Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When Under Attack, Fall Back

Recently I read the following article by Douglas Kolker and thought it so fabulous that I wanted to share it with everyone. Douglas graciously agreed, so enjoy his wisdom. -Andrea Michaels

When Under Attack, Fall Back
-By Douglas Kolker

Has this ever happened to you? You're in the middle of a discussion with a prospect, and suddenly you're caught flat-footed by what seems like an attack.

Maybe the prospect says, "You obviously don't know a whole lot about our industry." Or: "This presentation has no relevance to what you and I talked about." Or maybe you pick up a sudden, distinctly negative body language signal, like the prospect shaking his head slowly back and forth.

And then what happens? You fight back. Without much thought, and driven by barely suppressed emotion, you react immediately.

Perhaps you say, "On the contrary, I did a lot of in-depth research on your industry." Or: "Actually, I took very detailed notes during our previous conversation, and this presentation is based exclusively on those notes. Here, I can show you." Or: "What's that supposed to mean?"

These are all emotional reactions. No matter how "right" you may happen to be in your instant rebuttal, it's a good bet that you will lose the sale, and damage the relationship by reacting this way.

So here's the question. What's really happening here?

In order to understand that, you need to understand that people operate out of three Ego States: a nurturing or critical Parent, a detached Adult, and an emotional Child. This is how we are wired. When your prospect made that comment or sent that negative body language signal, he was, in all likelihood, responding from the Child Ego State.

While it's important to avoid triggering negative Child responses from your prospects, it's even more important to suppress your own Child reactions to the things your prospects say or do!

The next time you get this kind of feedback from a prospect, step back and make a conscious effort to leave your own Child out of the discussion. When you are under attack, fall back!

The best way to do this is simply to take a deep breath and remind yourself that, while it is normal to wonder what you did "wrong," or ask yourself "What's wrong with me?" a far more constructive question to ask is, "What's wrong with the prospect?"

By focusing on the prospect, rather than reacting from your own Child Ego State, you can comment or ask questions from an Adult or Nurturing Parent position. This allows you to explore the motivation for the prospect's action. For instance:

"Bill, what is it that I've said that makes you doubt my research?"

"Mary, what is it specifically about my presentation that isn't working for you?'

Or simply: "Tom, I suspect that whatever it is I've presented thus far is not what you were hoping for." (Then stop talking.)

By making a conscious choice to leave your Child out of the discussion,  you can re-engage, reassess, and reclaim momentum in the discussion. You'll identify what really triggered the negative response. You'll stand a much better chance of sustaining a positive business relationship with this person... and, eventually, closing the deal.

This article was originally published in SandlerBrief, a monthly e-newsletter provided by the Sandler Training network of trainers. For more information on Sandler Training, contact Douglas Kolker via or visit

©2014 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reprinted or used without the express written permission of Sandler Systems, Inc. 

To learn more about Extraordinary Events, contact or visit

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Losing the Sale ... The True Business Marketing Opportunity

"You can't win them all" is sage advice when you're giving it and not receiving it, right? So what happens to you when you've lost a sale? Having lost more than my fair share (and won more than my fair share, by the way), I've run the gamut of emotional responses. Having learned some lessons along this journey if I can save you some grief, allow me to do so.

Years ago a repeat client of mine asked me to provide a proposal for a much coveted project. I never knew it was a bid situation ... silly me; I didn't ask. (Lesson One: ALWAYS "ask"). My client informed me that he had decided ... yes, you have heard this, too, haven't you? ... to go in another direction. Translated: you didn't win this piece of business. My reaction? I went into mourning. Life came to a  halt as I repeatedly questioned myself with "what did I do wrong? or "what could I have done better? Those questions haunted me for days, and they would have haunted me a lot longer had I not had an eye-opening conversation with my friend, John Wood.

When I told John about my great loss, his response was (in a nutshell), "move on. Don't dwell on this job or you'll just be exuding negative energy. Put your time and effort into finding a great new client and a fabulous new project." He told me this because that's what HE did. He closed one door in order to open new ones.

There are so many politics (personal and professional) involved when bidding on a job. Like a good suit, sometimes it's just finding the right fit. Or like a good meal, the right recipe. It's not that yours is bad; it's just that another one fits the bill better at that time.

Okay, that's all very philosophical. But what are practical and action steps? You just received THE CALL ... or email ... or in today's world, rejection by text. Oh, the dreaded rejection. Do you just accept it? Well, don't.

So, How Do You Deal with It?

1. Find out if that door is really slammed shut. Has a contract been signed with another company? If not, ASK for the business and sell yourself by being the consummate professional you are. Ask probing questions and look for the needs of your potential client and then offer specific answers to those needs. NEVER undermine a competitor, just state your value and your commitment to being a team player who sincerely wants their business and believes you are the best fit. Sometimes this will salvage a project; other times it won't.

2. Okay, the door IS definitely slammed. Do you forget about this project? NEVER! But you don't spend time mourning. You throw your hat in the ring for the next time with them, and then you move on, putting all your positive energy into new clients and new projects.

3. At this point I can hear the "easily said, but not easily done," because your ego and your wallet are at stake. Look at it this way. Put away thoughts of the client who didn't value your offer and put all of  your energy into the client who will. Look at it this way; you are no longer wasting the time that can be put toward finding someone who appreciates your talent and skills. That's a true positive, isn't it? It is the ultimate opportunity. One client has actually opened up the door for you to spend time with another that you might have missed had you not been rejected.

4. A lesson in perseverance. Thank you, Janet Elkins of EventWorks. When she was receiving an award for an event she created and produced for a Chinese client, she told me that she had called him only to be told that the bid for the project was no longer open but if she was ever "in the area" she should call on him for the future. Janet didn't take that as a no, so she and her team flew to Hong Kong to meet the client and present their capabilities. The client re-opened the door, and ultimately Janet and her company were awarded the business, did an amazing job, and now have a long-standing relationship.

I learned from that, and when the opportunity for a major project came up I invested time and money to fly half-way across the world to show my level of commitment to a project that I coveted. It went a long way to ultimately winning a major piece of business for me. Again, Janet, thank you. I am never too old to learn.

So, my friends, in all of this, what is the lesson? It's all in how you look at things ... it's attitude ... the choice is always yours to make. Sometimes detours make the best sightseeing.

Andrea Michaels is the founder/President of multiple award-winning Extraordinary Events and the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower –Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life. To learn more about her and her company, visit Andrea may be reached via