Losing an order or contract is not what you set out to do and certainly never pleasant. You worked hard, often together with colleagues, to get the order or land the contract. So if it is ultimately awarded to the competition, there are two things you can do: either nothing, and forget about it, or learn from it. Because learning from losing means investing in future gains. Here are my suggestions for learning successfully from losing.
Make sure you have a form that you can use to analyse the orders or contracts you have lost and those you have landed.
Both you and your clients should complete the form. It is important that the form is filled in by your contacts in the organisations that did not grant you the order. The intention is that you, clients and non-clients answer the questions that fall under various domains. These domains are the sales team, possibly other employees (such as those of the support department) and the offer (product or service). When you formulate questions about the sales team, consider things like ”understanding the organisation”, ”the problems” and ”the desired solution”. This form is the most effective when the client and non-client also provide information about the competitor to whom the contract was awarded. Experience has shown that you can best make an appointment for this with your client and non-client within 3 weeks of the preferred supplier being selected. The best way to prepare your clients for this is by informing them of this process in advance.
Sales people tend to think that landing or losing an order or contract can be attributed to only a piece of the process, like the meetings that were held. One easily forgets that even the lobby of the office building or a demonstration of the product can figure in the final decision. So it’s not just about price and specifications. It’s important to tailor your questions accordingly. You will be surprised to learn what details can feature in a contract not being awarded to you.
Who will conduct the interview?
Consider carefully who will conduct the interview with the client or non-client. Does the sales person have the ability to discuss matters objectively? This question must be answered with an indisputable ‘yes’. If there is any doubt, it is advisable that someone else, like the marketing manager, is sent to conduct this evaluation interview. Experience shows that most sales people (understandably) lack the required objectivity. Then again, contacts often find it difficult to go into details with a sales person.
Ask persistent questions
It is better to ask why your competitor was granted the contract rather than asking why you lost. Furthermore, ask open questions and do not answer them in your own mind before hearing what the client or non-client has to say. That is a potential danger when having lost an order. You are disappointed and too readily think you know what could have been the cause or what the reason is. Prepare well for the interview, but remain open-minded and ask the right questions, such as “What did our competitor do better than us?” and “What was the deciding factor in the decision-making process?”. And certainly do not fear criticism.
Before and after
Both your client and non-client had an impression of you and your organisation before entering into the purchasing process. It is very useful to know whether that impression changed or bore out during and after the decision and on which points.
Discuss and learn
After all the information is noted down on the form, it must be evaluated within your organisation. All parties involved can learn from this information. In most cases and if held regularly, these kinds of interviews will reveal a trend. They will disclose points that need to be improved and points that made you stand out as a sales person/sales team.
Other employees than those of the sales department can also be confirmed as to have made a positive contribution to the commercial process. Furthermore, the converse as well as the quality of the product or service will be made points of special attention.
Provided you engage in a discussion with your clients and non-clients with an open mind, you will notice that they greatly appreciate these kinds of conversations. After all, you take their opinion seriously, thus styling them as professionals. In doing so, your relationship with your (future) client becomes more intense and you lay the foundation for an eventual sales success.
By performing regular analyses like this, you will get the highest return on your sales efforts. You can even gain from a lost order.
Winning after losing!
Coen Kijk in de Vegt