How to Effectively Follow-Up with Lost Sales Opportunities
In this episode, Gerardo Dada asks: What is the best way to follow up with lost sales opportunities? Ray Makela, Chief Customer Officer at SRG, discusses how to handle these type of conversations, primary objectives to accomplish, and how one time following up with a lost opportunity turned into a major contract.
Well, thanks for that question. It’s an interesting one because the first step is asking that question. We should do something when we lose.
Often, we're frustrated, a little disappointed, and moving on to the next deal. We forget that there are incredible lessons that we can learn by going back to that customer and seeing what we can take away from that opportunity that didn't work out the way we wanted.
The first step is to get in front of them or get them on the phone and have that debrief and discussion. We don't want to argue, try to reposition, or resell—the customer already decided. But we want to ask "Can you help us understand what your key decision factors were? And was there anything we could have done better or differently in this situation to improve our chances of winning the deal?"
Those questions are very insightful and can help us gain information about how we can improve. It tells the customer that we're sincere and interested in helping our organization improve; and that we're not going to try to disparage the competition or argue with their decision, but we're trying to get better for next time.
The second thing we need to do is to look at the lost reason. We need to be very honest with ourselves and look and say, "Then based on the customer's input, why didn't this opportunity move forward?" Perhaps we didn't qualify it initially, well enough.
In other words, we shouldn't have been chasing this deal, to begin with. It wasn't a good fit for us. We didn't have the right level of relationships, and we weren't able to build them. Or it just wasn't a good opportunity for us to pursue.
But let's say that it was. We need to think then, "Was it because our solution wasn't a good fit? Weren't we able to engage at the right level and get to those key decision makers? Or perhaps, we priced ourselves out of the market, and we didn't understand what they were looking for, or we didn't understand the problem they were trying to solve."
I heard an interesting statistic the other day that said that we spend 50% more time on deals that we lose than on those that we win. I thought that was an interesting statistic. It takes longer to lose a deal than to move forward with those that win. That may help enlighten us regarding the types of deals that we go after and focus on deals that are more qualified. It's important for us to think about that lost reason for future opportunities, "What can we do to improve?"
The final piece that I think is critically important is to continue to treat that prospect as if it's a customer. So we've spent time investing in the relationship, learning about their organization, understanding what's important to them and what their problems are. Well, let's continue to use that. Let's go back to them and add value. Maybe we can offer them some additional advice, some insights, a whitepaper, invite them to a webinar, or some other value-added service that we have to continue to engage.
Somewhere along the line, we follow up two or three months out, and say, "Hey, how's that project going? I'm curious to hear how it's working out for you. Are there any gaps in the current solution you have? And would you entertain an opportunity to get together and talk about some of the other services we offer, or some other ideas we had about how we can help your organization?" At this point, we're starting to build a longer-term relationship. We already have that investment. They know who we are. Let's see if we can use that for a future opportunity.
And I'll close with one story. One of the largest accounts that I had the opportunity to win resulted from a loss. It turned out the first opportunity we pursued, which was an RFP, we didn't know much about the organization, and we weren't well-positioned. It wasn't a great fit. But at that time, we went after it, and we lost the deal. But in the debrief, the client said, "We really do want to do business with you, just not on this opportunity." And over three years, it became the largest account that we had. So, we need to think about going back to the client, asking those questions, seeing why we lost, and what we can do better in the future. Then continue to maintain that relationship over time.
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About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.