Almost every business has some sort of win-loss analysis for its sales process. Some are more formal. Others tend to be based on anecdotal evidence. However, we all know that it can sometimes be difficult to find a “rational” explanation for reasons you lost the sale.

What do you do when you can’t figure out why you lost a potential sale?

A few weeks ago, I ran across an interesting article in Harvard Business Review that outlines some of the more ambiguous reasons salespeople win or lose a sale. In this post, I want to take a look at some of the research data, as well as how to overcome these obstacles.

Why Did You Lose the Sale? Here are 3 Possible Reasons…

Here are three qualitative reasons you lost a sale that you might not have considered before:

  1. Some customers like to be challenged.

The research found that 30% want a salesperson who challenges their thoughts and then prescribes a solution they may not have known about previously. This is contrary to the popular mentality that “the customer knows best.” Asking questions like, “What can I do to make this process, and buying from my company overall, a successful experience for you?” is one way to determine if your customer needs a salesperson who will challenge their thinking.  

  1. What seemed like a committee-decision, turned out to be a committee of one.

One critical research finding is that 90% of buyers confirmed that there is always or usually one member of the evaluation committee who tries to influence the decision to go their way. It’s important to note that while there might be multiple decision-makers, there is typically one person who has more influence on the decision. This requires sellers to identify the real decision-maker early on and ask the right questions of them specifically to understand motivation, urgency, and buying preferences.  

  1. You were trying to overcome bureaucracy through the wrong department.

Bureaucracy has the possibility of stalling any sales opportunity. But according to the research, some departments have more influence in pushing through the red tape than others. Sales, IT, and engineering have more internal clout to push through their projects as opposed to accounting, human resources, and marketing. Therefore, they’re better departments to sell into from the salesperson’s perspective.

While objectively evaluating why you won or lost a potential sale is important, it’s critical to remember that the reason isn’t always black and white. And it’s imperative to remember that your buyers are human, too. The decisions they make aren’t always based on rational, objective facts. In many cases, the decision on whether they buy or not has more to do with their emotions and personal characteristics.