April 23, 2009

What to do when you have lost the sale

So you have lost the sale…

All salespeople become emotionally involved in winning the sale.  It is not just a financial issue involving commissions and targets, but also an issue of personal pride.  So, getting a ‘no’ can feel like a bit of a slap in the face.   With this in mind here are some tips on dealing with a lost sale.

Don’t blame yourself, or anybody else and don’t moan and complain either.   For example, don’t say ‘they wasted our time’, ‘they used us only to get another quote’, ‘we cannot close’, ‘they did not know ’, Focus instead on what can be learned from the situation.  Instead of using it to beat yourself, or others up, let it help you - let it move you forward.

Don’t personalize it.  If you feel you, or somebody else ’dropped the ball’, then focus your attention on the actions as opposed to the person.  For example, it is not because John the account manager failed to close, but because the sales process employed fell short and needs improvement.  Focusing on behaviours as opposed to people is key to transforming destructive criticism into positive direction.

Accept responsibility.  That is much different to the issue of blame.  Even if the market downturn, the departure of your contact in the prospect company, the actions of a competitor, etc. have played a role in losing the sale, it is best not to focus on these things, but instead on how you and your company are/can/should deal with them.  Accepting responsibility in this way is the key to leadership, to maintaining peace of mind and to moving forward.

Learn from it.    This offers the potential to transform a set back into an event that has the potential to improve your overall win rate, or ‘batting average’.  So, ask yourself (and all the others involved):

  •     What will I/we do differently next time to get the result that I want?
  •           Did I/we do everything you could do?   What worked?   What wouldn’t I/we do again? 
  •     Take the learning systematic, by undertaking win loss analyses in respect of ever proposal, or tender.  That means asking questions such as:
  •           Why did it come as such a big surprise?  What clues did you miss? 
  •          What was the gap between your solution and the prospect’s perceived needs? 
  •          Did we fully understand the needs?
  •          Did we ensure the prospect had all the information required? 
  •          Did we clearly build trust and establish credibility? 
  •          Did we identify and address all the barriers? 
  •          Could we have made it any easier to say yes? 
  •         Did we invest enough time in building relationships?  
  •          Did we cover the buying unit?  Did we keep all our promises throughout? 
  •          Were there any aspects of how we managed the sales cycle that could have been improved? 

 Some other pointers:

Ask for feedback and advice from the prospect who has just said no.  Make it easy for the people involved to open up and tell you the real reasons.  Take great care not to appear as a ‘sore looser’.  Swallow your pride and genuinely wish them the best in implementing their chosen solution.

Stay positive.  See the setback as an opportunity to grow, improve and become stronger.  Remember, as Winston Churchill said ‘success is moving from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm’. 

You may have lost this sale, but that does not mean that you have lost the potential customer.  So it is important to keep in touch with the customer, even though they have chosen another supplier.  Things change and suppliers, as well as managers come and go, so if you maintain the relationship you may find yourself in pole position for the next order. 

Revise the numbers.  Dealing with the implications head on is best.  As yourself:  What is the worst case scenario now that that potential sale is lost?   Can we cope with that situation if it does occur?  How can be ameliorate the situation?

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