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How Service Companies Can Stop Losing Clients And Start Winning More Deals

Have you ever lost an important client or had a big deal fall through at the last minute?

Those moments in business are some of the hardest to bear. But they don’t have to be completely negative.

Instead of beating yourself up, why not turn your failures into an opportunity to grow, to get smarter, and to win more deals?

“Turn your failures into an opportunity to grow, to get smarter…”
Andrew Bull, Bright Arts Agency
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How do you transform short-term losses in to long-term wins?

In short, by using them as an opportunity to make your business stronger. By learning from your mistakes, so that you can:

  1. Increase your close rate
  2. Decrease your churn rate (i.e. stop losing clients)

In the rest of this post, I’m going to share the steps you can use to improve your sales process, train your team, and fix the gaps in your customer experience.

Bonus — I’ll also share how you can streamline and automate the process.

We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s jump in…

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How to learn when you lose a new deal

Lost deals doesn’t have to be a complete waste of time and resources. If you’re committed to improving your business, you can use them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

In general, there are three pools of knowledge you can draw insight from:

  1. Your team’s knowledge of the deal
  2. The lead’s knowledge of the deal
  3. Analytical data — this is highly dependent on the systems you have in place, so I won’t be writing about this extensively in this post.

Knowledge Pool #1 – Your sales team’s insights on the lost deal

Your team should have a good understanding of why, how, and where the deal went wrong.

This information could create a powerful and positive change in your business. But it’s not going to do much for your business when it’s hidden inside the minds of your sales team.

“Your team should have a good understanding of why, how, and where the deal went wrong. This information could create a powerful and positive change in your business.”
Andrew Bull, Bright Arts Agency
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It’s time to bring that powerful information out into the open. Here’s how.

Create a spreadsheet and start keeping track of lost deal reasons

Get started by recording the relevant factors and reasons that surround the lost deal in a spreadsheet.

I would advise creating your spreadsheet in Google Sheets, as it will help you streamline and automate your team’s learning process later on — i.e. will make your life easier.

Step 1. Start by listing out every stage in your pipeline. A simplified sales pipeline might look something like this:

  1. Receive website enquiry from a lead
  2. Make discovery call
  3. Arrange demonstration of service and learn lead requirements
  4. Present proposal
  5. Sign contracts

Aside: Don’t know your sales pipeline stages? Want a spreadsheet template? Download our free CSV template and sales stage worksheet and jump ahead.

Add your sales stages to your spreadsheet, as this will allow you to keep track of where deals are being lost in your pipeline.

Step 2. Now, add all the typical factors surrounding the deal, e.g:

  • Date deal opened
  • Date deal lost
  • Deal owners name
  • Buyer role
  • Size of deal

Step 3. Next, add all the qualitative reasons that typically influence the success and failure of a deal, e.g:

  • Not looking to buy now
  • Incorrect product/service fit
  • Lack of references
  • Out-sold
  • No budget
  • Insufficient budget
  • Wrong decision maker(s)

You could have a drop-down selector for these fields and rate the impact each of them had on the deal, something like:

Major Impact / Minor Impact / No Impact

A word of caution: Don’t go overboard with the amount of columns/reasons you add to the spreadsheet. Err on the side of simple, you can always add more later.

Step 4. Finally, add a space for the deal owner to share their opinion on why the deal was lost.

Your finished spreadsheet should look something like this.

INSERT SPREADSHEET GRAPHIC

Every time you lose a deal, get the deal owner to fill out the deal lost spreadsheet.

This update method will work okay.

However, there are some downsides to this 100% manual method…

  1. People are likely to forget to do it entirely.
  2. They’ll remember to do it a month down the road, when the deal is no longer fresh in their mind.
  3. The spreadsheet could be filled in inconsistently.
  4. The spreadsheet could be accidentally broken.
  5. A rogue salesperson could subjectively edit data (theirs and others).
  6. It takes longer to do.

Want to collect data from your team the smart way?

Automate and streamline the process — control how and when the spreadsheet is updated by your sales team.

Here’s the streamlined approach we set up for our clients:

  1. Every time a deal is lost, the deal owner is automatically assigned the task ‘Share Deal Lost Reasons’ in the CRM. By assigning tasks, you can keep track of who’s completing the required steps and automatically remind those who don’t.
  2. The deal owner is automatically emailed a link to a ‘deals lost’ form on the company website. A form is much easier to complete than the Google Sheet and leaves little room for human error.
  3. The completed form data is:
    1. Automatically sent to the sales manager/business owner and the deal owner
    2. Automatically added to the Google Sheet
    3. (Optional) Automatically added to deal record in the CRM
  4. Good to know…The deal owner never has to open the Google Sheet.

Now that you’ve put a system in place for collecting your team’s knowledge, it’s time to talk to your lost leads…

Knowledge Pool #2 – Gather your lead’s insights on the lost deal

You should consider reaching out to leads when you lose a deal and learning as much as you can from them.

There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Get a third-party to phone and interview them.
  • Get someone from your company to phone them. Not the deal owner — you want them to speak openly and to avoid confrontation.

Whichever one you choose, make sure it takes no more than 20 minutes of the lead’s time. Also, consider thanking them with an Amazon voucher or similar — this simple act of reciprocity might pay long-term dividends!

What to ask your lost leads?

Here are some example questions you could consider:

  • What was the biggest reason you decided not to work with us? How well did we listen to your needs when tailoring our service for you?
  • What was your decision criteria for this purchase?
  • Did you talk to any references about our service? What did they say?
  • Do you feel we listened to you? Do you feel we understood your needs?
  • How did you find our team?
  • Did you like our service? Did anything stand out to you positively? Did anything stand out to you negatively?
  • Do you have any other comments or suggestions?

Important — tailor your questions to fit the lost lead. For example:

  • If you disqualified the lead, don’t annoy them by asking why they choose not to work with you.
  • Prepare for the interview by reading the entry in your ‘reasons deals lost’.

Add the prospect’s knowledge to a spreadsheet

Regardless of how you obtain their insights, the prospect’s data needs to be entered in to a spreadsheet. Again, I advise using Google Sheets for this.

You can do enter data manually or you can…

Streamline the process with a form on your companies website.

Here’s how we automate this process:

  1. When the deal is lost, a task is automatically created for the interviewer to call the lost lead.
  2. After the call, the interviewer fills in the website form.
  3. The completed form data is:
    1. Automatically sent to the sales manager/business owner
    2. Automatically added to the Google Sheet
  4. (Optional) Some of the data is automatically sent to the deal record in the CRM

Important — Be careful about the data that you share with the the deal owner. If the data is highly critical of them, you may wish to manage what is shared, for both their sake and the lead’s sake.

Knowledge is Power… Use lost deal insights to improve your sales pipeline

Once you have a number of entries in your ‘lost deal’ spreadsheets, you and your team can start intelligently analysing and improving your sales pipeline.

Some ideas for what you can do:

  • Add pie charts to your Google Sheets, so you can easily see which issues or sales stages are costing you the most deals. I’d suggest looking at the data on a monthly or quarterly basis.
  • Schedule regular team meetings (put them in your calendar now!), discuss the areas that are costing you the most sales, and agree on corrective actions to fix those issues.
  • See if you’ve improved those areas over the coming months. Track them by adding them to your sales team’s OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) within your productivity tool of choice.

If you commit to this process, you should start seeing more deals going deeper into your sales pipeline (i.e. you’ll have more proposal meetings).

And you’ll start winning more deals!

Track and discuss deal wins and losses — keep your team happy and motivated!

Learning from losses is important — but so is celebrating wins. Why? Because our brains are wired to be motivated by wins. When we make progress, we’re inspired to keep pushing toward our goals.

“Learning from losses is important — but so is celebrating wins. Why? Because our brains are wired to be motivated by wins.”
Andrew Bull, Bright Arts Agency
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This is why you should also have a ‘reason deals won’ spreadsheet. It will keep your team motivated. You can use essentially the same process we documented above.

Be sure to discuss both your ‘deal lost reasons’ and ‘deal won reasons’ in your meetings. The tone of these meetings should be constructive rather than doom and gloom.

Now imagine if the team can clearly see that the sales pipeline upgrades (inspired by lost and won deals) are helping them win more deals. This should create a positive feedback loop: they’ll be motivated to keep improving, which will lead to even more wins, and so on.

How to learn when you lose an existing client

Let’s be frank, losing an important existing client is an unpleasant experience for any business.

However, it’s really important to understand why it happened, so one lost client doesn’t become two or five lost clients.

As for why clients left, there are two central pools of insights:

  1. The client’s understanding of why things went wrong
  2. Your team’s understanding of why things went wrong

However, in reality your team may have very little idea or knowledge of why a client left. So let’s start by focusing on the ex-clients.

Knowledge Pool #1 – Gather your ex-clients insights on where things went wrong

Here are your options for learning from ex-clients:

  • Get a third-party to phone and interview them (best option).
  • Get someone from your company to phone them. Probably not the ex-clients main contact — you want them to speak openly.

Make sure the interviews take less than 20 minutes of the lead’s time. As before, consider enticing them with an Amazon voucher or similar.

What to ask ex-clients?

Here are some questions you could consider using:

  • What was the biggest reason you decided not to work with us any longer?
  • How well did we listen to any challenges or issues you had with our service?
  • How did our service help you? How did our service not help you?
  • Did you move to a similar service? What made you choose them?
  • How did you find our team?
  • Did you like our service? Did anything stand out to you positively? Did anything stand out to you negatively?
  • Do you have any other comments or suggestions?

Add the ex-client’s knowledge to a spreadsheet

Once you’ve obtained their insights, the ex-client’s answers need to be entered in to a spreadsheet. I advise using Google Sheets for this.

If you have a low churn rate you can do this manually, but if you want to eliminate human error, I would advise streamlining the process.

Streamline the process with a form on your company’s website.

  • When a client is lost, a task is automatically created for the interviewer to call the lost client.
  • After the call, the interviewer fills in the website form.
  • The completed form data is:
    • Automatically sent to the business owner
    • Automatically added to the Google Sheet
  • (Optional) Some of the data is automatically sent to the deal record in the CRM.

Now, you’ve got the client’s insight on what went wrong, it’s time to learn from you team.

Knowledge Pool #2 – Gather your team’s insights on where things went wrong with the ex-client

You business probably had multiple touch points with your ex-clients business:

  • Onboarding
  • Communications & updates
  • Training
  • Delivery

It’s your job to work out ones which influenced your customer’s decision to leave your business.

Where to begin?

Ask your team what went wrong

Ask team leaders or anyone with insights about the lost customer to fill in a lost client form. Again, it’s best to streamline this process by hosting the form on your company’s website.

Consider giving your team the option of filling in the form anonymously — your team might be more open about personal mistakes or insights when there’s no fear of repercussion.

Add your team’s answers to a spreadsheet

Once you’ve gathered your team’s answers, it’s time to add them to a spreadsheet — you’ll want to keep track of reasons that you’re losing clients over time, so you can make sure you’re not repeating past mistakes.

You could even add department columns to your spreadsheet and paste your team’s answers and the ex-clients answers into the relevant department column. This would make it easy for you to spot which departments or areas of your business are consistently costing you clients.

Sort through the team forms and grade their answers by the following criteria:

  1. Impact of issue on customer (High/Low)
  2. Potential impact on other customers (High/Low)
  3. Brand negative impact (High/Low)
  4. Ease of fix required (High/Low)

Look for answers that score highest in each area, typically, these are the issues you should concentrate on fixing first.

Learn and fix the holes in your service… Use lost client knowledge to improve your sales pipeline

Once you have gathered information from ex-clients and team members, it’s time to gather the troops and find solutions to any problems that have been revealed by the process.

Aside: Of course, sometimes a client leaves and it’s got nothing to do with your business or team doing anything wrong. But you should still get in the habit of discussing their exit.

Use OKRs to plan and implement solutions

At Bright Arts Agency, we’re big fans of OKRs — that’s Objectives and Key Results.

Objectives are your top-level goals, and Key Results are supporting goals and/or actions that move you towards those Objectives.

This system is perfect for fixing any service issues that are costing you customers.

I’ll add clarity by sharing some examples with you.

Example 1 — Ex-client was cheesed off with your response time

  • Objective: Answer customer help requests within 12 hours  — The top level goal
    • Key Result: Implement support ticket system — Supporting action
    • Key Result: Hire external support team to provide support outside of office hours — Supporting action

Example 2 — Ex-client was dissatisfied with lack of feature development

  • Objective: Build new features that will keep customers happy  — The top level goal
    • Key Result: Conduct customer survey (learn their wishes)  — Supporting action
    • Key Result: Add coherent features to Trello board — Supporting action
    • Key Result: Allow customers to upvote features on Trello board — Supporting action
    • Key Result: Update customers about new & planned features — Supporting action

Use your team meeting to discuss and agree on OKRs that will help you fix your biggest problems.

Learning more = earning more

By now the direct correlation between your business knowledge and your business profits should be crystal clear.

And if you’ve followed along and completed all the steps in this post, you should be able to:

  • Learn from every deal you lose
  • Learn from every deal you win
  • Learn from every client that you lose

Which should help you:

  • Win more deals
  • Decrease your churn rate (how often you lose clients)

So what’s left to do?

Learn faster, get smarter, win more often… and save precious time

In business, there’s always more to be done.

Things you might want to look at next? Maxing out your business education (how fast you learn). Amping up your sales optimisation (processes that help you close more deals). Creating automation systems that save you precious time (because we all need more of that).

For all of those things, a little hands-on, expert help goes a long way. Which is where I come in. I’m here to help service businesses like yours get smart(er).

Let’s get together and talk about how you can get more wins in less time. Book an initial meeting with me here.

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