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Losing a sale isn’t easy. Besides affecting profit projections, a lost sale can weaken team morale, cause tension in a client or prospect relationship and create feelings of uncertainty about the value of what you’re selling and how you’re selling.

But a lost sale can be a lot more than an unfortunate scenario. It represents an opportunity to evaluate your processes, educate yourself and your team, improve your methods and try new tactics.

To help a lost sale inspire a string of subsequent successful ones, you need to properly analyze what happened and why. Here are four key ways to learn from a lost sale. 

Interview Your Team

Whether you led the effort or not, the first step in assessing the lost sale is speaking with every person in your organization who was involved. This is not a witch hunt, but a gathering of information. The goal is to assemble a detailed timeline and summary of what happened during each part of the sales process.

Here are a few of the items that you’ll need to learn about:

  • Where did the lead come from? Was it a cold call or a warm introduction?
  • Did anyone on the team have a personal connection to the prospect?
  • How many conversations did your side have with the prospects? How many emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings? Where and when did they happen? What was the frequency?
  • What were the perspectives of all involved? At what points did they feel like the prospect was going to sign on the dotted line and why? When did they feel like it was lost and why?

Reach Out to the Other Side

Don’t slink away from the prospect in embarrassment; pick up the phone and call the decision-maker directly. This call isn’t to convince them that they made a mistake, or to demand an explanation, but to keep the relationship warm. Sincerely thank them for considering your team.

If they seem amiable, ask what your team could have changed, offered or done differently. Don’t push for detailed explanations, don’t offer objections or defenses, and don’t request a follow-up meeting. If this call is done correctly, you’ll have left your company’s reputation in a better state than before you picked up the phone.

If you were able to make notes about why your company didn’t win the business, then schedule a meeting for your team to share the information.

Compare the Lost Deal to a Won Deal

Once you have an idea of why the deal was lost, it’s important to compare it to a deal you recently won. What was different about the process? What reasons did each party give for either choosing or passing on your company? Who, on your team, was involved and what was their experience?

This comparing and contrasting will help you find the weak spots in your sales tactics — or your sales targets. Sometimes, the biggest reason for a lost sale isn’t that your approach was wrong, but that who you were approaching wasn’t right. At the end of the day, strong customer fit is one of the biggest reasons behind successful sales.

Make Adjustments

When you’ve got the insight, it’s time to use it to make changes to your processes and strategies. If it seems that the prospect simply wasn’t the best fit for your company and solution, then narrow the profile of your ideal customer. If inconsistent, overlapping or impersonal communication was a problem, establish new processes and timelines for when you contact a prospect, and how. Adjust team member responsibilities, implement new software for sales tracking and organization, and, most importantly, re-motivate your team.