No one goes without a loss in sales. You will not win every deal, and you will win some that you don’t deserve to win while losing others you should have won. It can be challenging to know how and why you lost a deal, and without understanding what caused the loss, you may repeat mistakes that cause future losses.
Here is how you should think about a lost deal, especially big deals, and a list of actions that will allow you to improve your approach.
Believe You Caused the Loss
Without believing that you lost the deal through your actions or some failure to act, you cannot improve your results. There is no better starting place for improving your results than believing that “everything is your fault.” The first step in improving is believing that you need to improve—and that you can get better.
There is nothing more empowering than taking responsibility for your lost opportunities, no matter how painful. You will only improve when you start with the belief that you are responsible for the outcome.
Never Blame Externalities
Never believe that something or someone caused you to lose a deal. That belief will disempower you and prevent you from identifying the things you might need to improve. It wasn’t the client that caused your loss, even though they chose a competitor. It wasn’t your competitor’s lower price, either.
The worst mistake you can make if you want to improve your results is to find someone to absolve yourself of responsibility for the loss. Own your losses, and never look for external reasons you lost.
Identify Potential Causes
Go back over your meetings, notes, and communications to identify anything that might have contributed to the loss. If you could start over, what would change?
This work is difficult. You have to be honest with yourself, and you also need to have some framework to assess your performance. You might start with your sales process, your version of a buyer’s journey, or the methodologies you use to guide your approach. You are looking for anything that might expose something that might explain where you might have made a different choice.
Doing this work will help you take responsibility for the loss and for making adjustments in the future.
Get Objective Opinions
It can be difficult to take an objective view of a lost deal when you are emotionally invested in the opportunity. But even if you can view your loss objectively, you can benefit from asking for another person’s perspective, someone that wasn’t emotionally invested in the outcome.
Ask people who were aware of the deal to go back over everything you did while pursuing your prospective client and provide you with an objective view of what might have caused the loss. You don’t have to accept what they share with you, but you should explore their view to determine if there is some value in looking deeper into what they shared with you.
Ask Your Prospective Client Where You Might Improve
Your prospective clients aren’t likely to share with you how or why you lost their business. One of the reasons they tell you that it was a close contest is because they don’t want any conflict around a decision they’ve already taken. One of the reasons they tell you that you lost on price is because it’s easier than telling you they didn’t want to work with you, preventing them from insulting you, while also preventing you from getting better.
It isn’t easy to get great feedback from your contacts about what you might have done differently. Nor do they have a firm grasp on professional selling, something that limits their ability to describe things in terms that we use to discuss sales effectiveness.
If you are going to ask your client to give you feedback, ask directly about what part of your approach you need to improve. Ask them not to spare your feelings.
Explore Areas of Improvement
When you have some idea about what you might have done that resulted in you losing a deal and what you might need to do to improve your ability to win future deals, get to work. There is no end of content available to cover every part of the sales conversation, including this blog and the accompanying YouTube channel. There are also books, courses, and training that are affordable and help you improve your skills and effectiveness.
Once you have some idea about where you might need to improve your approach, start exploring how you might improve your results in those areas. You will get better faster if you work to improve a particular area over time.
Have Someone Watch Your Sales Calls
To improve your sales effectiveness, ask your manager or a successful salesperson to join you on sales calls to observe your approach. Allowing someone else to pay attention to how you are approaching a conversation can illuminate areas where your approach can be improved.
A person that watches you sell intending to help you see your blind spots can do wonders for your future results. Take their feedback seriously, and explore their critique without defending the choices you made during the sales call.
Ask to Watch a Highly Effective Salesperson Sell
One of the fastest ways to improve your sales skills is to model a salesperson that is already highly successful and learn to mimic their language and their approach. The best salespeople have discovered the language necessary to obtain the outcomes they need to win deals. The shortest and fastest way to acquire that language is to steal it from someone who has already acquired it.