Nobody, no matter how good they are at selling, has a 100% win rate.

Great sales managers (and their teams) learn from losses. From a coaching and leadership standpoint, the reasons why your rep lost and the customer’s recommendations for improvement need to be incorporated into your sales best practices immediately and shared with all members of your team. That’s how your team becomes more competitive.

Since having a positive attitude is particularly important in the sales profession, it can be very harmful if a salesperson gets too discouraged after a loss. That’s a normal human reaction, but staying down is not good. I’ve seen it happen; you likely have too.

As the sales manager, it is your responsibility to lead the post-mortem on all major lost deals because your rep is not going to ask the customer questions that may reflect poorly on their own sales efforts. The rep is probably dejected about losing the sale and may not be thinking clearly. Therefore, you need to step up and ask the customer probing questions that your salesperson wouldn’t ask.

Immediately upon learning that a major sales opportunity has been lost, contact the customer. Have your salesperson join you on the call, but you take the lead and ask the customer these questions. Say, “Thanks for letting us know. We’re not going to try and change your mind. But we would like to ask you a few questions so we can get better.”

  • What did they (the winning company) do that were positive reasons why you chose their solution?
  • How did we compare, in your eyes, on these important priorities?
  • Which aspect of your needs do you feel we didn’t understand as well as the company you selected?
  • What one or two recommendations do you have for us that would help us get better?
  • Will we have a chance to win your business again in the future?

Hold a sales meeting and divide your team into groups of 3 to 4. Describe what you learned from this lost deal, and ask the groups to identify any additional best practices that they could recommend given the customer feedback from this lost deal. Share the ideas with the full team.

Then have each rep pull out a copy of their current funnel. In which of the opportunities that they are currently working could they apply one or more of these best practices?

That’s how you turn a lost sale into a win!

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