Sorry you lost that big deal...

Tony Hughes

Sorry you lost that big deal...

Dear Joshua,

So sorry to hear you lost the big deal... 'Internal options' and 'do nothing' are without a doubt the biggest competition for B2B enterprise selling... yet we're all wired to emotionally obsess about our market competitors.

The key to winning against both of these is two-fold:

  1. Understand and manage the internal politics... but did you have someone in the power-base working with you or manipulating the situation for you because they wanted you to win?
  2. Use 'risk as a weapon'. So important to engineer them seeing the danger of being left behind in the market plus their lack of experience in your area as two massive risks. They need a specialist expert which is you.

I can't tell you how many times I had the support of the project team and recommenders only to lose the deal at the final hurdle... so painful! It's so frustrating when the CXO level engages but then says: "Phil is who I defer to as our expert in these matters." Yet Phil wouldn't know if his own hair was on fire, or as we say in Australia, "whether a bus was parked up his arse."

But many times, it's just something you cannot change. I've seen many deals blow-up because we went above someone's head and pissed them off... they became an enemy and white-anted us from within. It's like this crazy contradictory strategy has to be executed:

  • Engage high with a stake in the ground at C-level
  • Work with their project team / recommenders / evaluators to get them on board without feeling threatened

The senior decision maker says "I'm not an expert in this so talk with my people." Then his people think: "Hmmm, if we recommend this new solution, it undermines us and some of us could lose our jobs! Certainly the boss will be thinking, why weren't you guys already doing this?"

As sexy as it sounds, software as a service is still a tough value prop to sell, especially with regular bad press on failed implementations and fly-by-night operators pushing 'vapourware.'

Not easy, but you've got to tell the CXO early that his team won't like this, they'll feel threatened, and they'll say they can do it better and cheaper internally. Then ask him/her: "What will you do when they come to you with that message after we've educated them?"

I had someone e-mail me last week from one of these posts [they really did] asking for my advice on selling professional services... I regard it as the toughest of selling. Not just because it's an 'intangible' product but because you're taking on internal politics and the law of self-interest lurking within everyone down the chain - smiling assassins, politely absorbing all of your information and then knifing you in the back when you've left the premises.


Damien Drost, Sales Mentor

Damien and Joshua are from my book, The Joshua Principle, but now it's your turn. How do you sell at both levels given that CXO seek consensus today before they will take on change management?


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image photo by Flickr: Joe Hunt


Please Share: If you valued this article, please  share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. We encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions. So feel free to add a comment on this post below.

Your Invitation: We invite you to subscribe to this blog. Subscription is free and it allows you to get access to all our subscriber only content and our periodic newsletter.


Are you searching for advice that will help you grow and manage sales - or lead your sales team? You are likely to find it here. This site brings you some of the latest expert thought leadership content on business to business (B2B) sales from the SMA Sales Masterminds.








SMA Masterminds
© 2018 All Rights Reserved.