There are many professions that review footage of themselves during practice or after competitions. Professional athletes review game footage, musicians listen to recordings of themselves, actors re-watch their reels, pilots check their simulations… the list goes on and on.
As a sales rep, you should do the same thing every single time you lose a deal. In sales, your prospects and their businesses do not stay the same way forever, therefore you must analyze your losses so you can learn and adapt your tactics to learn more in the future. Yes, it’s definitely uncomfortable and frustrating, but it is essential that you learn from mistakes. Depending on your relationship with the prospect and your company culture, there are several ways to approach your post-loss analysis, here’s how:
If You Have a Relationship with the Prospect
One advantage sales reps have is an open channel of communication with the people that they lost to. Can you imagine if the Red Sox asked the Yankees how to beat them next time?
Many reps establish a relationship with a particular prospect during the sales process. If your deal with a friendly prospect’s organization falls through, consider reaching out to your contact for a quick conversation about why you lost. Keep in mind, you’re really just asking them for a favor and they may not always be honest for a variety of reasons.
There is a fine balance you must find. Your prospect doesn’t owe you anything, but if you approach them and demonstrate that you want to learn from the experience, they may be willing to give you feedback.
The best way to reach out is to not contact them as soon as you find out you lost. Your prospect is likely already uncomfortable about delivering bad news, and they won’t want to discuss it right away. Never turn a cold shoulder after a loss either, you never know if your prospect’s requirements will change or if your competitor won’t deliver on their promises and you resurface as the winner.
Use a Culture of Learning
Often, a conversation with your prospect just isn’t going to happen. That’s when you need to perform your analysis by yourself, with your teammates, your friends, or even your social networks. If your company has a culture of learning, it’s important you take full advantage. Seek out your manager, a peer, or do some self-reflection on the following:
Listen to recordings or search transcripts to see:
- If there are any competitor mentions you failed to address properly
- Key features that you failed to showcase or explain, or that your product lacks entirely
- Miss opportunities to address potential problems
- If you created value wherever possible
- If you made the most of your time with the decision maker
- If you left any questions unanswered or gaps unaddressed
- If you failed to properly address pricing inquiries
Were your emails:
- Well written?
- Thorough and friendly?
- Were your responses complete and timely?
CRM and Visitor Tracking
- Were there site visits or content downloads that indicated any needs or interests that were not addressed?
In the end, there may not always be a single specific factor to look for. I spoke with Olivia Bodnar (Director of Sales at Snowflake Computing) who suggests approaching your loss analysis like a relationship. If things went sour, start to think about where and when communications broke down, then examine that particular call or interaction to find the source.
If your company does not have a learning culture where you can find the help you need, consider leveraging social media or even your personal network. You can create a short write-up of what happened and share it within a LinkedIn Group, Reddit, other discussion groups, or even just your personal LinkedIn profile and ask for opinions and feedback. You may be surprised at the amount of help you receive.
Put it to Use
Perhaps most importantly, when you do find the feedback you’ve been looking for, you must apply it, or all your efforts will be in vain. You can also share your findings with others, so they may learn from you as well.