Lost Opportunities: How to Respond After Losing A Deal

BY Jessica Helinski
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Lost opportunities can be frustrating and disappointing. But, they can also be educational. No one wants to miss out on a deal, but it will happen to every salesperson. How they respond to those losses can impact future success. Did you know that only 13% of leads convert into opportunities, and only 6% of sales opportunities convert from opportunity to deal? Toma Kulbytė reports these stats in a recent article on SuperOffice​.com. She uses these stats to show that lost opportunities are actually really common. 

Additionally, losses actually present opportunities to learn and improve. “Picking yourself up and moving is the classic attribute of a good sales person,” Kulbytė explains. “But to take your game to the next level, a level that your competitors are not reaching, is to understand that the loss of a sales opportunity can actually be rewarding, providing you follow specific steps.”

Lost opportunities present learning opportunities

Reps can gain so much from a lost deal, but doing so does require some thought. Kulbytė shares five steps that salespeople should take post-​loss. She also explains why each step is important, backing up each point with real-​world stats. 

First and foremost, she recommends setting aside time to go back and look over your numbers from the lost deal. “The key to performing great analysis comes in saving detailed records of all your sales opportunities,” she writes. “When a potential sale falls through, all the information relating to the sale is available at your fingertips, providing this information is recorded.” Zero in on any parts of the sales process that weren’t effective, and by doing so, you will get a clearer picture of why things fell through. Then, adjust your process as necessary. 

Steps to take

Pursue “winning” opportunities. Kulbytė reports on findings from a B2B Lead study, sharing that 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. So, more than half of the leads you pursue end in lost opportunities. She points out that many reps get lost in the idea of finding as many people to sell to as possible. But, this is the problem. Salespeople should be more concerned with finding the right people to sell to rather than selling to as many as they can. Efficient prospecting relies on reps going after leads that fit their ideal customer profile. Reps can kick-​start an effective prospecting process by asking themselves open-​ended questions such as these:

  • What people am I most successful at selling to?
  • What needs am I most successful in addressing with my solutions?
  • Which companies have the best solution/​need fit?

She encourages reps to refrain from “taking a chance” on a lead who doesn’t fit the profile you’ve created. Most often, these become lost opportunities and waste your time (and hurt your confidence along the way). Don’t even bother!

Reach out to failed prospects. After a deal falls through, have you ever reached out for a post-​loss interview? If not, you’re not alone. Kulbytė cites findings from the Griffin Group, sharing that 60% of marketing and sales executives admit that they don’t conduct interviews with lost customers. This, she believes, is a mistake. “What doesn’t work for one prospect is likely to repeat itself in the future,” she explains. “To take advantage of this sales opportunity, always ask lost prospects for feedback.” She recommends considering the following questions when discussing lost opportunities with the prospect:

  • Why did you choose a competitor?
  • What stopped you from buying from us?
  • Was anything missing that would have changed your mind?

She points out that reps should be clear that they aren’t trying to re-​engage to sell; they simply are seeking insight to improve. This will likely put the prospect at ease and make them more willing to talk. She also reminds reps to avoid getting defensive and to simply listen and take notes. 

Learn and keep going

These, along with the other steps, provide great guidance for reps following lost opportunities. Rather than dismissing the loss, use the time following a lost deal to reexamine your process and to learn. These insights will help you experience fewer missed deals down the road. As Kulbytė notes, "Understanding why your prospect said, ‘No,' can create a more valuable offer for the prospect and win their interest back, which can help you turn a lost deal into a new sales opportunity.”