Your Rep Just Lost a Deal. Here’s What You Should Do Next.

March 17, 2017

We all lose sales from time to time. The key is learning from it.

You knew the deal was going south before the call even ended. You watched your rep flounder; you saw the customer’s mental eye roll as your rep rambled on and on. Your rep didn’t ask the right questions, they didn’t sell on value, and the customer remained disengaged.

Your rep is embarrassed and frustrated; you’re disappointed, and maybe even a little bit angry.

Recovering from a deal gone bad is challenging, for the rep and their boss.  As a manager, the inclination is to point out where the rep went wrong.  But, pointing out mistakes while the rep is still stinging from the loss doesn’t create lasting behavior change.

You’ll improve your rep’s skills more if you help her or him self-assess. Instead of dissecting it yourself, use this three-part technique:

Ask questions.

You may know where the deal went wrong, but does your rep?  Ask questions like, where do you think the client lost interest?  What would you do differently next time?  Have an open, inquisitive conversation with your rep If they do know these things, let them explain it to you.  It’s more empowering for them, and they’ll remember it more than having you chastise them on something they already know.  Try asking: What do you think made them change their mind?  Do you think the competition spoke with them?  What are some ways we could have overcome their objections?

Have the rep develop a plan.

After you’ve reached agreement on where the deal went wrong, have your rep develop a plan to fix it.  Sometimes one bad call isn’t enough to lose a deal.  If your rep still has a chance, ask them, how can you get this back on track?  If they can’t fix it, ask them, how can you avoid this in the future?  Maybe it was not having the true decision-maker in the room, or neglecting to address the benefits of the competition.  Whatever the culprit, ask your rep what they’re going to do. You’re not blaming, you’re empowering.

Don’t let them beat themselves up too badly.

If you’ve hired a strong performer, or someone who strives to be a top performer, a loss hurts their ego.  And, it’s going to be a lot worse because you’re there. Remind your rep while this is painful; it’s not fatal.  Try visiting a consistently positive customer, or reminding them of other calls that went well.  It can be hard not to zoom in on the negative.  While unpacking the call and planning for a rebound are important, leave the conversation by getting your rep back into a positive headspace. 

Watching your rep lose a deal in front of you is painful, and having your boss watch you fail is humiliating.  But, it will happen to everyone.  The best thing you can do, as a manager, is to enable your rep to get up, learn from it and be galvanized about their plan to improve.

Lisa Earle McLeod and Elizabeth McLeod work with organizations to improve competitive differentiation and emotional engagement. Check out their LinkedIn Learning courses here.

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