You reach for the phone, eager with anticipation. Youre making a win/loss call, and this ones a win. Its a chance to hear what it is youre doing right, and perhaps bask a little in the praise of a buyer. But no sooner have you made your hearty greetings then something starts to go wrong. The caller doesnt seem that pleased with your product in fact, theyre downright belligerent, even hostile. Theyve purchased what youre selling and theyre acting like its the worst decision theyve ever made.
Not every win call is going to be rosy. Sometimes what you expect to be a good chat about what went right turns-out to be a warning that everything is or is about to go wrong. These are the Bad News Calls, the unhappy wins. This article covers how to deal with these tricky conversations, what you should do, what you definitely shouldnt do, and how to keep the conversation on track so that you avoid losing time just listening to someone vent. Always keep in mind: the goal of any win/loss call is to walk away with worthwhile feedback. Heres how to not waste your time when faced with buyer remorse.
Listen and Resist the Urge to Help
The first and most important thing to remember during a Bad News Call is that its not your job to fix the problem. Youre not calling your buyer as a salesperson, youre not calling as a customer success representative, and nor are you calling as a CEO or owner looking to talk shop with a client. Youre calling as a win/loss analyst youre there to be a dispassionate, attentive listener and thoughtful, insightful interviewer.
Being dispassionate doesnt mean you should be dismissive, cold, or without empathy, but it does mean you have to resist the urge to help to reach out to the buyer and try and solve their problems. The moment the call is done you can get on the line to your sales or customer success managers (in fact, you definitely should, because something clearly needs escalation) but during the call your focus should solely be on getting the facts. Dont make things better and dont make things worse. Just conduct the interview as you would any other: with courtesy and respect to the buyer. Worry about what theyre saying after you hang up.
The Unhappy Win Call Needs to be Approached Differently
If a win has gone sour, your investigation tactics need to change. Your questions for wins and losses may be identical, but your tone is likely different. If you can tell the buyer is unhappy, its time to switch tones turn-down the enthusiasm, ramp-up the sympathetic understanding. Sometimes all people want is a willing ear; if your buyer has been quietly fuming about their problems, your call might just be the thing they really need. Dont neglect your responsibility to steer the conversation, however. Being a willing ear is one thing, but wasting your time listening to someone rant for half an hour is good for no one. If the win has soured, youve got to dig to find exactly why. Youve got to walk away with something worth analyzing some nugget of truth to make it all worthwhile. Then you have something to take back to your salespeople and/or CS team the people whose job it will be to try and make it right.
Dont Make Things Worse
Finally, it cannot be stressed enough both in Bad News Calls and win/loss calls in general how important it is not to get defensive about the product, your colleagues, or your company. Remember: its also your job not to make problems worse. Getting into in argument about what your company did and didnt do wont just spoil the data, itll imperil an already at-risk relationship, not to mention be simply unprofessional.
If a buyer says something disparaging about a fellow employee, or your boss, or even a close friend, dont rise to the bait. Steer the conversation back to more constructive criticism. This is more of an autopsy than a court of law, and youre a coroner, not a defence attorney. Dont let an angry buyers words get to you. If totally necessary, save your ire for when the call is complete and you can fume in your office. Keep your ears open, and your mouth in check.
Unhappy Calls Happen, So Be Ready
Before you start your next round of win/loss calls, review your contingency planning for an unhappy win do you have a list of questions at the ready for such an eventuality? If not, you should start thinking of one. If you dont already know, you should also find out whose job it is to fix the problems you might encounter in such a call. Make sure that the lines of communication are open when a bad news call arrives, you want to be taking action the moment the call ends. Reaching out to the problem-solvers in advance saves you valuable time in the future and will get you back to making your next call that much sooner.
Bad News Calls are survivable, manageable, and even valuable, so long as you keep an even keel. Stay disciplined, professional, and polite, and even the grouchiest, most miserable of buyers wont end the call in a worse mood than they started.