Seven ways to recover when a deal falls through

by MPA09 Sep 2013

01| TAKE HEART

First of all, take heart. Oprah was told she wasn’t fit for television. Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded. Michael Jordan was cut from his high-school basketball team. Walt Disney lost his job because of a lack of original ideas. Failing now can make you greater later. Failing now says nothing about how successful you may be in the future – quite the opposite.

02| REMEMBER IT’S NOT PERSONAL

Failure is not personal. Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest batter to ever play baseball, had a career on base percentage of .481, meaning he failed more than half the times he came up to the plate. Deals don’t fall through because of you as a person. You are loved and lovable, and you don’t deserve to fail. Stuff just happens, and things going wrong is the price you pay for having the guts to be out in the world.

03| LIST THE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

When Edison invented the lightbulb, he failed more than 1,000 times. The story is that he considered none of this as failure, only as feedback. He said each failure was a success, because he had found one more way to not make a lightbulb. In every deal, even the bad ones, there are things that go right. Take a leaf out of the positive psychology book and go ask yourself what worked.

04| WHAT WOULD YOU NEVER DO AGAIN?

As a child I loved ketchup. One night when I was about five years old my auntie Nette told me I wouldn’t like it on ice cream. I tried it. I would never do that again. Make a list of what you will never do again after this deal. Perhaps it’s about how you finance deals. Maybe it’s to do with a particular individual or style of customer; maybe a product or agent. Write it down and share it with the team.

05| LOOK FOR PATTERNS

My experience with the ketchup and ice cream taught me something else. My aunt Nette had previously suggested a few other outlandish things: wearing pajamas all day; eating dinner hanging upside down from the swing set in the backyard. When I looked at the patterns, I learned never to take my aunt’s suggestions seriously. Take a look at other deals that have failed across your career and your practice. Look for patterns. Perhaps a certain type of customer demographic just doesn’t work for you. Examine whether timeframes make a difference. Look for what characterized the failures and how they compared to the successes. Learn from the patterns and share what you learn with your team.

06| SALVAGE WHAT YOU CAN

The Post-it note was a failed invention. 3M engineers developed a glue that would not stick. One of them used this ‘failed’ glue to stick page holders in his choir notes. That was the beginning of the Post-it note. Now it’s hard to imagine an office without them. In the spirit of the Post-it note, list what you can salvage from this deal. Remember relationships or contacts you made. Perhaps they would be useful in other contexts. Work out if the marketing collateral is reusable, recyclable or can be developed as a new template. It’s not a total failure if you can learn something or salvage something.

07| DO YOURSELF A FAVOR

So the deal went south. Use this failed deal to supercharge your next successful deal; snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Do yourself a favor: let yourself off the hook. As Scarlett O’Hara said in Gone With The Wind, “Tomorrow is another day”.

Cindy Tonkin is the consultants’ consultant. She is the author of seven books

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