lost-dealsNot all sales conversations end in closed deals–but that doesn’t mean that it’s an entirely losing situation. Learning from these setbacks is necessary for businesses and their sales organizations to grow.

In the typical customer lifecycle, evidence points to 65% of sales being lost due to indifference. Not learning from these mistakes will likely put your reps in the same cycle of nonchalance about getting new business, one of the most important matters for your company.

In the midst of these predicaments, sales managers have the responsibility and authority to steer the team toward more productive approaches. After all, the actions you take after these unfortunate situations determine what you and your team draw from these difficulties.

Is your team in a similar situation? Check out these three productive ways to approach lost deals.

Follow up with the prospect

Making the sale is always on top of any sales organization’s list. It’s the gauge by which a team’s performance is measured. However, there are times that a sale is just not in the cards. Transform this loss into an opportunity for growth–the growth of your relationship with the prospect.

The deal has fallen off, but the prospect is still a prospect. Use this time to build a deeper connection with them.

As a sales manager, it’s best to assign this goal to the person who lost the sale. Besides, they have the most knowledge about what transpired throughout the buyer’s journey. However, there are situations where this might not work; suppose the salesperson is visibly frustrated by the lost deal. If this is so, you have to delegate the task or do it yourself. Whatever the case, have the primary rep introduce the person doing the follow up before starting any substantial conversation. This way, the prospect will not feel like they’re being passed around.

The first order of business is to get directly in touch with the prospect to perform an autopsy of the deal. Yes, it’s fine to contact the prospect and ask why the deal fell through. If possible, meet with them in person at their convenient time. If not, call them over a video conferencing software or over the phone.

Avoid using email for this purpose at all costs. The prospect probably had an equally unpleasant experience–remember, the act of rejecting could be just as distressing as getting rejected–and they may be reluctant to get in touch again. Connecting with them through email gives a big window for them to not respond; it’s too impersonal.

During the meeting or call, make sure that your sincerity clearly comes across. You are not there to convince them to turn their decision around. You are there for two things: First is to get some insight as to why the deal didn’t push through. Second is to continue the relationship with the prospect.

For the purposes of the second point, it’s important to exercise grace and humility, especially when talking directly about their decision. Do not bad mouth your competitors.

Try to provide value whenever you can as they are still your prospects and doing business in the near future still isn’t out of the cards.

Make this post-mortem sequence a regular practice for your teams. Make these calls without expecting the deals to be won back. This is a chance to learn how and what to improve so your chances of winning the next deals go up.

Conduct a post-deal investigation

For high-ticket B2B deals, the sales process is long and sophisticated. The prospect probably talked to several sales reps and maybe even people from other departments. Resources and time have been spent to get their business. To a degree, the team members involved in this big opportunity are probably emotionally invested in the sale.

From the other end of the line, it’s highly likely that your reps have been in touch with several people as well. According to CEB Global, an average of 5.4 people are involved in the sizeable buying decisions.

When a deal of this nature ends with a no, everyone wants to know why. As the sales manager, it is your duty to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the factors that contributed to the failure.

The best way to find out is to conduct a post-deal investigation.

Just imagine what happens in a sports team’s locker room after a huge upset. Will the coach be yelling? Saying everything’s alright? Going straight to the game replay?

It depends on the situation.

What needs to be emphasized is that this is a crucial coaching moment. Being sensitive and patient but firm is important.

The key to conducting an effective post-sale investigation is letting your reps and other team members think through the situation independently. Calling them into a huddle just to tell them what you think should’ve happened is ineffective and a waste of everyone’s time.

Go over call recordings, notes, and meeting minutes together. Let the person primarily involved take the lead in examining each step. Ask questions that will guide the team toward making meaningful observations and inferences.

Go over some or all of these:

  • Was there a lapse in putting together the prospect’s profile?
  • Was it the lack of research that resulted in the failure to use the right messaging?
  • Maybe it was a shortcoming on the part of the salesperson handling the call?
  • Did they miss buying cues?
  • Did they deviate from the sales process?
  • Were they not the right person to handle such a call?
  • When did the momentum turn?

These questions help everyone see different components of the buyer’s journey objectively. Paired with your sharp coaching sensibilities, these questions help reps turn the negative into positive.

Important note: These meetings shouldn’t be reserved for big deals. Schedule regular review meetings with your sales team. This way, they will always be aware of what to watch out in-call, and they will develop analytical skills that help them better navigate your sales cycle.

Don’t dwell on the lost deal

Losing deals is part of the game.

As a sales manager, you need to ensure that your reps continue to improve their ability to manage their emotions. Even if it was their shortcomings that cost the sale, the best way to move forward is to do some self-examination. Only through this approach will they do a better job selling to new prospects.

If they didn’t answer questions as thoroughly as you wanted, tell them to hit the product modules and ensure they take that to heart. This way, they’ll be confident and able to answer prospects’ questions about the product in future calls.

For the person most accountable for the lost deal, ask them to think about how to build new relationships with new key decision makers, applying what they’ve learned in this particular loss. That said, it’s important to always teach and remind them to think as a team.

Watch out for bad behavior that might come out of the woodwork during this tough time. Ill-mannered acts like blaming others don’t have a place in a sales organization. Helping others recognize their weaknesses and help them improve them is the key to healthy team life.

Dust off your shoulders and walk into the next opportunity.

This is what you have to make your reps understand: The only way to recover from the heartbreak of a lost deal is to sell more.



dan-sincavageDan Sincavage is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform. He regularly writes about sales and sales management on the Tenfold blog.