how to handle lost deal

Sales Tips: 5 Productive Ways to Handle Lost Deals

Daniel WeissLast updated on January 2, 2024
7 min

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The moment you lose a big deal can be a whirlwind of emotion. You’re confused and disappointed. Anger or resentment aren’t uncommon.

Download our free HubSpot Sales Template The truth is, losing deals is a good thing. You’ll never get a better opportunity to analyze your own behavior, learn what mistakes you’ve made, and increase sales efficiency moving forward.

But before we get into the 5 things you should do just after losing a big deal, here are 5 quick things you shouldn’t do.

  1. 1. Pour coffee on your keyboard

  2. 2. Make a large purchase

  3. 3. Take your shirt off

  4. 4. Search for new jobs

  5. 5. Blame the marketing team

Coming back to reality: university studies suggest that mentally-distancing yourself is the best way to control negative emotions and think rationally. As an objective bystander, what could you have done differently to bring this deal across the finish line? What should you do now to turn this failure into future success?

  1. 1. Conduct a post-mortem call

  2. 2. Listen to your conversations

  3. 3. Review your sales readiness

  4. 4. Seek out similar deals

  5. 5. Build a deal desk process

Conduct a Post-Mortem Call

The moment a sales prospect decides to go with another product isn’t the end of your relationship.

This is when you need to muster all your charismatic, personable qualities and give them a call. Email is acceptable if that was your primary means of communication, but nothing works quite like a voice-to-voice retrospective.

lost deals

Sixty-percent of sales and marketing professionals don’t try to contact lost deals for information.

Please take note that there is no guarantee they’ll want to talk. It’s vitally important that you approach the situation in a way that makes them feel comfortable and more willing to speak.

The first things you should make painfully clear:

  • You aren’t looking to win back the opportunity.

  • You want to receive honest feedback about the buying process and their mindset throughout.

  • You want to improve your communication and provide the best possible buying experience for your company’s product (your potential customers specifically).

  • You want to learn what factors would’ve made the difference.

All businesses have a sales team, and whatever functions your leads occupy within their organizations, they’re likely to respect your tenacity so long as it remains professional.

And as long as you make it clear that this is a zero-pressure environment, you’ll receive valuable feedback which you can apply to similar deals moving forward.

Not to mention, this honest atmosphere is an amazing relationship-builder in itself. It’s a solid foundation for reaching out again after 6 or 12 months.

Plus, executives switch organizations, they get promoted, and they provide referrals. A sense of goodwill at this point in the transaction can mean more wins down-the-road.

Listen to Your Conversations

Your leads can provide you with honest feedback, but learning how you communicated throughout the relationship is equally important.

A great demo or discovery call will influence the buyer’s decision-making process and accelerate deals to a successful end. This is true, provided your delivery, cadence, and word choice was effective and timely.

It helps to review your call recordings like a quarterback reviewing game footage. We don’t often get to hear our voices in an unfiltered way. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at first, but once you get over that hurdle, you’ll hear important variations in the way you present information.


Once you’ve identified these variations, listen to how the leads responded. What they said is obviously important, but how they say it is essential. If this seems like overkill now, you’ll thank yourself later.

Over time, you’ll recognize these vocal indicators of interest (or disinterest) in real-time. When combined with your other research, you can address concerns and correct the path of a deal before it goes beyond the point of no return.

Review Your Sales Readiness

During the sales cycle, your leads need to feel informed and in control. They should be confident in their decision-making.

The way you present your product — and yourself — during conversations plays a huge role in achieving this level of confidence (see above). Through your post-mortem research, take note of any pain points you encountered along the way.

phone skills

Did you struggle to sufficiently answer any questions regarding price, functionality, or competitor-comparisons? These question should be addressed first. To excel in sales, you have to know your product and space better than anyone else. Come prepared with social proof and convincing data that support your case.

And when your words aren’t quite enough, you can use sales enablement content to help reinforce important points. Bookmarked and downloadable resources are easily shareable (and relevant) touchpoints during the lead nurturing process.

Additionally, your sales team doesn’t have to work in a vacuum. Share your research with marketing, especially when you lose a big deal in the final stages. As a unit, you can create content to persuade and encourage buying actions. These include:

  • Feature and/or price comparison charts

  • Relevant use cases and customer success stories

  • 3rd party content referencing your company to (builds trust)

When you lose a deal that fits your company’s ICP, every team has something to contribute that’ll ensure future success.

Seek Out Similar Deals

This is when your recent loss starts to feel like a long-term win. You’ve…

  • done the work to speak with the lost opportunity, gaining massive insights and serious relationship points along the way.

  • listened to your call recordings and learned which cues require action in-the-moment.

  • read articles and acquired sales enablement content to act as helpful tools for future deals.

Now, deals that remind you of that one should elicit excitement, not dread. In fact, you can use the information you’ve uncovered to its maximum potential by targeting similar companies as new opportunities.

To start, look at your current pipeline of leads and determine which ones are most similar in terms of size, use case, and possible deal breakers. Any sales enablement content and conversational cues can be put to immediate use in the next interaction you have with them.

If a lost opportunity doesn’t exactly fit your company’s ICP, use the collateral and experience to pursue similar customers moving forward. The goal here isn’t to shift your overall selling strategy. After all, if a company sits outside of your sales team’s ideal customer profile, chances are these deals will close less frequently.

However, once you have the foundation in place in terms of strategy, the amount of effort you’ll personally need to exert gets smaller each time. This opens an entirely new venue for selling and selling efficiently. More leads, more opportunities, more deals won.

Create a Deal Desk

Let’s take a few steps back and ask ourselves some questions about the lost deal that started this whole process.

  • Did this lead fall outside of your business’s ideal customer profile?

  • With better preparation, could you have anticipated blockers and won the deal?

  • Would more buy-in/support from other teams have helped move the deal forward?

If the answers to any (or all) of these questions were ‘yes,’ it’s possible that the deal could have been won by implementing a deal desk in your sales process.

What is a deal desk?

As a term, it started as a way for financial and brokerage firms to quickly review and potentially approve important deals. By designating a place and role specifically for this function, they wouldn’t miss out on any golden-opportunities due to slow-moving bureaucracy.

service level agreement

For many sales teams, the deal desk is a model where large, time-sensitive, or delicate opportunities are reviewed by executives. In these meetings, an SDR or AE must defend why their lead is a good opportunity, why your product is a good fit for the lead, and define a process for success.

After review, the deal desk managers will either reject, accept, or amend-and-accept the proposal. This process is beneficial for a few reasons.

Most importantly, it increases sales efficiency. Ambitious sales reps can be prone to chasing white whales. It’s also possible that even if you eventually win that huge client, the victory would take up valuable time you could’ve spent winning multiple, more appropriate deals.

Furthermore, actually taking the time to decide on a process (to which you will be held accountable) safeguards against lingering tasks and an endless sales cycle. It also increases buy-in from managers and other teams. When everyone feels like they’ve endorsed a course of action, they’ll feel more obliged to help out when possible.

Remember the “Boomerang”

To tie everything together, lost deals become an advantage when learning how to close other valuable leads. Some strategies for growth include:

  • Calling lost deals for more information

  • Reviewing call recordings for more insights

  • Adding Sales Enablement Content for important touchpoints

  • Translating your hard work on this lead to similar ones

  • Defining a process for tackling tough leads at the beginning

But in all of this, remember that your lead may not end up satisfied with the product they chose over yours. Take time to look back through your notes and see what sort of commitment or service plan they wanted.

Set a reminder to yourself to follow up in “x” number of days. Next time you talk, you’ll be ready to close the deal.

Download the free HubSpot x Aircall sales template

Published on September 25, 2018.

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