Improve Your Sales Skills by Learning from Lost Sales

Lost sales are a frustrating fact for any business. Here’s why you should spend some time identifying what went wrong after you’ve lost a sale.

My mom always used to tell me how we learn more in life from our failures than we do from our successes, yet for too many of us in sales this concept doesn’t seem to sink in.

I’ve lost plenty of sales in my life. If I wanted to get really down on myself, all I’d have to do is take a piece of paper and start writing down as many as I could remember. If I wanted to go into a complete state of despair, all I’d have to do is to write down next to each sale I lost the amount of commission I failed to receive because of the lost sale.

For this simple reason too many of us in sales choose not to dwell on what didn’t happen. Instead, we merely move on.

It’s much easier to move on than dwell on the past, and I’m a firm believer that dwelling on the past doesn’t do anyone any good. If you want to damage your sales motivation, go right ahead and dwell all you want.

As much as we can’t dwell on the past, we do need to spend a few minutes doing an autopsy on the lost sale and learning from it. If we don’t learn from each sale we fail to close, then we’re committing ourselves to a pattern of losing more sales.

The key I’ve found to the process is to do the autopsy on the failed sales call right away. The sooner you can do it, the sooner you can apply what you’ve learned to the next sales call.

The only downside to doing it quickly is you have to make sure you’re in a stable frame of mind. I’m not meaning to be rude with this comment, but you can’t think clearly if you’re so hot emotionally over losing the sale.

If you are worked up over the lost sale – wait till you calm down. Then do your autopsy.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was I able to get the customer to state their key needs and desired benefits?
  • Why specifically did the customer choose not to buy from me? How do I know that?
  • What were two things I know the customer appreciated about me?
  • What did the customer ask and how did I answer? What can I learn from the questions?
  • What were all of the customer’s objections and how did I respond to them?
  • Did the customer clearly understand my value proposition? How do I know that?
  • What closing technique did I try? How specifically did the customer respond to it?
  • What did the customer agree with me on? How can I leverage this for future sales?
  • What is my next step with this prospect / customer?

Take the time to answer these questions. Doing so will provide you with key information you need. Also, never hesitate to go back to the customer after they’ve turned you down and ask them why they didn’t select you. Be sincere in how you speak to the customer and be appreciative for what they tell you.

This is not the time to be defensive or attempt to convince the customer they’ve made a dumb decision by selecting someone else. Your ability to be professional and appreciative in listening to what the customer shares with you will do more than anything else to help ensure you have a good relationship going forward with that person.

It’s been my experience both personally and professionally that by doing this process right, you can position yourself to become the salesperson these individuals turn to in the future.

The beautiful thing about this entire process is you come away with two major outcomes.

First, you find out things you can do differently to help you with other customers. Second, you deepen your relationship with the customer you weren’t able to close, setting yourself up to potentially close with them next time around.

© 2011 Mark Hunter

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