Selling techniques for discovering problems in your sales process
So you lost that sale, and of course you’d like to know why. Was it the price? Was it the product? Was it something you said? Or something you should have said?
You could do what many salespeople do: ask the buyer. But don’t count on getting a straight answer. Recent sales research shows prospects share the complete truth less than 40% of the time in that situation, says sales coach Mark Dembo.
After all, they just picked somebody else. Now they just want to move on without any drama. So they tell you nice things: “You did a great job. It was a really tough choice. You came in second.”
How can you find out what the real reasons were, so you can improve your odds of winning next time around?
Here are three sales techniques for initiating and conducting successful post-loss debriefs:
- Get approval for a debrief early in the sales process.
Of course, nobody wants to bring up losing the sale before the buyer’s made a decision! But you can ask for a debrief without going negative – and that will increase the odds of getting good feedback, says Dembo.
Here’s how: Explain to the customer that you’d like permission to review the sales process after it’s complete, as part of your quality assurance efforts. Don’t even bring up winning versus losing; explain that it’s a routine part of every sale.
Taking this proactive step will set the right foundation and create an implied agreement with the prospect for an interview. It also builds credibility for you and your company. The “win or lose, I’d like your perspective” approach reinforces a consultative sales process.
The best time to do this is after you have built rapport and identified the needs of the prospect. Then, when you are beginning your process of presenting solutions, you can mention it to the person. And keep your word: Ask for feedback on successful sales, too. It’s important to know what you’re doing right as well as wrong.
- If you don’t get the sale, don’t try to debrief on the same call.
You’ll want to, of course. But in most cases, you will not get any meaningful feedback. At this point the other person’s goal is to tell you the bad news and get you off the phone as quickly as possible. And you may feel, rejected, defeated, deflated and defensive. That’s a lot of emotions to handle all at once.
It is virtually impossible to have all the right questions to ask and to ask them in the right frame of mind. You and the buyer both need time to reflect. So instead of asking, “What did we do wrong?” simply ask to follow up later.
For example:“Ms. Prospect, I understand your decision and I respect it. I’m disappointed, because I really wanted to work with you and your company. I wish you all the best and I’m not going to try to change your mind. If you recall, I mentioned that we conduct debriefs at the end of every sale to improve our sales process and offerings. Can we set up a time in the next week or so to speak for 15 minutes? It would really be helpful to me.”
Let the prospect know you are not going to argue with her decision. That puts her at ease, so she will be more willing to talk to you. And make clear to her that you don’t like to lose but that you do like to learn from every loss.
- Take the tension out of the debrief.
Make the prospect feel totally comfortable giving you constructive feedback. To do this, you must be ready and willing to hear the whole truth: the good, the bad and the ugly. Many salespeople do not seek out such criticism; the best always do.
In framing the discussion, make sure the prospect knows you aren’t just looking to be “let down easy” and that he shouldn’t worry about sparing your feelings. Explain that you’re genuinely interested in the ways you and your company can improve.
Other ways to promote prospects’ candor:
- Take full responsibility for everything that occurred during the sales process.
- Don’t get defensive or angry, don’t debate with the prospect and don’t try to resell the prospect.
- Probe for specifics. Ask “What do you mean?” or “Tell me more.”
- Draft a post loss debrief questionnaire to use as a guide for your conversations.
You can’t win them all. But an effective debrief will unlock a vast source of information that you can use to improve your odds of winning the next one!
Subscribe to the Sales Blog
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox