Why Didn’t You Buy From Me?


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“Why Didn’t You Buy From Me?” This six and a half word sentence is probably the most difficult, but one of the most important questions a sales person can ever ask. It’s a question we tend to avoid asking because it is an admission of failure — tough for any of us. However, not asking it is a bigger failure, but we tend not to recognize this.

I’m constantly amazed by the lengths people will go through to avoid asking this question. We lose an order, too often, we just put a “reason code” in the CRM system and do nothing further. In some cases, we may assemble a group of people, conducting a loss review. Everyone in the company dissects the situation, we review sales strategies, we review the competitors, we speculate about what happened and draw conclusions that we are supposed to learn from, in order to avoid future losses.

We sell as hard as we can, we do everything we can think of, yet we still can’t get the customer to buy from us. We speculate and guess bout the reasons, but they end up being just guesses. IF we do nothing else, we will go through many cycles of trial and error in future sales situations. Sometimes. the loss can’t be our fault, too often, blame falls on a “stupid customer.” Our assessments are too often, driven from an inside-out view, rather than the customer focused, outside-in view.

Everything becomes so simple once we take the time (and have the courage) to ask the customer, “Why didn’t you buy from me?” They tell us directly, unambiguously. We don’t have to guess, we can deal with real feedback and then take immediate corrective action based on what they have said.

It’s important for us to learn directly from the customer what we could have done better or differently, or why they found another alternative to be better, or why they may have chosen to do nothing. We get the chance to learn, with direct input, so that we can do better in the future. It’s also something that, properly done, customers really appreciate. It’s in their interests to see us improve and compete more strongly in the future. They want to be able to choose the best solutions possible. Getting their feedback improves our ability to better serve them in the future.

“Why didn’t you buy from me?” We need to position this discussion properly with the customer–actually within our own minds, to get the greatest value from the discussion. Our objective is to learn–not try to reverse the decision, we’ve already lost, you should have done everything possible before this. Now the goal is to learn from the customer. We need to question, probe, and listen. It’s critical that we are not defensive about what the customer is saying—though all our natural inclinations are to be defensive. We may discover the customer had mis-perceptions about our solutions and capabilities–well, that’s a result of our failure during the sales process and we need to understand that, so we don’t do it in the future. We need to learn, how the customer made their decision, what drove their choices, what others may have done that resonated with the customer. Perhaps we did nothing wrong, but some one else did something better. Perhaps we did nothing wrong, but challenges within the customer organization itself prevented a decision in our favor.

We don’t like losing. Our goal as sales professionals is to minimize our losses. When we do lose, it’s critical to have the courage to ask, “Why didn’t you buy from me,” and to learn. It’s only through this that we continue to improve and win.

Selling is always much easier when we start from the customer’s point of view. In the sales process, with the proper discovery, they give us the road map to winning. If we have lost, the customer can give us the road map for future wins. Make sure you don’t lose that opportunity.

Reminder, at Future Selling Institute, this Friday, March 4, we will be continuing our Coaching discussion focusing on Coaching Time Management. This is a FREE webinar at a new time, 11:00 EST. Space is limited so be sure to Enroll.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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