Falling in love with the deal…

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My first job, after I finished college was a short lived sales job. (A bad fit, and bad atmosphere.) I picked up one critical tip from the VP of Sales during my short stint with the company:

Don’t fall in love with the deal.

This sounds completely obvious, but i see it all the time: with sales people, with job seekers, home buyers, or even when bargain hunting.

I know all of you have talked to one of your sales managers who are really excited about some opportunity: it has a huge dollar amount, with a big name client, or would represent the best case study ever! I get excited too. You know marketers can never have too many case studies. A few weeks later, you ask about it. The deal was placed on hold, shrank or died. Suddenly everyone was really optimistic about the sure thing, and it wasn’t.

I just finished reading dot.bomb, an account of the rise and fall of Value America — an e-tailer that died earlier this decade. I saw a lot of great lessons in the book to take to heart. And a ton of evidence that the senior leadership kept falling in love with a deal, to their detriment.

There were numerous ocassions where the CEO boasted of an upcoming agreement with a huge Fortune 500 company. Either this huge company would be using Value America’s technology exclusively, represent billions in revenue or add credibility to the organization. Unfortunately these agreements were trapped in the pitching phase, or just wrapped up the first talks with VA. And the CEO would have told his employees, the investors, the analysts and the media. When something finally happened, and an agreement was reached it was a) smaller than expected, b) never happened, c) no longer news since everyone aready knew it was coming. As a result, VA disappointed the investment bankers, Wall Street and their investors … and lost countless opportunities for a big story.

The moral: wait till the deal is really sure…PO in hand, offer letter in hand, contract in hand, something concrete before bragging about your news with everyone. Anything before that is solidly in the realm of possibility, and it is better to have infinite possibilities than to put all your hopes into one. Success requires optimism, but spreading your hopes into many projects makes the blow from one loss less devastating. And devastation kills optimism.

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