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Why Did You Lose the Sale? How to Gain Big from Lost Sale Research

Why did you lose the sale? Most of us don’t want to spend too much time thinking about missed opportunities – but that’s a mistake. In fact, taking a thoughtful and systematic approach to understanding your might-have-beens can be a key driver for new success in the future.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to analyze your lost prospects and what you can gain from your losses. We’ll explore how you can determine which prospects to contact, what to ask, and what you’ll learn in the process.

Start by Looking Under the Rug

First, you’ll need to identify your lost prospects. It’s easy to sweep missed opportunities under the rug of our hottest leads and bids in process, but that would be a costly mistake.

Take a look at the ones who got away. This will be much easier if your firm uses Customer Relationship Management software like Salesforce or Infusionsoft. Your CRM should allow you to sort lost prospects by status, or by date to get a complete list. Add up the value of the lost proposals. This pipeline value will speak for itself.

In addition to lost pipeline revenue, your firm has likely invested: 

  • lead generation costs
  • technology and software expenses to track leads
  • loaded expense of personnel to nurture the lead
  • time and materials to create a proposal and manage a sales cycle. 

By understanding how to more effectively win future sales, you’ll improve the return on both those past investments and investments to come.

Building the List

You may find it useful to compile the following information for each lost opportunity, if you don’t already have it at hand:

  • Date of proposal
  • Account owner
  • Prospect contact name and phone
  • Account name and industry
  • Service/Opportunity Description
  • Value
  • Brief background from sales representative

With this information in place, you’ll be ready to reach out to the prospects. Decide upfront whether you’ll use an outside firm or someone in-house. I favor and recommend conducting this outreach over the phone – you’ll need strong communication skills to substantively engage your lost prospects, and this kind of engagement can be much more difficult online. Demonstrate earnest interest in your prospects and their answers.  

Conducting the Survey

For a lost prospect analysis, we recommend:

  • Attempting contact with each prospect up to 3 times
  • No selling of any kind
  • Keeping conversation below 10 minutes
  • Stating that the survey is for your firm’s improvement
  • Helping the contact remember the rep’s name, contact’s name, and business need they were trying to address by talking with your firm
  • Demonstrating that their opinion is important

In our own lost prospect analysis, we ask:

  • Who was our competition?
  • Which firm was selected?
  • What is the most important factor that tipped the scale in favor of our competitor?
  • What is the probability that you would recommend us in the future?

Make certain that your questions are grounded in specific goals and outcomes. Once you’ve collected this data, you’ll be situated to understand your strengths and weaknesses as a seller, as well as the specific challenges you face.

Reading the Results

We know from our research into 1300 buyers and sellers of professional services and over 700 B2B sales opportunities that sellers regularly overestimate their services’ importance to buyers, misidentify their competitors, and fail to recognize the issues that matter most to their audiences. By analyzing the data from your lost prospects, you have the opportunity to close some of these perception gaps. Were you aware of the competitor who won the sale? Was your proposal too long, off-point?

After accumulating data from multiple prospects and sharing the results internally, you’ll be ready to evaluate and respond. That could mean subtle adjustments or big changes, but in either case, your path forward will be guided by an informed understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Not only will you be better positioned for growth and success, you’ll be better able to meet the needs of future clients. And when those lost prospects are next seeking the services you offer, they might just remember your sincere interest in their firm and dedication to delivering the best possible services. In more ways than one, missed opportunities sometimes transform into future wins.

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Janice Maida As Associate Account Director, Janice educates and collaborates with Hinge’s clients, crafting solutions to help their businesses run even better. Along with an upbeat attitude and a genuine curiosity about the world, Janice’s clients benefit from her dual citizenship in the worlds of finance and marketing. A graduate of General Electric Company’s Financial Management Program, Janice brings a line-management practicality to the adoption of online marketing.

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