We all love winning. But the truth is sometimes we learn more by losing. Thomas Edison tried literally hundreds of different materials for the lightbulb before stumbling upon the carbon filament that lead to his success.
His famous quote, “I haven't failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." ...pretty much says it all! It's all about attitude!
Learning from our failures can be a growth opportunity. This is particularly true when it comes to sales. Losing a big sale can be a devastating experience. But with the right attitude, a lost sale doesn't have to be a negative experience. Flip your perspective and think of it as an opportunity to learn.
When you understand why you lost the sale, you'll be able to tighten up your game for when the next big one comes around.
Let's examine six key lessons you can learn from a lost sale, that can help you to grow!
1. Consistently Plan, Prepare, and Reevaluate
When you lose that big sale, you'll probably keep playing the pitch over and over as you consider what went wrong. You'll think back over every conversation, every possible failure point.
That's a good thing, but you need to do more. Take a minute to consider your pre-planning and preparation for every sale, successful or failed, big or small.
If you don't examine your successes, you'll never understand your failures. Turn the negative energy from your lost sale into motivation. Reevaluate your approach and your level of planning.
2. Keep Track of Your Process and How You Execute
When you lose a big sale, do you take away hard data? If you have no actual data and don't have a well developed process, you might have a hard time determining where it went wrong.
This is why your sales team needs to measure metrics and build reports. These key performance indicators (KPIs) deliver great insights you can use as you evolve your sales processes.
Keep track of your incidentals, like phone calls and emails. Did you miss an important call or not provide information in a timely manner?
If you don't make a note of when you strayed from your usual tactics and you don't make a note of it, you'll miss the mistake.
A big sale can go south for any number of small reasons; in fact any sale can. Without attention to the details, you can't avoid making the same mistakes next time. Be aware of your process. Take notes of successes and failures.
3. Don't Let What You Can't Control, Control You!
In any sale, there are always a million factors beyond your control. In a big sales scenario, pay attention to the fixed unchangeable points – the things you can't control.
If one of these points was why you lost the sale, you need to step back and look at the items you can control to make up the difference. For example, you can control your response time when a prospect raises their hand, but you can not control the prospect's budget constraints.
We are all human. Emotions play a role in everything we do, but try not to let them get the better of you. Process those feelings of defeat, then refocus on the aspects of your sales process you can control. Stick to tweaking the process – that's where big changes can happen.
4. Focus On The “Winning” Prospects
One skill that veteran sales reps learn is how to spot winning prospects. A big sale requires a big time commitment. If your eye is solely on the close, you may miss the obvious signs that your prospect never had any intention of buying. And that means the opportunity was never really yours to begin with.
Time is your most valuable resource. An important takeaway from any pitch is understanding when a prospect just isn't a good fit. Selling isn't about finding people to sell to; it's about finding the right people to sell to.
If you have a clear view of who your best prospects are, you can identify the lost deals way before you lose them.
5. Don't Give Up On “Lost” Sales
If your prospect was a good fit, but it just wasn't the right time, don't give up. Understanding your process and your execution is a good takeaway from any pitch, win or lose. It's always worth reaching out to lost prospects after some time has passed. Situations change. Maybe they weren't ready for the solutions you offer.
If you keep detailed information, it's easy to develop a follow-up system. Every time you lose a big sale, set a time to give them a check-up call. Base it on the contract terms you pitched. For example, if you were offering a one year contract, give them a call nine months after your pitch.
6. Revisit Your Buyer Personas With Marketing
Sales and marketing alignment is essential in today's business climate. Following a lost deal, you might want to retrace your steps all the way back to how your marketing team is targeting audiences.
Re-evaluate your buyer personas. They might need to be updated to better reflect a more relevant audience. This is especially important if you're losing sales deals during the discovery call or other early touchpoints in the sales process.
When sales prospects drop off this early, your marketing team might need to adjust who they're targeting and what messaging they're using. Adjustments in marketing can bring in more qualified, relevant leads, who sales can better nurture and, hopefully, close.
No one likes to lose. Losing a deal you've been working on for months hurts. But it can also be an opportunity to improve your approach, and it can even be a sale down the road.
Every time you lose a sale, it's an opportunity to grow. Take some time to reflect and analyze. Determine what went wrong and any mistakes you may have made.
Understanding why a prospect said no can help you to craft a more valuable offer for them to win their interest back, turning that lost sale into a new opportunity down the road!