3 Self-Induced Reasons for Lost Sales

lost-salesOne of the most misunderstood phrases in our business is the ‘lost sale’. Sales managers criticize reps for ‘lost’ sales to hot prospects that the reps cannot understand, much less explain. What neither comprehends is that well over half the time, the sale was never yours to lose.

A lost sale means that you had a legitimate opportunity and you got outsold, outbid, or outmaneuvered. If you never had an actual shot because something kicked you out of the running before a proposal was ever written, that’s not a lost sale, even if you submitted a quote or a contract.

If you’re failing to close more deals than you’d like, there are three things you should look at first—and they have very little to do with the buyer.

1. Sales rep did not qualify. Just because someone was willing to meet with your sales rep doesn’t mean that they had a desire or an interest to buy. The sales rep must thoroughly qualify prospects, rather than engage in a “quote and hope” sales process. As a sales manager, you cannot promote this “quote anyone” mentality either. Sales reps waste valuable time managing prospects that will rarely buy. Therefore, the sale wasn’t, in fact, lost; your sales rep never had a shot in the first place. Throwing proposals against the wall because something’s bound to stick is not ‘selling’. It’s wishful thinking.

2. Sales rep did not develop sufficient trust. This occurs frequently, but is often more difficult to identify than failure to qualify. Trust-building is more subjective and is usually only confirmed when a sales manager observes the rep following—or failing to follow—the sales process. Whether due to dress, style and image, tardiness, available materials, lack of product knowledge, or poor facilitation of the sales process, sales managers often learn by observing that their reps fall short of their buyer’s expectations for trust-building. When your rep asks insufficient questions, engages only in low-level conversations, focuses exclusively on product, or drops price quickly, they erode their own credibility. Your buyer’s process may require three bids. Just because they asked your rep for a bid doesn’t mean that they ever planned to buy from them.

3. Sales rep did not establish value. Your rep must ask questions to uncover the prospect’s perception of value, which is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the buyer. When that doesn’t happen, the buyer experiences no discernable difference between your rep’s solution and their competition, so it comes down to price. If everyone pitches product and price without providing any sort of customer experience to elevate them above their competitors, lowest price wins every time.

You can’t fix the problem until you know what it is. Are your reps truly experiencing lost sales, or is the actual issue a misunderstanding of who they should be selling to in the first place? If you ask specific, objective questions about the activities of the sales rep as they navigated through the sales process, you’ll often be able to locate the gap—and that’s when you can start to fix the problem.