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How Sales Reps Can Recover From Lost Sales

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There comes a time in every sales rep’s career when this conversation happens: “After careful consideration, we have chosen to buy from someone else.” So, how should you recover from lost sales?

“This happens to every salesperson at least once,” says Michael Pedone, Founder and CEO of online sales training company “The real question is, will you let the loss of this deal cause you to lose even more sales?”

Michael warns about the danger of dwelling on a lost deal, saying that this negative mindset can start a losing streak.

Empowered by the wisdom of sales experts Micheal and Mark Thacker from Sales Xceleration, here are growth-focused strategies for recovering from lost sales.


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Embrace the feeling of loss

Thanks to modern findings on mental health and grit, sales experts no longer adhere to the “chin up and bottle it in” mentality when it comes to failure and loss.

The best way to handle the mental anguish of losing a deal is to own it,” says Michael. “Make no excuses. Take responsibility.”

In many industries, it takes weeks or months of communication with your prospect before they make a decision. Understandably, if they decide to decline your offer, it can feel like you’ve wasted effort, energy, and emotion. 

The feeling of grief is natural, and there’s no need to dismiss or stifle it. A healthy outlet to process the grief – such as journaling or talking it out with a trusted confidante – is a key first step to recovery, not just in sales but in all kinds of loss and failure. 

As long as you accept and own the feeling, it can’t control your actions and future performance.

Look at the situation without judgment

Another crucial step to recovery from your lost sale is to lay out the facts with no bias, internalization, or projection. 

Something as simple as “Sarah G. decided to choose Company B over our company and told us so today” helps you to see the situation as a fact of life and not a career-ending tragedy.

Getting a non-judgmental, objective view helps you release internalizations and projections, thought patterns that are poison to growth.

Strategies for recovering from lost sales

Now that you’ve processed the grief of your lost sale and allowed yourself to look at the situation objectively, here are some strategies to pivot this moment into something you can use to evolve as a salesperson.

Analyze the situation objectively

If you start making excuses as to why you lost the deal, you’ll never correct the behavior. The sting of the loss will linger much longer than you want it to.

Michael Pedone

To be ready for the next time a sale could fall through, Michael recommends analyzing the situation objectively.

What could you have done differently? What will you do next time?

This can help you overcome the loss and become a better salesperson.

It helps to give it a day or two before you start your analysis. This allows you to distance yourself from the heat of the situation so you can look at your performance objectively. 

Analyze the sales steps you went through and notice any steps you may have missed or not completed to the best of your ability.

“Mistakes are one of the greatest teaching aids out there,” he says. “But only if you are willing to take ownership of them.”

Reach out to the prospect for feedback

Mark Thacker, President of sales performance improvement company Sales Xceleration, urges sales reps to call the lead after the deal falls through—but not right away.

“It’s natural to want all the answers during the same call in which the prospect tells you that you have lost the deal,” says Mark. “However, it’s unlikely that you will gain meaningful feedback at that time.

“Mark explains in a company blog post that prospects already feel uncomfortable turning the sale down, so they are less likely to stay on the phone to explain their decision. He also advises sales reps to take the time to cool off and gain perspective before seeking answers.

“It’s impossible for you to have all the right questions to ask at the moment you learn of the lost sale,” he says.

When Mark loses a sale, he schedules a follow-up call dedicated to the debriefing

, a task that many salespeople can try out themselves after a rejection. Be ready to listen and learn from this call.

Take the lesson from the loss

Tell the prospect that you are not going to try to change their mind. By letting the prospect know you have accepted the loss, you’ll put him at ease and he will be more willing to talk.

Mark Thacker

Mark comes to these conversations prepared with a few questions that keep the discussion positive and forward looking. When an answer is unclear, he politely asks for clarification, such as asking for an example or for more elaboration.

“Don’t debate with the prospect,” he advises. “And listen more than you speak.

Use the feedback to improve your sales technique

“There’s an old saying in sales: When you lose a sale, don’t lose the lesson, too.

Use the information you’ve gathered to create an action plan to improve your sales and presentation skills. For example, perhaps the prospect lost confidence when you couldn’t answer a question about the product convincingly. You can use this feedback to sharpen your product knowledge for future pitches.

“Lost deals can be beneficial if you learn from the experience and apply your learning to future sales opportunities,” says Mark. “By approaching sales with this mindset, you can turn lemons into lemonade.”

Communicate with your team 

The journey from prospect to close is not a lonely road, with plenty of cross-collaboration between sales and marketing teams, as well as customer support. In some cases, your prospect may also connect with executives and product developers. 

Communicating the loss and recognizing the responsibility shared between teams helps everyone to grow. 

The insight you gained from your debriefing call can help the teams involved identify gaps within their departments that can help close the next prospect.

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The importance of learning from lost sales: 3 crucial skills you learn from rejection

A lost sale is not the end of the world but the beginning of a lesson. Even the most prolific salespeople have taken significant losses both early on and in the later stages of their careers.

The important thing is that they didn’t let this bring their whole career down. Instead, they let it help them grow. Losing sales can help you grow, too – here are some of the ways.

You develop relationship-building skills

Taking the lesson from a loss does wonders for your relationship-building skills. When you take the time to reach out and learn why a sale fell through, you improve your empathy and ability to listen actively, both gold-star skills for sales reps. 

You build grit and a growth mindset

The ability to accept rejection gracefully and learn from it is a prized soft skill among many occupations and industries. 

You develop resilience and grit each and every time you refuse to let a loss bring your confidence down.

You enhance your knowledge of your product and industry

Take rejection and sales loss as a lesson in communicating your product’s value. 

There will always be more to learn when it comes to understanding your product and communicating its value in a way your prospect can understand. 

When you learn from the feedback of a sales loss, you have the chance to increase your product knowledge. Soon, you’ll be able to answer most questions on the spot and increase your prospect’s confidence in you and your company’s brand.

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