No Pain, No Gain – Why confronting sales setbacks is better than a quick recovery

Stu Perlmeter

When you lose a deal you thought was yours, it hurts – a lot.  So, you quickly jump back into the fray, pursuing other potential deals.  Afterall, as the old adage says, “Sales is a numbers game”, and if you just focus on putting more deals in the funnel, you’re bound to win the opportunities you’re supposed to win.  Right?


It’s NOT Just a Numbers Game

It you’re running a sales and marketing program, or a company, it’s important to know that sales is not just a numbers game – that’s a dangerous belief that can undermine a company’s path to success.  Sales is, instead, a discipline game – requiring relentless customer focus.

Introspection Done Right

When an important deal is lost, the common response is either to brush it off, or become mired in bantering with other internal stakeholders – all of whom espouse theories about what went wrong. And that doesn’t help anyone.  There’s a more productive option: to become truly introspective about the loss – but what does that really mean?

First, here’s what it doesn’t mean – you calling the customer (e.g., the failed prospect) and asking, pointblank “What happened?” This painfully common, but unfortunately fruitless practice yields little or no insight, and worse, often provides a “head-fake” that might cause you to think you have the answer.

What it does mean is a candid and deep conversation with the customer about their full customer experience journey – but not with you directly. To be effective, this conversation calls for a careful, third-party inquiry.

This kind of inquiry is sometimes called Win-Loss Analysis. This query conducted by someone with a depth of experience that gets the customer to open up and reveal key insights about their purchase decision process.  Insights that, perhaps due to no fault of your own, unfortunately eluded you and your team during the sales process.

Turning Insights into Action

But once you have these unbiased deep prospect insights, there’s still plenty of hard work for you and your company to do to achieve the results you seek. This starts with looking at the loss as not just a single occurrence, but part of a pattern of new business selling experiences.

Viewing this pattern with rigorous self-examination, side-by-side with sales victories, and through the lens of an objective third-party, can lead you to some keen business insights. These insights can feed a program of focused, intentional change, ultimately leading to improved business results. This is what makes the whole effort worthwhile.

Engaging these questions with would-be or former customers is not only hard work, it’s painful. As any physical therapist will tell you, you will only recover from your injury by doing the recommended exercises, and slowly, but steadily working through and past the pain. That’s not just the best path, it’s the only path to full function and recovery.  Similarly, a consistent Win-Loss Analysis program conducted by an experienced third-party can set your organization on its way to higher win rates and overall success.

The Discipline Game

So, to re-write that old, misleading homily, professional sales isn’t just a numbers game, – it’s a discipline game, where those who are willing to endure the often-painful real customer truth, will win the game of continuously improving results. And, let’s face it – those are the numbers that really count.

We enjoy talking to owners who want to move from the Numbers Game to the Discipline Game. Let us know if a conversation would be helpful.

About the Author

Stu Perlmeter

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Stu brings 30 years of marketing and research experience to 1st Resource, which he founded in 1996. Stu’s primary expertise is in understanding the market insights that tie to success formulas for companies seeking to grow their business in strategic ways.