October 28th, 2013
Near Misses, Near Hits
In recent years, there have been several near misses, where an asteroid passed unacceptably close to Earth. That image came to mind recently when a manufacturer shared with me the fact that they track “near misses” when it comes to workplace accidents. All companies are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to track actual workplace injuries and other safety stats. This company takes it upon itself also to keep an unofficial log of near misses that would have become a serious injury, but for a largely random twist of fate.
Across the industry, such incidents would include that stack of glass that tipped over without hitting anyone or the safety gloves that became entangled in a saw blade that missed fingers by millimeters. It would be easy to view such situations as wins. However, if they are caused by a systemic problem, such as worker carelessness or unclear safety policies, they should be unofficially treated as if the injury had occurred. The same retraining should take place to ensure that the next near miss doesn’t become a reality.
Thinking about this near miss concept took me down a related path that I’ve covered in this blog in the past. It might be more accurate to refer to this other type of incident as a “near hit” rather than a “near miss.” That is the near hit that occurs when a company expends the full and normal sales effort to win a project, a building or the widows for a single home, and fails to win. A near hit is when your sales professional has pursued—and lost—an assignment, whether at the dining room table of John and Mary Homeowner or in the office of a commercial or multi-family developer. Regardless of the size of the assignment, if your company didn’t win, you’ve created a learning opportunity.
Exiting that situation, where you failed to make a sale, without learning the reason for your failure is like doing all the coursework and not picking up your diploma. You owe it to yourself and, in a larger sense, to your next potential customer to learn the reason you didn’t win. Saying that the other company undercut your price and leaving it at that is usually taking the easy way out. If you were in the position where you were truly competing solely based on price, you probably made a tactical mistake somewhere along the line, failing to differentiate your product and avoid a purely price based decision. Far better to ask the customer what, in addition to price differences, led them to make the decision that they did. Receiving that dearly bought education can make it more likely you’ll win the next sale.