Sales management and sales forces don’t much care for pondering lost opportunity. It’s usually like, “We lost it, it’s gone, move on.” And it’s true that considering past losses is completely useless as an exercise just for itself; if one is simply mentally rehashing them, it can be productive of nothing but a bleak outlook.
But if sales management or even members of the sales force can statistically analyze past losses as part of opportunity management, such analysis can yield plentiful data that is helpful to the creation of new sales strategies, helpful to the improvement of closing ratios and helpful to taking time out of sales cycles.
Lack of Data Means Another Lost Opportunity
The actual problem comes about when information about past losses is nebulous and not readily available. In the absence of such information people will naturally gravitate to making assumptions such as “Our sales force just doesn’t have the closing ability it should,” or “These leads aren’t really leads” or “Sales management just can’t get the job done” or even “It looks like we need to find another line of business.” When incorrect such assumptions can obviously be quite destructive and will not lead to any meaningful correction of relevant issues.
The isolation of the real cause of a problem and lost opportunity leads to the real-world repair of that problem—and an overall improvement of sales. If assumptions are not resulting in such an outcome, they are clearly off-target.
The key comes about in saving detailed records of past losses. When a potential sale becomes a failed close, all the information relating to it should be archived in such a way that it can be retrieved.
In answer to the question, “What information should we save?” simply look at the information that you know you’ll need in the analysis of lost opportunity.
When an analysis of failed closes is performed, that analysis should go far beyond simply, “Who was the sales rep?” It should minimally show the sales strategy that was being utilized, the marketing campaign being run at the time, and the collateral materials being provided to the prospect. Perhaps most importantly the analysis should be able to pinpoint at which stage of the sales process the sale fell off—for a majority of sales falling off at a particular step of the sales pipeline can isolate where your sales process might be faulty and should be corrected.
Implementation of Findings
After an analysis of lost opportunity is done, the conclusions should be creatively utilized. For example, you might discover that a number of your sales reps excel at developing opportunities, but are weak on the closing end. In such a case you’re going to want to provide coaching and training to make them into champion closers. While the training is occurring, they could be relegated to doing what they do best—working the earlier part of the sales pipeline—while you leave the closing to the closers.
You might discover that a particular sales strategy was weak, or a marketing campaign had the opposite of its intended effect. Or as noted earlier you might discover that your sales process contains a step that is not fully effective, or one or more additional steps that add too much time to the sales cycle. In such a case the sales process can be adjusted to make it more effective.
What Kind of Tools are Required?
If you have read this far, you are probably wondering how such an analysis could be performed in any kind of timely manner. How would failed closes be archived? What tools could be utilized in rapidly going back through them to perform a rapid and accurate analysis? The answer is a leading-edge CRM solution that contains such an archive, and allows access to all of the key data relating to failed closes.
Your sales strategies can be vastly improved by including analysis of lost opportunities. Fill in this missing piece and start solving the puzzle of sales force improvement.
If your CRM solution doesn’t possess the functionality to fully analyze lost opportunity, check out one that does.