No one likes to talk about the one that got away…the deal that was supposed to happen, but didn't. Sure, it’s a painful experience, but don’t let your salespeople just dust themselves off and move onto their next conquest. There is much to be learned from a lost sale. And, it’s not just salespeople that learn from these experiences, but also sales leaders and senior executives take away pearls from the exercise.
In the 1970’s, there was a great television show called Quincy about a coroner who solved murders. Well, the deal is dead and, as the sales leader, it’s your job to find out what happened. Sure, your salespeople will tell you, "The competitor was cheaper.” Or, "The prospect was a jerk.” But, just like Quincy, you can’t stop at the surface. Set out on a quest to uncover the truth and dig into the deal.
That being said, this is not a witch-hunt to find out who screwed up and beat him to a bloody pulp. If you take that approach, this exercise will fail, not to mention be resented by your salespeople. Quincy used to conduct Coroner’s Inquests which were investigative processes with all involved parties to learn what caused the death. The Sales Inquest Process is exactly what sales leaders need to put into practice to understand what occurred when a sale is lost.
The first step is to interview the lead salesperson on the account to understand what was done, when, where and how. Then, talk with others within your organization who were also involved with the deal to get their perspectives. After the interviews, call the decision-maker yourself, not to change their mind, but rather to thank them for considering your firm and ask what your company could have done differently in the process. After gathering all of this information, conduct a debrief with your team and share your findings so that everyone learns as a result.
You will be amazed what comes out of this exercise. Some sales leaders have found that their salespeople were not reaching the decision-makers. Others have learned that their solutions were missing some key functions that their target clients wanted. Still others have found that their pricing strategy was not competitive. And, as a result of these sessions, sales teams have become stronger as they’ve learned what works and doesn’t.
While the deal may have been lost, make some lemonade from those lemons. See you next time on the Sales Management Minute.