Losing an opportunity is never easy and can cost you time, energy, money and a little bit of your confidence. After a loss, it is easy to just walk away and pretend like it never happened and look for another opportunity to work on, but that might not be the best thing for your business. Permit me to share with you the five things you need to do after losing an opportunity:
- Take out the emotion. Losing an opportunity can feel like you are being rejected, and often can hurt your confidence in your abilities and chip away at your self-worth. What I learned early in my business career was that selling leads to rejection. The longer you have been in sales, the more rejection you have faced, but the rejection is about the solution you offered not about you. If you remove the emotion, you can get on to the process of looking for future opportunities with this client.
- Ask for permission to stay in touch. Asking for permission to stay in touch is a small ask and the decision maker always see this as a small concession after giving you bad news. In over twenty years plus in sales and thousands of lost sales opportunities, I have never heard of anyone saying no to this simple request. The reason why you want the permission to stay in touch is that you have worked hard to get to the decision maker and you would want to keep that direct access open. It also lets the prospect know that you view this as an ongoing relationship.
- Do a post-mortem. I don’t like losing. Actually, I hate losing and for me, I want to do everything in my power to minimize the number of lost deals. So, after every loss deal, I always do a post-mortem. My post-mortem is a 30-minute appointment with myself to take an objective look at what had transpired. The first thing I do is go back over my notes in my CRM system and the emails that we exchanged. I often ask myself the following questions:
- Is there anything I missed or maybe I didn’t understand correctly based on the knowledge that the prospect made a different choice than what I offered?
- What information did I lack that could have helped me craft a better solution?
- What questions should I start asking to get better information from prospects?
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What should I start doing based on this loss that would help in the future?
- What should I stop doing based on this loss that would help in the future?
- Send a handwritten thank you card. Yes, you heard me right. I always send a handwritten thank you card after a lost opportunity. I want the prospect to know that I appreciated the time they took to entertain my solution. The handwritten card is by far one of the best tips to make you stand out from the other companies they have ever worked with. For the cost of a card, stamp and a few minutes time, it will help you create a great impression that will last.
- Follow-up with the prospect in about four weeks. The follow-up time frame might vary from industry to industry, but it has been my experience that a percentage of deals didn’t happen for one reason or another. The solution they decided to implement isn’t working out, the other vendor is failing to meet promises, the deal has just gotten stuck or the client ended up choosing to remain with the status quo. All these things can mean another opportunity for you to get the business. You will be surprised by the number of deals that end up never being completed. The worst-case scenario is that the prospect has implemented the other solution and loved it, but you still stand out as the professional who cared enough to follow-up. And note that there is zero downside to following-up.
How do you currently follow-up on lost opportunities in your business? Why not try a couple of these suggestions the next time you lose an opportunity? What do you have to lose?