How To Reflect, Learn And Win After Losing A Contract
Post Written By Maurice Harary, Forbes Councils Member
Despite your team’s best efforts, sometimes a contract just doesn’t go your way. Even after dedicating hours to preparing a seemingly flawless, strategically on-point proposal, you’re left wondering: “Where did we go wrong?”
Losing contracts is part of doing business. And, unfortunately, most organizations lose more contracts than they win. A survey conducted by RAIN Group Center for Sales Research found the average sales win rate is less than 50%. Yet, there’s a marked difference between the “elite performers” who win more than 70% of contracts and “the rest” who win around 40%.
In my experience helping small- to medium-sized businesses compete for contracts in both the public and private sectors, I can confirm that not everyone wins. But it also doesn’t help to get caught in the trap of feeling like a failure either. That’s not how you improve your performance, or averages, across the board. It’s also not how the elite performers think when they lose a sale.
So, how do you find the answer to, “Where did we go wrong?” And, how can you increase your win rate to above average or even elite level? Implement the following three (3) tips to help your team reflect, learn and win after losing a contract.
1. Politely request a debrief from the client to see what you could have done differently, or better, to win the contract.
Some of the greatest lessons of all can be learned from finding out exactly what went wrong after losing a deal. And as a business owner who dedicated precious time and resources to create a winning proposal, why wouldn’t you want to know the answer to the very question that popped into your mind after receiving the not-so-great news? Even more importantly, consider the notion that what likely didn’t work for this client could potentially repeat itself with future clients.
There’s no shame or harm in requesting feedback. After thanking the client for the opportunity to participate in their project, let them know you’re looking to gain information on how you can improve. Good questions to ask are:
- “Was there anything we could have done better or differently in this situation to improve our chances of winning the deal?”
- “Can you help us understand what aspects of our proposed solution didn’t align with the evaluation criteria presented in the bid?”
The feedback you receive will go a long way in lending insightful information to your process. Not only that, but you’ll also gain an understanding of your industry competitor(s) — against whom you’ll likely be vying for the same business again in the future. So learn from teachable lessons now to boost your business’s chances in the future.
2. Rereview your proposal through the eyes of the client.
With the client’s feedback in hand, you should have a better understanding of what it was they were seeking to fulfill their project. This feedback will also allow you to review your proposal through their eyes, now knowing what their priority was when reviewing it. Put yourself in their shoes and objectively critique your submission while keeping in mind: “Am I selling my company’s product or service as it benefits the client?”
As true cheerleaders of our products or services, we have a tendency to oversell on features that have nothing to do with solving the client’s immediate problem. Therefore, your solution can be lost on the client. Redline any of the details where you might have oversold to remind yourself, and your team, to stay focused on the client, their need and your solution to that need.
3. Schedule a postmortem meeting with your team.
A highly effective way to transform your future proposal outcomes is to analyze the unsuccessful project from beginning to end, with everyone involved, to determine:
- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- How can we improve in the future?
At no point should the conversation ever involve finger-pointing, which in turn creates negative connotations around the bidding process. Rather, use the meeting to identify best practices and opportunities for positive improvements going forward.
Take each member’s suggestions seriously — adjust, edit and implement steps where there might be gaps. This also includes incorporating the client’s feedback that you received after you lost the sale. Your entire process should always be evolving and open to constructive criticism throughout the entirety of the potential project.
While moving your contract closing rate from “the rest” to the “elite” level will take time, it’s by no means out of reach. But, you’ll need to be open to receiving feedback and constructive criticism, as well as implementing practical changes. Rather than dismissing the loss, use the time following an unsuccessful deal to reexamine your process and learn how to improve it. By doing so, your business, your team and yourself will be better positioned to win the next big contract deal.