The Two Winners in Every Sale

One of the most valuable lessons in sales I’ve ever learned is that there are two winners in every sale. Sounds easy enough, but if I ask you, “Who are those two winners?” could you answer correctly?

When asked this question, most professionals with whom I have worked offer the easy answer: the two winners are the seller and the customer. Selling is never easy, order-taking, however, is easy. This answer is only partially correct.

The first winner in every sale is the salesperson who wins the deal. That part is obvious. Though if you’ve every had a nightmarish, high-maintenance customer – one who calls and emails at all hours day & night, you could easily debate the merits of winning for the salesperson who won the deal.

The second winner isn’t so obvious. In my experience, the guesses usually fall into the following categories: the customer, the winning company, the winning manager, and the winning salesperson’s spouse/partner. Let’s look at each and why none of these is a winner in every sale.

The customer may not be a winner in every sale because they may have ordered the incorrect product or solution, it may not be delivered or installed on time, when it does get installed it may not be billed correctly and if it is implemented it may fail. Any of these are possibilities could happen in any sale, so there is no guarantee that the customer will be a winner in every sale.

The company who won the deal may not be a winner in every sales because the deal may be unprofitable (high cost of sales up-front, or in dealing with the re-work resulting from the above customer’s issues, or with the nightmarish needy customers), the product/solution may be of poor quality resulting in complaints, refunds or recalls.

Likewise, the manager may not be a winner because s/he could be dealing with any of the above issues. Consider the multiplier when a team salespersons is engaged..

I often laugh when people suggest the salesperson’s significant other. The partner or spouse is not always the winner because that salesperson could potentially be s/he could be working late, stressed and interrupted often in dealing with any of the above scenarios. It is a fairly common occurrence to see one’s profession have a negative impact on his/her personal life.

So, if the second winner is none of these, who could that second winner be? The answer is not so obvious.

The second winner in every sale is that other salesperson who got out first. How could that be?. S/he lost the deal, how does that make him a winner? To which I reply, in the business of selling what do you get for second place? Nothing. Nada. Nil. Rien. We laugh at Will Farrell’s character in Talladega Nights with his motto If you’re not first, you’re last, but those words ring true. Second place is a very lonely feeling in the sales world.

Now don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a lose early and lose often speech.

As a sales person, what is your most valuable asset? It is simply your time. The other salesperson who gets out first does not waste his/her time pursuing opportunities for which they have a low probability of winning. S/he focuses her/his time pursuing better opportunities. Better opportunities that better align to the client’s strategic objectives and priorities, for whom they are better positioned and for which s/he has a distinct and measurable advantage.

As sales professionals, we cannot and will not win every opportunity that presents itself. The challenge is assessing opportunities. Walking away isn’t easy, and in future posts I’ll discuss strategies and tactics for evaluating opportunities in real-time.

In summary, I’ve shared the two winners in every sale. Professional poker players and the best sales professionals know this lesson well. Listen to the words of Kenny Rogers. You have to know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away and when to run.