One of the underrated aspects of being a sales person or making sales as a business owner is that every sale is a learning process. We have an opportunity to learn something from every new customer, every conversation, and every deal closing. We learn from every sale that goes well, and we especially learn from every sale that falls apart. The best sales people are relentlessly curious and open to new ideas and new lessons – the daily work of building relationships and making sales is what really helps us get better at what we do.
In the daily rush of business, it can be hard to take time to sit down and really think about what you’ve learned from your latest experiences in making a sale. But it’s important to do a “post-mortem” on every successful sale to see what lessons you can learn. Hopefully by taking some time to wrap up the last sale and jot down some well-considered thoughts, you can learn some key insights and make some specific plans that will help your next sale go more smoothly.
Here are some questions to ask yourself (and answer, in writing) as part of a successful sale’s post-mortem:
- What went well, and what didn’t go well? What were our biggest challenges in closing this deal?
Make notes about which aspects of the sale went well – was the client particularly receptive to certain presentations or key points? Did the customer object or hesitate about certain aspects of your solution or pricing that most other buyers have not mentioned or cared about? Sometimes these outlier objections can point the way to things that you need to change or improve for future sales conversations.
- Did we have any big surprises along the way? Unexpected stakeholders asking to be involved, last minute hesitation or foot-dragging by the buyer?
What surprised you about this sale? The best, most experienced sales people can often see a sale taking shape before it even happens – but even the most grizzled veterans of the sales business can still get surprised now and then. Customers are people, and people are often unpredictable. Did you have to adapt your sales presentation at some point to relieve the concerns of stakeholders (different departments within the buyer’s organization, etc.) that you had not anticipated? Sometimes these “surprise” stakeholder conversations can give you a fuller picture of how your solution fits into the client’s business. And then you can take this knowledge into future sales conversations, by feeling better prepared to make the case for how your solution can help.
- What were the buyer’s key emotional objections or sticking points? Skepticism about ROI? Worries about implementation? What did the buyer most want to be reassured about?
In the end, B2B buyers are not “businesses,” they’re people. And people are governed by our emotions. Of course, you need to have your numbers in order and present a compelling case for ROI, and have the technical knowledge to show the buyer that you are trustworthy. But in the end, buyers want to be reassured and feel confident and comfortable working with you and buying from you. Make a few notes about whatever it was that was holding this buyer back – what emotional objections or emotional issues from the buyer did you have to overcome to make this sale? How did you do it? How did the conversation go?
Ideally, by doing a post-mortem on every successful sale, you are building a bigger body of knowledge that can be used to hone your sales skills and train your sales team to continually get more efficient and making sales. One of the great things about working in sales is that it’s a dynamic, relationship-driven business where we are constantly learning. There are lots of lessons to be learned from every sale. The more you learn, the more you’ll sell.