How to lose
Actual conversation at a local shoe store: "Do you have dress shoes in a size 6?"
"No, I’m sorry we don’t."
"We’re from out of town. Do you know any place we can get some?"
"I’m sorry I don’t. Perhaps you’d like some in a size 8?"
Now, what are the chances that someone who wants a size 6 is going to buy an 8? Zero. The game is over. You lost.
Instead of feigning ignorance about the whereabouts of your competitors (you really don’t know where other shoe stores are?) and instead of pretending you don’t have a phone book, what would happen if you actually spent that spare minute being incredibly helpful. "Ask for Jimmy! Tell him Sal sent you…"
Of course, the recipient of this friendly advice would tell everyone at the wedding exactly what happened. And some of those folks wouldn’t be from out of town…
Marketers, salespeople, athletes and politicians spend their days losing. Losing RFPs, losing someone browsing through a store, losing a race.
If it’s close, the right thing to do is to lean into it, to persevere, to push at the end when it can really pay off. But what about when it’s not? What happens when the RFP doesn’t match (at all) what you sell, but the competition is a perfect fit?
If you’re not qualifying people relentlessly enough to have many opportunities like this, you’re not really qualifying them. You’re just spending all day grabbing what you can grab.
It seems to me that this is the perfect opportunity to be a statesman. This is when you earn the right to be seen as a trusted advisor, not a self-interested shill. Two months or two years from now, when you interact with that person or organization again, we’ll remember that you were the one who spoke up on behalf of the competition, the one who helped us find a better fit, the clearly disinterested advisor who helped us choose between the two remaining good choices.
Your ego might not enjoy it, but in the long run, your organization will.