what you can say to give yourself an edge in the win back department.

Things Change

Never, ever forget this basic premise: in business, things change.

This is not so much a startling epiphany as it is a forgotten truism. The fact of the matter is that businesses morph and change every week, every month, every quarter and every year. We sometimes forget that and consequently, we give up on sales opportunities simply because we lost a particular sale.

Here are just some of the things that can change:

- your contact changes jobs or position

- the company changes focus or direction or philosophy

- the market changes

- people change

- the product or service changes

- the purchaser suddenly changes

- laws, regulations and requirements change

- needs change

- budgets change

- wants change

- competition changes

- fortunes change

- circumstances change

The real point here is that at any given time, your prospect can experience change and if you are not tuned into this possibility, you can and will miss opportunities. And the way to stay tuned in is to have a "win back process."

The 4-Step Win Back Process

Okay, here are a few scenarios. Let's say you call a prospect about a budgeting software proposal you sent; or maybe you are calling to set up an appointment because an expiry date was around the corner; or suppose you want to close a prospect regarding an on- line training program; or perhaps you are a financial adviser calling to promote a new mutual fund. Whatever the case maybe: you call and you hear, "We've gone with a competitor."

At this point you could sit on your hands, weep, and whine and do nothing. Not a great option. On the more positive side, you could move on to the next prospect on your list and hunker on. That's a better alternative. Or, depending on the nature and size of the prospect, you could implement a 4-Step Win Back Process

Step #1: The Thank You Card

Immediately after hearing that you have lost a sale take about a minute or so and hand write a small thank you card.

Think about this for a moment. Who sends a thank you card AFTER they have lost a sale? In this one small gesture, you distinguish yourself as someone gracious and 'noble.' It cannot help but frame you a positive light, if not for this sale then the next one.

Make your message simple; something like: "Richard, thank you taking the time to speak with me today. Even though we were not chosen for this project, I appreciate getting to know you. Kind regards..."

Hand write the message. Insert your card. Hand write the envelop. Send it within two days.

Step #2: The Value Added Article

Your next step is to e-mail or fax a value added article to your prospect. Always try to switch up your mediums. Use a combination of direct mail, e-mail and fax. It catches the eye of your client.

Depending on the situation, you might do this within a week or it might be within a month. For example, suppose a prospect had an expiry date on their insurance or waste disposal pick up. He has made the decision to stay with the incumbent but the expiry date is not for another couple of months. Send the article about 3 week later but well before the date.

Your article should have absolutely nothing to do with your company. It should have something to do with the prospect or with his market or with his hobby or interest (if you are aware of this). Having articles on hand for this type of event means you have to scour industry newsletters and magazine; books, the internet... anywhere. Get cracking right now; start building a library of resources articles. Collect them. Save them. Use them.

Attach a small Post-It note on it. It should read, "Richard, I thought of you when I read this article. Enjoy..." Wow! Talk about gracious even in 'defeat.' Now that's just plain classy and it's bound to register somewhere in your prospect's mind.

Step #3: The "Things Change Letter"

In this step, you change your tack a bit. You send a letter on your company letterhead. Your objective in the first two steps was to position yourself as a top notch rep. You want to continue that positioning here but with the added dimension of giving your company some air time.

Here's a sample letter. Use it as a template. Adapt it if necessary.

Things Change

'Dear Richard,

Again, I want to say thank you for considering us with your recent purchase of (budgeting software). I know you have decided to remain with your current vendor and I respect that

But I also know one more thing:

Things change

Circumstances change. Markets change. People change. Products change. And vendors change.

And I wanted you to know that if things do happen change that we are here should you need more information, a proposal, an opinion or a quote.

Kind regards,

I guarantee you that your average prospect does NOT get a letter like that. Notice I have a headline. It should be 16 pt in size and bold. It catches the eye. It sets the tone. As well, I have broken just about every grammar rule in the book. I did that on purpose. It's the way people talk. It refreshing and it clear. It sets you apart.

Step #4: The Things Change Call

You could leave it at that. You could send the letter and see what happens. But if you add one more phone call to the mix you can possibly achieve the win back. Within a week of anticipated receipt of the Things Change letter, call your prospect. Do NOT wait longer than a week. Timing is critical.

Here is a call guide or script to get you started:

"Richard? This is _______ calling from ________. Richard, the purpose of my call is to follow up on the letter I sent you last week.

I am not certain if you had the chance to review it in any detail but if you did you know I mentioned how things in business change - how markets change, people change, prices change, and circumstances change

I know you have made a decision to continue on with your current supplier but I wanted to touch base one more time just in case "things have changed" and to see if there might be another opportunity to do business."

This 'script' echoes the sentiments of the letter. It comes after you have implemented a couple of nice gestures with the thank you card and the article. Chances are the prospect will feel the compelling need to open up to you, give you information and maybe even give you a sale.

Time vs. Reward

Is the time and effort worth the reward?

Good question. This entire process doesn't take more than 5-10 minutes of your time. The trick to making this work so efficiently and effective is compiling your Win Back 'tools.' Go out a buy a big stack of Thank You cards, start collecting and saving value added articles, links, books... whatever; and prepare your Things Change letter. It's not a huge effort no matter how you look at it.

Certainly the Win Back Process is something that you would NOT do with every lost sale you encountered. Use your common sense. But there are usually a handful of prospects where this approach is worth the implementation. You might not win back the sale but you will create goodwill and equity with the prospect... and that just might tip the scales on the next sale.

Things do change. Will you be ready when the time comes?

About the Author:

Jim Domanski is president of Teleconcepts Consulting and works with companies and individuals who struggle to use the telephone more effectively. Author of four highly regarded books on tele-selling, Jim has provided training and consulting to audiences, universities, and clients through the US, Canada and Europe.
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