When the Sale Doesn’t Happen
By Lee B. Salz
In a perfect world, every buying process would conclude with an
award of the business. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. There are
lessons to be learned in sales gone awry.
the 70’s and 80’s, there was a great television show called
“Quincy.” This show revolved around a coroner who investigated
deaths. Jack Klugman, a.k.a. Dr. Quincy, performed an autopsy on
what appeared to be a death by natural causes and realized that the
actual cause of death was murder. Once that determination was made,
the rest of the show was focused on finding the bad guys and
identifying the motive, not necessarily in that order.
Early in my career as a sales manager, I learned the importance of
the education from lost sales. Where some err is that they use a
lost sale as an opportunity to beat up a sales person. The sales
person walks away defeated and angry. I never made losing a deal a
habit, but it does happen. No one likes to talk about failure, but
as Dr. Seuss says in The Places You’ll Go, “Bang-ups and
Hang-ups can happen to you”.
Three entities can learn important lessons from lost deals, in no
particular order: the company, the sales manager, and the sales
person. Inspired by the television show, I used the term “Quincy” as
the process to conduct an autopsy on the sale that went awry.
Not to be overly morbid, but the process begins with the sales
person completing a report titled the “Quincy Report” which provides
an overview of the process, captures key data elements, and includes
a narrative from the sales person’s perspective. That report is then
shared with a team, the Inquest team. This team, which is comprised
of fellow sales people and other executives in the company, review
the report and then participate in an Inquest conference call.
During the call, the sales person presents the situation and fields
questions from the team. The spirit of the call is to create a
learning environment for the aforementioned three entities. This is
not a forum to criticize the sales person. If a critique necessary,
the sales manager handles that privately with their sales person.
Some of the information included in the report:
How the lead was
developed. Companies can learn by lead source where they are
most and least effective. Sales managers can learn which sales
people are best at handling particular types of leads.
Length of buying
process. Companies can learn the length of the cycle. Does
the length of the process correspond to winning or losing the
business? There is an old expression about time killing deals.
Contact people with
titles. Sales managers can see if the sales person was able
to meet with the right level of contact for the sale.
Description of the
relationship with each contact person. While knowing who the
sales person contacted is important, even more important is the
relationship established with each. Sales managers can analyze
the relationship aspects of the process. The two areas to
measure for each contact person is their level of influence in
making the buying decision and their level of commitment to your
solution being adopted. Heavily influential buyers that are not
heavily committed to your solution being adopted and the
converse scenario are two of the main reasons deals are lost.
To whom the sale was
lost. Companies, sales managers, and sales people are always
looking for competitive intelligence. It is important to know
who is eating your lunch. Is there a trend? What are they doing
that you are not? If you don’t know a particular competitor is
kicking sand in your face, you can’t develop a strategy to
Reason why the sale
was lost. Does your message need tweaking? Is your price
consistent with the market? Is the offering compelling? Did they
elect to do nothing?
Many don’t necessarily think of electing to do nothing as a
lost sale. However, losing to “status quo” is ubiquitous in sales.
Everyone can relate to losing a sale to this powerhouse of a
competitor. Much can be learned from this loss, but few dig into the
reasons for it. Is the solution off the mark? Is price the issue? Or
is it positioning? If every sales person could find a way to defeat
status quo, every company would enjoy record revenues.
Getting to the real reason for the lost sale is not always easy to
do. First, buyers don’t always tell sales people the reason for
their decision. Second, sales people don’t necessarily volunteer
that they didn’t do everything they could have in the process.
One effective way to get the real scoop is for the sales manager to
contact the person who was most influential in the decision process.
This is not a sales call, nor is it an attempt to reverse the
decision. This call is positioned as the company’s desire to always
improve itself. As such, the sales manager asks for a five minute
phone call to best understand where his company fell short. You will
be surprised how many buyers are willing to have that conversation
under those circumstances. Keep in mind, their company doesn’t
always win the business either. The call also leaves a favorable
impression on the buyer so that the next time they are looking for a
provider, you may have a leg up.
Scientists fail countless times in their quest to develop the next
great thing for the world. It is the process of learning from the
failures that leads to the greatest of inventions. Just as Quincy
learned from his autopsies, companies, sales managers, and sales
people need to learn from theirs.
Read other articles and learn more about
[Contact the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]