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7 Ways to Help You Determine Why You Lost the Sale



Written by: Richard Schroder

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of closing a sale. Whether it’s a large sale or a small one, we tend to celebrate first and then try to understand why we won so we can replicate our success.

There is much more to be learned from losing, however, yet most people do not know how to gather accurate and meaningful information from prospects to learn from their losses.

Salespeople and professionals involved in sales often ask prospects why they lost a deal, but they typically don’t get a straight answer. In fact, according to proprietary sales win/loss analysis research data, prospects tell salespeople the complete truth about why they lost less than half the time. In fact, win/loss research shows salespeople learn the truth about 40% of the time. In other words, in 60% of new business situations, salespeople do not have a complete and accurate understanding of why they lost.

There are many reasons why prospects are not candid during debriefs, including:

  • They do not want to hurt the salesperson’s feelings.
  • They fear confrontation and/or criticism from sales reps.
  • They often have issues with the sales rep or sales process that can impact their candor.

There are also many ways in which salespeople inhibit the feedback process, such as:

  • Salespeople are often caught off guard by a bad news call and may be unprepared to conduct a debriefing.
  • Salespeople usually do not know the right post-sale questions to ask (and how to ask them).

Below are seven ways for you to improve your post-sales etiquette and get more candid win/loss feedback from prospects:

1. Give early notification that you will conduct a win/loss debrief (regardless of the outcome of the sale). In order to make the prospect comfortable and illicit honest and, more important, actionable feedback, tell the prospect early in the sales process that regardless of the outcome, you will be conducting a post-decision debrief call at the end of the process.

2. Schedule a separate win/loss debrief call. Do not debrief on the same call as when you hear about a loss. When you hear about a loss, prospects have one goal in mind: to get you off the phone as quickly as possible. Therefore, getting good feedback is always challenging. Instead, schedule a separate debrief call after you have accepted the loss, and let the prospect know you will not try to change their decision.

3. Use a debrief guide. Using a win/loss questionnaire maximizes feedback and keeps the conversation focused. As a result, research has shown that salespeople who use a debrief questionnaire have a 15% higher close rate than those who do not.

Related: What Are the Frogs on Your Desk You’re Returning To?

4. Take responsibility. Make sure you really want candid feedback; prospects will be able to tell if you don’t. Don’t get defensive or angry, don’t debate with the prospect, and don’t try to resell the prospect.

5. Take notes. Tell the prospect you’ll be taking notes. This will make them feel important and make them feel compelled to talk more. Your average debrief should last 10-15 minutes.

6. Probe for specifics. Ask questions such as “How do you mean?” or “Could you say more?” Other great ways of getting candid feedback include asking, “How can I improve on this?” “How can I make it better?” or “Can I get your advice?”

7. Consider having someone else conduct your win/loss debriefs. Once you have a debrief guide, you could have someone else within your company conduct the meeting (such as an inside wholesaler or cold caller). You could also find someone outside of your company to do this work for you. If you are running a sales team, consider hiring an outside third party to conduct win/loss analysis interviews on behalf of your entire sales team.

By implementing a process for conducting better debrief calls, you will unlock a vast source of prospect information that will allow for continual sales improvement. This process will ultimately increase you close rate for years to come.

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