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What To Do After Losing A Big Sales Deal

You've just spent a long time on a deal, and had high hopes. It was the linchpin of your pipe. You received that "no" you're always afraid of hearing, and now the whole thing's imploded and disappeared. This can be a pretty traumatic experience (no, that word isn't overly dramatic), and often results in a strong sense of helplessness. However, don't forget that you weren't alone in counting on that deal. Here's my advice on what to do after losing a big sales deal.

Remain calm and positive.

I have written about this before here and here, but I'd like to reiterate some of the advice:

  1. Keep your perspective: Perhaps the easiest way of keeping calm is to remember to put the deal into perspective. It's not the only large deal you'll ever work on, nor is it your only deal. Sure, it may have been vital to your month, but there'll be others.
  2. Focus on what you can control: The world won't stop because of one lost deal. You can't change what happened there, but you can surely focus on what you do now.
  3. Positivity is key: Remember to remain positive. This is merely a small blip in your sales career, and you won't even remember it 6 months down the line. Negativity, anger, and despair all lead to increased mistakes. Hard as it may seem, focus on remaining positive. I've always found a walk around the block (or 2 or 3) does wonders for my mood, and lets me see things in a fresh light.

Maintain your relationship

If you've built a good relationship, then keep in mind that saying 'no' is at least as uncomfortable for the prospect as hearing it is for you. The 'no' here is merely a temporary setback in your relationship, and should never be seen as permanent. The deal, after all, was huge, so the company probably isn't small. Keep this in mind when speaking with the prospect.

The most important thing about the deal isn't the deal per se. That was merely a temporary phenomenon. The most important thing is the relationships you've built over the course of the deal. Don't let them suffer; instead, use this occasion to strengthen them.

Keeping the relationship positive and alive will also help you save a deal if that's a possibility. Shutting the door to them will exclude every chance of this happening. This post is about a completely lost deal, so it's not going to focus on saving it, but the advice holds true regardless.

Obtain feedback from your prospect.

This ties into the last point, and will help you build the relationship further. Rather than being upset, ask for honest feedback. You can use the suggestions for questions I made in my article on losing a sale gracefully, or you can collect your own. I'd recommend asking seasoned salespeople and your manager for input, at a minimum.

Honest feedback is an absolute must, since the deal size was significant. It's useful to you, and will help you understand: what went wrong with the deal, where you can improve, and where your company can improve. This last point is especially significant. The company needs to know where it can improve in order to sell more, and you'll be providing massive value by obtaining this information directly from the source.

Perform a post-mortem with your manager and peers.

I highly recommend that you perform a structured post-mortem of a lost deal with a team of peers and your manager. If you're lucky enough to have a sales coach, include them as well. This process is vastly simplified if you have a decent CRM system in place, but can be performed well even if you don't (it just means a slight bit more preparation).

The postmortem will be extremely valuable to you since you can really go into depth about all aspects of the deal. It's also useful to your manager, who has to report about a large chunk of pipe that's now missing. Keeping them in the picture is always a good idea, and especially so in this case.

In the post-mortem, take the time and go over every aspect of the deal from initial conception to its final breaths. The idea is to collect advice and feedback on each step and each interaction of the deal. Make sure you cover the complete sales cycle, and ensure you leave no stone unturned.

Meet with the higher-ups.

If the deal is large enough, it'll end up on the desk of your manager's superiors. Instead of seeing this as an occasion for anxiety, present yourself to them and ask them for feedback (always be sure to discuss this with your manager first, though). The perspective you can gain from this level is invaluable, and you'll become a better salesperson as a result.

Accept that sometimes deals can just fail.

Deals can fail even if everything was done right. You asked all the right questions, you performed a perfect qualification and needs analysis, and you positioned perfectly. And yet, somehow, the competitor walked away with the deal. It's unfortunate, but it happens.

If that's the case, don't lose hope. Instead, accept it, focus on continuing the good work you're doing with all of your prospects, and keep in touch with the one you just lost. Set up a meeting with them one year from now, and have a review of how they're doing with your competitor. This may sound audacious, but you are, after all, an expert in the field. Make sure to be helpful and bring your expertise to bear. Who knows – you may even be able to win them back.

I hope this has been useful to you, and, as ever, I wish you all the best!

Do you agree with what I wrote here? Disagree? Did I miss something? Could I have done something better? Please let me know in the comments!

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