How To Handle Losing a Sale to a Competitor

You thought the sale was yours. From the initial contact through the proposal stage, the customer was engaged, interested, and open to your suggestions. The contract seemed to be just a formality.

Instead, client gave the business to a competitor.

radio advertising sales tip: don't beg

Photo by Minerva Studio/dpc

Sales Tip: What’s your next move?

 Never blame your customers when they don’t buy from you. Tweet This.

It’s your responsibility to convince them. Learn something. What can you do differently next time? 

Resist the urge to argue, even if you think the customer’s making a mistake. You won’t win the argument; going into attack mode guarantees that you’ll never have a chance to win the account back.

You need to ask some questions, starting with this one: Is the decision final?

If it’s final, accept that you’ve lost this round. Your job now is to gather enough information so you know what went wrong, and can position yourself more effectively when the opportunity next arises. What can you change to generate a different result?

Say this:

“Thanks for considering us. I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but my competitor’s going to do a great job for you. [It may be painful to say this. Say it anyway.] I respect your decision, and I won’t try to change your mind. Could I ask you a couple of questions?”

Asking permission first lowers resistance. Tweet This.

Once permission is granted, the client is obligated to answer. Here are your questions:

1. “What made you decide to go with the other guys?”

2. “If we had offered the same thing, would you have gone with us?”

No matter what the answer is, resist the urge to try to reopen the sale—you promised.

Back at the office, review the whole sales process in your mind. What did you miss? What questions can you add to your process to make sure you won’t miss it again?

A lost sale hurts. Make sure you learn something from each one. Turn lost income into tuition on your sales education.

Question: What’s the toughest sales defeat you’ve faced? How did you handle it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


A version of this article originally appeared in The Paint Contractor, where I write the Sales Doctor column.



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3 thoughts on “How To Handle Losing a Sale to a Competitor

  1. The company had sold to a particular company for 2 years prior to my taking over the account (but what i didnt know is the marketing manager was new, and new rules as to authorising purchases over a certain amount). Long story short- I thought they would have purchased as in prior years- they agreed- mentioned they would be advertising- however had to send to board for approval. Went to board and was denied- cost too high. but this was not communicated till I was literally on press. However I handled it gracefully- couldn’t speak for a day. However lowered the price the following year (annual project) and they joined immediately.