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BLOGWhen You Lose: Ask and Offer

by Randall CraigFiled in: Make It Happen Tipsheet, Blog, Business Development, Communication, TrustTagged as: ,

How many of these have you heard before: We’ve decided to go in another direction. We gave the work to another organization. It seemed that there was a better fit elsewhere. It wasn’t you, it was us. They all are nice euphemisms for “you lose — we don’t want you”.

When You Lose: Ask and Offer

It’s terribly disappointing, especially since the cost of putting together the proposal, prepping the pitch—let alone the cost of prospecting and pre-sales activities—is huge. So what to do?

One alternative is to pretend that the entire episode didn’t happen, and focus on the next opportunity. For some people, it also means holding a grudge against the prospective client, and deciding never to “waste” time with them again. Both of these approaches are immature, and make true the “fact” that the entire process was a waste of time.

This is a fundamental error: You qualified yourselves as capable of doing the work, of having significant knowledge of the prospect’s industry (and indeed, their organization). And you were able to build relationships, which didn’t ultimately consummate into an engagement, but did get most of the way there.

Consider framing the loss in a completely different way: You are far closer to getting an engagement with this prospect than one that doesn’t know you at all. And you may have positioned yourself for a referral, even though you never actually did any work for them. Leaning into this approach suggests some easy to-do activities:

  1. Respond immediately with a thank you, wishing them a successful outcome to the engagement.
  2. Ask for feedback on your proposal/pitch. It’s always important to find ways to improve.
  3. Offer to be available for quick feedback, second opinions, or just to bounce around ideas. (And if you haven’t yet, connect with all of the contacts at the prospect via LinkedIn.)


The proposal and the pitch are “the promise”. But the reality doesn’t always match up: even if the engagement is successful, there is often some disappointment. This week, review the engagements that you lost over the last 12 months, and rekindle your relationship. You aren’t looking to “pitch”, but to position yourself as an expert.

Business Development Insight: Beyond the relationship, prospects need reminders of your expertise and thought leadership. This isn’t hard to do: continue to send them relevant thought leadership pieces, and invite them to your thought leadership events. When they’re ready with the next opportunity, you’ll be in a far stronger position. You may have “lost” at the outset, but you’re running a relationship marathon, not a sprint.

Related post: Nurture Marketing: No or Not Yet

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