How to React to Unexpected Negative Feedback
I am frequently on discovery calls with sales teams reviewing the reasons why a deal was won or lost. I see a wide range of responses to this feedback. In particular, I occasionally encounter defensiveness which is exhibited by accusatory comments such as “they were just using us to drive the incumbent’s price down” or “they golf with the competition’s CEO.” Letting yourself off the hook from learning what you could have done differently will prevent future wins.
Overcome Obstacles by Using a Strong Sales Approach
I have observed too many won opportunities where obstacles such as a strong incumbent presence were overcome with a strong sales approach. It is important to review the findings from a point of neutrality, analyze what you could have done differently, and apply it in future deals. In sifting out the defensiveness or frustration from the process, much can be learned and win rates can be improved.
The approach I have witnessed in sales people who truly want to learn from this feedback is very open. They will sincerely consider what might have prompted these statements, and then discuss them with the group on the call to see if anyone else might have some ideas as to the reason for the negative feedback. They will then move on to developing an action plan to avoid this in the future.
Open up Topics for Discussion
There have been a few rare occasions when members of the team are left scratching their heads. In these instances, my advice has been to view this as an opportunity. In future interactions with the respondent, find a way to open up the topic for discussion. This will work if it’s prefaced with a statement such as:
“We appreciate your recent feedback on this topic and would like to ensure that we address your concerns, so that we can truly improve. Please share with me any additional information you may have on this topic and we will work to resolve this issue.”
This will not work if the approach is defensive or confrontational.
The best example I’ve seen of a sales person receiving unexpected negative feedback, was a case when the person learned the reason they won the deal was a result of an executive-level relationship and the actual users of the solution were unhappy with the decision and found several areas of weakness in it. This sales person stated that as a result of the win loss report, the sales person along with the delivery team were working on a plan to deliver the solution that would not only resolve these concerns, but would “wow” them. What a great approach!
How you should approach unexpected negative feedback:
- Immediately lose the defensiveness
- Open your mind to the possibilities and consider what could be driving these statements
- Move quickly away from the emotion of the feedback to the problem-solving phase
- Determine a course of action that will either prevent this from occurring in the future or that will give you an opportunity to resolve this with the buyer
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