Customer Experience News & Trends

Why sales are won or lost

When 500 salespeople were asked how often they believed they were at fault for losing deals, their response was: 25% of the time. 

The same salespeople felt they were primarily responsible for winning sales 75% of the time.

This study shows that salespeople overemphasize themselves as a factor in winning and underestimate themselves as a reason for losing.

Working in the dark

Looking for the solution without listening to the problem is like working in the dark. This is what salespeople do when they continue to sell without fully understanding why they lost the deal.

Some blame product or service features or pricing issues, or they say it’s all about chemistry and feel there’s nothing they can do to change the outcome.

But the best salespeople don’t see losing as an inevitable process that can’t be changed. They work to learn everything they can about why they lose and are constantly improving themselves. As soon as they learn a sale is lost, they call the prospect immediately to conduct a post-decision debriefing session.

Prospects don’t always give straight answers when salespeople ask why a sale is lost. They often feel uncomfortable giving feedback and criticism directly to salespeople because they don’t want to hurt their feelings. They also fear confrontation or criticism from a salesperson who may become defensive.

In fact, a recent study showed that prospects share the complete truth less than half of the time.

The study matched the reasons salespeople provided for why they lost specific deals with the real reasons given by prospects. Only 40% of the time did salespeople identify the real reasons. Another 28% were partially right, but 32% of them were totally wrong in their assessments as to why they lost a deal.

Why debriefing calls fail

Here are five reasons why salespeople are unable to capture accurate reasons for losing the sale:

  1. Bias and perceptions. Even in situations where prospects are giving candid feedback, salespeople may misinterpret what prospects are saying or may find themselves selectively listening.
  2. Lack of chemistry with the prospect. Deals are lost because the salesperson failed to develop the right chemistry with the prospect. The same problem may prevent the salesperson from getting the real reason in a debriefing session.
  3. Inaccurate assessment of prospect’s needs. The salesperson doesn’t accurately assess the prospect’s needs and fails to focus on hot buttons during the debriefing session.
  4. Fear of accountability. Some salespeople may not want to gather the truth because they don’t want to be held accountable for the loss.
  5. Hesitancy to reach out to a prospect after a loss. Some salespeople fear bothering prospects when conducting debriefing calls. They feel they’ll be better off moving on to the next deal instead of tracking down the reason for the current loss.

Analyzing ‘winning’ sales

It’s important to revisit ‘winning sales’ as well.

If you focus only on why you lose, you may not understand why you win. Debriefing with customers who choose to work with you is a valuable yet often overlooked exercise. It’s always important to understand why you win, because this information acts as a powerful complement to the reasons you lose.

Researching wins as well as losses ensures that you receive a balanced perspective so you can continue practices that result in success and eliminate ones that lose sales. Prospects you’ve sold to will often be candid about their reasons for giving you their business and provide you feedback on areas where you might need improvement.

Adapted from: “A Good to A Great Sales Call,” by Richard Schroder, president of Anova Consulting Group, a recognized leader in sales training.

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