No one likes to talk about the one that got away…the large deal that was supposed to happen, but did not. It may have been a painful experience, but do not let your sales people just dust themselves off and move onto their next opportunity. There is much to be learned from a lost sale. And, it is not just sales people that learn from these experiences, but also sales leaders and senior executives take away pearls of wisdom from the exercise.
In the 1970’s, there was a television show called Quincy about a coroner who solved murders. Well, the deal is dead and, as the sales leader, it is your job to find out what happened. Your sales people will tell you, “The competitor was cheaper.” Or, “They had a better solution.” But, just like Quincy, you can not stop at the surface. Set out on an exercise to uncover the truth and dig into what really happened.
That being said, this is not a witch-hunt to find out who was at fault and beat them to a bloody pulp. If you take that approach, this exercise will fail, not to mention be resented by your sales people. 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 organisation 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 company 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 sales people were not reaching the decision-makers. Others have learned that their solutions were missing some key functions that their prospective 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 have learned what works and does not.Loseing that big deal could be the best thing that happens this year.