Blog | Jun 24, 2011 | 4 Comments

[lost sales analysis]

[a productive way to deal with losses]

Everyone loses sometimes. Whether you work for a nonprofit, a corporation, or yourself, you need to figure out why you lost an opportunity. That’s the best way to learn how to craft more “wins” in the future.

I recently asked a client if she had ever done a “lost sales analysis.”

I got a blank look, and had to explain that this simply means finding out why someone chose not to use your service, and then applying that information to refine your approach in the future. My client is a manager of a new social enterprise offering fee-based services, and attracting paying customers is an unfamiliar challenge. Some basic sales education might be helpful here. In fact, lost sales analysis can be applied to any kind of work. For example:

Rejection is inevitable, so you might as well make good use of it.

When someone doesn’t want to work with you or your company, do you engage in endless second-guessing? Feel discouraged or powerless? Pay consultants to run focus groups or surveys with past customers or prospects that turned you down? (FYI, companies do actually do this, and they buy lost sales analysis solutions.)

Instead, do something productive. Plan ahead, and even before you hear the actual result “yes” or “no,” have an effective strategy for understanding why you lost out. If you win, that’s great. But if you don’t, you won’t be left in the dark.

This is one of the most revealing business activities you can engage in.

These conversations can help you identify your best prospects and how best to win them over. You just can’t afford to leave that information lying on the table.

Extra Credit Reading

Take a look at this great article by Joanne Fritz: What Is Your Nonprofit’s Hassle Map?

Photo credit: striatic on flickr, available under a Creative Commons License
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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.



I was not familiar with the term – but it seems like it should be part of everyone’s arsenal. What’s interesting is that we probably all have our own theories about why we lose sales (consulting, business, whatever). I wonder how often they actually jibe with reality if you were to ask the prospect. I imagine this could be very enlightening!

I remember back in college, my freshman year, I auditioned for a play (Midsummer Night’s Dream) and read for the part of Helena (one of the lovers), but did not get it. I assumed it was because I was wasn’t good enough — the director, who became a good friend, told me much later it was because the other woman was tall and it made a funnier physical contrast. I guess I would have liked to have known that right away!



Claire Wagner Reply:

Anne, I love that story. It shows that it is better to know. This subject came up for me because we recently were asked – asked, I repeat – to put in a bid for a project and then never received any acknowledgment. Despite repeated emails and calls, we still heard nothing. It’s still frustrating to think that we have no idea why we lost that opportunity.


Anne Janzer


Hi Claire,
I love this post!!!! Especially the sage advice to deal proactively with rejection. It pays to know why we are being rejected, but it might be the most difficult information to extract because folks are programmed to be positive, and not well-trained at providing honest, constructive feedback. I’d like to get better at providing feedback — as well as being more open to requesting and receiving it.

Thanks for the provocative postings!!!


Claire Wagner Reply:

Yes, Patty, I wish this were easier!


Patty Eaton


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