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Learning From Losing

April 25, 2012 | By Mark Levinson

How many hours have sales operations leaders spent (or wasted) trying to get good data on lost opportunities? No doubt too many to calculate. However, what’s really important is that they don’t stop trying.

How many hours have sales operations leaders spent (or wasted) trying to get good data on lost opportunities? No doubt too many to calculate. However, what’s really important is that they don’t stop trying. The wealth of information for both sales and marketing that can be gathered from losing a deal is priceless.  But the question still remains: How does sales operations increase the visibility of this buried treasure of information?

At this point in my career and based on the research I’ve performed, it’s clear to me that just asking sales reps to enter the loss information into the sales force automation (SFA) platform is not getting the job done. At the same time, offering a reward to get loss information seems contradictory. The option that appears to hold the most hope is to develop a win/win scenario. For sales operations and sales leadership, the win is the intelligence that tells them what to do differently next time or when would be the best time to try to engage the prospect or customer again. There’s also insight available to the sales rep, but it’s focused on better understanding the makeup of a winnable opportunity’s success profile and creating a leaner pipeline for greater efficiency.

In order to get this win/win insight from lost deals, sales operations should do the following:

  • Create a historical analysis over the last six months of lost deal opportunities; this should enable sales operations to determine the top reasons (limit the list to no more than five).
  • Next, create a simple process within the SFA to notate a deal as a loss, with a drop-down list for each of the top reasons.
  • Finally, and this is the big win/win, develop a communication plan where a loss analysis is included in the sales dashboard and the rep and his or her manager present a monthly loss review to the rest of the sales team.

This final step will deliver several benefits, including: creating a cadence in the sales process to show the educational benefit resulting from diagnosing a loss (removing the negative stigma); helping managers to coach their reps to capture important loss information in the SFA (e.g. competitor, product, pricing, learning); and giving reps the opportunity to present in front of their peers (increasing knowledge sharing and morale).

National Basketball Association coach Pat Riley, whose storied career includes leading the Los Angeles Lakers to multiple championships, once said: “You have no choice about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again.” So, let’s choose to learn from those lost opportunities and use that intelligence to prepare to win the next opportunity.

Mark Levinson

Mark Levinson is Vice President and Group Director of Sales and Channel Services at SiriusDecisions. Mark’s nearly 20 years of experience includes a wide variety of sales operations issues including strategic planning, territory optimization, compensation plans, account management, sales tools and sales analytics. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkBLevinson.

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