Are You Falling For The “Almost Win?”

Are You Falling For The “Almost Win?”

Deja vu hit me while out on a sales presentation today.  It reminded me of a situation early in my career. Any salesperson or marketer can relate.

After a long hard fought battle we made our way in front of the prospect. We went through our talk. We got to the end. He told us he loved it. His team loved it.  He just needed to get his bosses okay. That was supposedly just a rubber stamp.

“Yes! This deal is as good as done.” I thought

 The next day he came back to us and said:

We loved it. This is going to really help us. My boss just needs this one thing to give his blessing.”

Pop The Champagne… Sort Of

Again, the almost win effect triggered that feel good effect like an elicit drug. Just a small tweak to the contract and we had a deal. We suffered through a few more iterations of this. Each time, that yes felt so close. Just a small change or clarification. We bought the lie each time.

Such is the  power of an almost win.

Finally, my manager asked the prospect:

“If we get this done, do we have a deal?”

Our prospect said he couldn’t promise anything but he was nearly certain this would be the final request.

My sales manager told him our final offer. Then he gave him forty-eight hours to come back with a commitment. There would be no more changes. 

The deadline came and went. We penned a letter to the prospect. The deal was off the table and we wouldn’t respond to further inquiries. We trash talked our sales manager behind his back for killing the deal. Of course, he didn’t really kill the deal. We never had one in the first place.

We were victims of the almost win effect. It’s where you keep thinking you’re so close to winning that you keep going back for more thinking  the next time will clinch it.

Lotteries count on this. They purposely let you come close. You get the emotional juice of a win without actually winning, so you play again.

Get Out Of The Almost Win Cycle.

Let’s suppose you sell consulting services. Someone responds to your ad and says “Yes, I’m in. Just one question first.”

You answer the question. You go back and forth a few times. Maybe you modify your offer to suit his needs.

Draft a letter to your prospect after the third almost win. Explicitly state that you will do each of the three requests (or your best offer). Explain that this is your final offer.  Produce a deadline at the end. Once the deadline passes the offer is off the table. The great sales trainer, Zig Ziglar, taught a similar technique. I’ve adapted it from that.

It’s a helpful tool that prevents you from chasing after prospects. Prospects refuse to say no for for one of three reasons.

  1. They’re afraid to say no
  2. They lack authority to say yes
  3. To extract free information from you. (Yes, that really happens)

The almost win triggers addiction like enthusiasm.  Learn to recognize it for what it is.

Will my call today become another almost win? I’m optimistic but realistic.


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