In our experience, it’s a punch to the gut when you lose a sale, especially for salespersons who are new to the field. That’s why we provide our students with hands-on training covering aspects of the job that other programs won’t discuss at all. Without a doubt, handling a lost sale productively is a prime example of something only Uvaro teaches in our unique program.
At times, you’ll feel like you’re moving and shaking, making deals and closing them in record time, but there will also be moments when all of your best efforts seem fruitless. But before we go on to the top five ways to deal with a lost sale, we want to make one thing clear. Never feel discouraged over a lost sale!
Hold your head high and never look at the ground sheepishly, thinking that you failed and ruined your career because, in reality, you haven’t ruined it at all; you simply fell short and, in all likelihood, not by much.
Honestly, the bottom line truth is this: no one succeeds every single time they contact a prospect, so it’s not the end of the world when a candidate moves on and chooses a competitor’s product instead.
While it’s easy to point the finger at the marketing team with their fancy (expensive) graphics and bubbly, upbeat attitudes, try to look inward first, then speak up about the absurdity of a one-page brochure that doesn’t even have a call to action. Handling a lost sale takes time to learn, but these five productive ways to cope are great places to start.
1 – Conduct an honest postmortem
One of the best ways to move forward productively is to conduct an honest postmortem of the loss. You could have a two-hour meeting with the team over which processes fell short and then go home feeling confident you solved the problem. But a few weeks later, you lose another prospect and another – and another. So, what’s going on here? What aren’t you seeing?
The problem is that you didn’t review your performance and contact the prospect and ask them specific questions. Yes, it’s that simple to conduct an honest postmortem! Initially, you relied on internal feedback that may have helped adjust tactical decisions but didn’t get to the root of the issue, the reason you didn’t close the deal.
Often, our graduates are shocked that lost prospects will answer the phone cheerfully and speak with them in the first place. Emotion-wise, it’ll feel like you’re calling your high school sweetheart who dumped you two days before the prom. Besides, the purpose of calling a lost prospect isn’t to win back the opportunity; you need to make that point perfectly clear from the start. The idea is to clean honest, constructive feedback.
Sometimes, the person speaking will say something like, “I did what I could, but I was overruled by the bosses.” Always remember that in B2B sales, there typically isn’t one decision-maker; it comes down to a group decision that benefits the company’s long-term goals.
Receiving feedback gives you an indispensable opportunity to improve communication skills and, thus, bolster your own company’s buying experience. The worst thing you can do is not learn from your mistakes – unless you enjoy awkward conversations from time to time.
Try to dig deep into the factors that would’ve made a difference and won the sale. There will be moments when the buyer knows precisely where you fell short; at other times, they may literally hang up the phone as soon as they hear your voice.
But don’t get discouraged! If you make it clear to the lost prospect from the beginning that there’s no pressure to speak with you, you’ll likely get positive feedback. If you do it right, the buyer may actually apologize for “wasting your time,” but those situations don’t come along very often. Although when they do, it’s a golden opportunity to conduct an honest postmortem.
In business, telling the truth is a lost art. It sounds absurd, yet many salespersons never learn that honesty is, indeed, the best policy. That’s why it’s so vital to build and nurture a rapport the very first time you contact a prospect. You may not have won the sale this time, but that doesn’t mean you also hurt your company’s brand. In fact, the professional, positive attitude you show can lead to a referral down the road.
2 – Listen to past conversations
In the heat of the moment, we don’t realize how we’re speaking with someone. For instance, maybe a former colleague called at the worst possible time, and you want to politely say that you don’t have time to talk right now. You may think you’re doing fantastic, but at the very tone of your voice, he can tell you’re disinterested.
So, how is this possible? How can someone discern your true intentions after only hearing a few words over the phone? The answer is this: we never know how we’re communicating unless we stop and listen to ourselves speak. How many times have you heard the phrase, “I don’t like the way my voice sounds on the phone.” Well, in sales, that’s precisely what we want you to overcome; you want to conquer a lack of self-confidence as quickly as possible.
Besides, the general courtesy is to tell the prospect that the call is being recorded to improve services, and usually, the candidate will approve. In B2B sales, it’ll always be a two-way street, a back-and-forth exchange, between buyers and sellers. That’s why every single touchpoint is so critical to building a rapport.
When listening to calls, one quick tip is to count how many times you said something like, “Ummmmmm,” or any other way to buy time while you think. If you hear yourself say it twice during the recordings, it’s a habit you really should try to break.
3 – Review sales readiness
If there is one thing we want you to take away from this article, it’s this: you have to display an aura of complete confidence and knowledge throughout the sale process. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling SaaS solutions to a global manufacturer or selling lemonade with your children in your front yard.
You have to know the product and space more than anyone else, the ins and outs of the market that aren’t common knowledge. Without a doubt, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to contact a prospect without the correct information in hand.
Also, improving readiness may rely on the marketing team to design better collateral like PowerPoint sales decks or finally throw that near useless, one-page sales brochure in the trash! Undoubtedly, sales and marketing are symbiotic and synergistic. Each field supports the other to grow the business. The cliché is that they’re two sides of the same coin, but it’s more like they’re husband and wife instead.
The marketing team may not realize the one-page brochure with more graphics than a billboard is utterly useless to you without price comparisons, social proof, and testimonials. So always speak up when you feel like you don’t have the right assets to set yourself up for success.
4 – Seek out similar deals
Along those lines, it’s a great idea to seek out similar deals after losing one. Just like overcoming a fear of heights, one time-tested technique is to tackle that anxiety head-on through cumulative exposure to similar situations.
If you’re anxious about repeating mistakes, that’s a red flag you can’t afford to ignore. In our experience, the best way to get past those emotions is to find similar prospects and win those sales to regain confidence.
Use your loss as motivation to be great in the future! We recommend taking a long look at your pipeline of leads and pinpointing prospects of the same size, market, and potential to turn down the offer too. Challenge yourself to win these sales to put the lost sale in perspective.
The cliché is that “sales is a numbers game,” and there is some truth to that wisdom. Still, that doesn’t mean you should spray and pray, contact unqualified leads, and waste precious time. As an alternative, try to narrow down which prospects are similar to the ones you lost. This way, you can learn the intricacies of your target market. Maybe even come to appreciate that the marketing team’s one-page brochure. It may actually be generating quality leads!
5 – Create a deal desk
After you’ve conducted an honest postmortem of a lost sale, listened to past conversations, reviewed sales readiness, and sought out similar deals, the last way to cope is to make a deal desk. Initially created by the financial industry, a deal desk is an essential function within B2B sales organizations.
The general idea is to create a mechanism – a “desk” – that helps close deals. A deal desk is particularly beneficial in the real world when closing a sale is complex and involves a long sales cycle. Overall, the role of the deal desk is to facilitate and optimize the internal process to reduce the number of lost sales and grow the business.
In B2B sales, nothing is more frustrating than working for weeks to win a sale only to have slow internal processes outside of your control break the deal. Best of all, creating a deal desk role makes the entire team, from the representatives to the executives, feel like their input is valid. Once everyone gets involved, it’s more likely that the team will buy into any decisions leaders make.
Improve your sales with Uvaro
In the end, you can learn to handle a lost sale like a pro if you keep these five tips in mind. At Uvaro, we’re passionate about your success and strive to give you the foundation you need to thrive in sales like you never thought possible.