How do you lose in business now to help you win in the long term?

I’m sure you’ve encountered this conversation yourself.

“Do you have this x product?”

“Nope, we’re out of stock”

“Do you know when you will restock?”


“Do you know of any shops around here I can try getting it at?” (this is a generic product eg a certain model and brand of a mobile phone)

“Nope, sorry” and tends to another customer.

This can be especially frustrating when you’re in unfamiliar territory.

Instead of being pretending that you don’t know about the whereabouts of your competitors (you really don’t know where other mobile phone stores are?) and instead of pretending you don’t have the internet, what would happen if you actually spent that spare minute being incredibly helpful. “Ask for Lee. Tell him Tan from X Mobile sent you.”

Of course, the recipient of this friendly advice would tell everyone at the next social gathering exactly what happened. And some of those folks would be in familiar territory.

Marketers, salespeople, and politicians spend their days losing. Losing RFPs, losing someone browsing through a store, losing a race.

If what people want is close to what you can offer, the right thing to do is to lean into it, to persevere, to push the sale to the end when it can really pay off. But what about when it’s not? What happens when the RFP doesn’t match (at all) what you sell, but the competition is a perfect fit?

I’ve had requests to plan weddings for people (I only plan corporate events) and I give them the contact numbers of wedding planners I know. I’ve had potential clients just wanting a certain service without needing my consulting help, I send them the direct contacts of what they need. Sometimes the direct contacts don’t even know where the clients come from and that’s fine with me. The pie is big enough for everyone.

This is your chance to be a trusted advisor. Six months or two years from now, when you interact with that person or organization again, they will remember that you were the one who spoke up on behalf of the competition, the one who helped them find a better fit.

Your ego might not enjoy it, but in the long run, your organization will.

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