Sometimes a great sales person can sell an inferior product or service.
Other times it seems a product can sell itself like snow shovels in a blizzard, or “anything” from Apple.
Many products and services are fairly simple and straightforward (e.g. hand tools, lawn care). As a result, a sale is often based on price and perhaps also on salesperson’s appearance or personality.
However, when there are complexities, more than one decision maker, and uncertainty, many other factors may contribute to who ultimately wins or loses the business. This complexity is more pronounced in sectors such as machinery or a global telecommunications network with many features, functions and specifications.
Potential Reasons for Lost Sales
- Features, ease of use
- Past performance
- Terms and conditions
- Pricing, or discounting
Personnel Reasons for Lost Sales
- Behavior, appearance, actions
- Joke teller, humorous
- Pushy, aggressive
- Listening and fact-finding skills
- Consulting and advisory skills
- Professional or amateur
- Came prepared
- Properly attired
- Knowledge of the industry/business
- Use of language, buzz words/acronyms
- Reliable – called, visited, delivered on time, kept other promises
- References, testimonials
- Positive, neutral or negative
- Word of mouth
Company Reasons for Lost Sales
- Impact of website – available and discoverable pre sale information
- History with prospect or customer
- Current supplier or alternative/backup
- Customer service
- Tech support
- 24/7 availability
- Available locally or outsourced
Buyer’s Reasons for Not Buying
- Right prospect(s)
- Change of decision maker(s)
- Economic or other market conditions
Competitor Reasons for Lost Sales
Lastly, is it due to the (winning) competitor? Even if their name cannot be elicited, you may want to ask the following questions:
- What did they offer?
- What did they say?
- What one thing could have changed the outcome?
- What are their perceived strengths?
- What are their weak spots?
- Was there a territory or regional impact?
Professional Win Loss Research
Since there are elements of traditional market research techniques along with competitive intelligence tools, an outside firm can be useful in the gathering and/or the analysis of vital and sensitive information.
Often a consulting firm can approach customers, prospects and internal teams (your sales, marketing, engineering, production groups) in a less threatening manner.
While you may very well have the resources and capability to do most of this yourself, generally the most difficult information sought is obtained directly from your competitor!
- How can you ask that company to tell you how they beat you? (You cannot!)
- So here too, you will need external assistance.
Another benefit of engaging a third party is that it brings a certain objectivity to the process and makes it easier for insiders to commit to the common goal of winning more business.
Be sure to share results with sales staff and significant shareholders.
Apply what is learned via sales meetings, collateral and training.
Since questions and their answers will generally lead to even more questions, periodically return to your baseline metrics and repeat the process as needed.