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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:
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.
Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales architecture
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