To Build or Kill, That Is The Question

What happens when one of your sales people loses a big deal? Do you kick the shit out of them by calling out everything they did wrong? Do you play Monday morning quarterback and point out all the mistakes that were made and how losing the deal could ruin the quarter or even the year? Do you make it readily apparent how they screwed up?

If you do, don’t.

Here’s the deal. As a sales leader, you have the power to build or kill. How you engage with your sales reps after a big loss goes a long way in their development as a sales person, their self-confidence and their role in your sales organization.

As a sales leader your job is to build up your people. It’s to empower them with the confidence and skills to be badass sales people and the loss of a big deal can be one of the best times to do this.

When a rep loses a big deal, the first the thing the sales leader needs to understand is the salesperson is absolutely bummed out. They are devastated. The sales person is acutely aware of the impact the loss has on them, their quota, their commission check, and their bank account. You piling on and letting them know how bad it is, isn’t helping. It brings no value. You’re just pounding them into the ground for no good reason. When we beat up salespeople for losing a bid deal, it’s more about us and our frustration. It’s about our ego. It’s about our bank account. It’s about our agenda and that’s not fair.

The goal isn’t to kill the rep but to but to build the rep. When a rep loses a big deal, take the time to sit down and do a loss analysis with them. Schedule, an hour of one-on-one time, to walk through what happened and what could have done differently. The key is to come prepared. Have the CRM notes in front of you. Do your homework too. It’s not all about the rep.

A good lost deal analysis that builds rather than kills looks like this;

  1. Schedule a dedicated one-on-one meeting for an hour
  2. Start by setting the tone that the rep isn’t in trouble, but that its is a coaching and growth opportunity for the both of you
  3. Kick the meeting off by asking the rep to describe the sale; why were they buying (the problem)? What was the process? What was the customers pain (the motivation)? Who was involved? What was the timeline? etc. The goal here is to set the context of the sale.
  4. Ask the rep what his or her sales strategy was and how they came up with it. What were their objectives and why that strategy?
  5. Ask the rep where they felt things went wrong.
  6. Ask what do they think they missed.
  7. Ask the rep what they would do different looking back. With hindsight what would they do different?
  8. Once you’ve spent 30 minutes or so evaluating what happened and the decisions that were made, start asking questions that help the rep see other possibilities. Ex: You said the customer said XYZ, do you think that could have been an opportunity to . . . ? When the competition lowered the price by 20%, why didn’t you . . . ?
  9. Work with their answers to broaden their perspective and give them solid takeaways for next time. Anchor them in the missteps AS WELL AS the correct steps. Don’t focus only on the mistakes, emphasize the things they did well. You want them to keep doing the things that work and stop doing the things that didn’t.

The key to leveraging a big loss for the positive is to keep it light, collaborative and supportive. It shouldn’t feel like an ass whooping or a scolding. If done correctly, sales reps should look forward to them as a way to get better. Liken it to film day in football. Player’s love film day. Yeah, their teammates give em shit when they mess up, but what’s most important to them is they get to see where they made their mistakes and what they need to do to correct them. They get to evaluate themselves and watch their play. Film day is invaluable.

Don’t kill your sales reps for losing a big deal. Use it as a way to build them up. Remember, the better they get, the better you get.