In my time as a sales director in the IT industry, I spent a lot of time trying to understand why we won and lost business. Most of the effort was on the latter.

In raking over the ashes with ex customers I compiled a comprehensive list of reasons. Top of the list was price! “The competition offered a lower price. They bought the business. They gave more for the same” were the usual suspects. Next was product. “They had this widget, or used newer technology or had a better roadmap for the future of their offering”. Other reasons included “they had a better unique selling proposition (USP) than us”, i.e. our marketing people are useless. “The customer has decided to write the software as they have people with little to do. They have decided not to progress the project as they don’t have the budget”.

One day my best sales person came to me and said he had lost a piece of business. Out of morbid curiosity I asked why and checked my trusty list of reasons. To my surprise, he came out with a reason I had never heard before. “I was outsold, their guy was better than me”.

This unprompted piece of honesty caused me to amend my list. I crossed out ‘reasons’ and replaced it with ‘excuses’. Exploring this further, our offering was competitive in every area so the classic excuses were not relevant in any case. What was relevant though was the competition’s sales person. He was their USP, because he added more customer value during the sales process. This was an interesting lesson and led to another question. Why would my sales person adopt such a very open position, when others blamed third parties? The answer was quite simply, confidence. Unlike many of his colleagues, he did not suffer from the fear of failure (or the sack). Losing was a lesson to learn from, not a disciplinary issue to him.

 There are a few practical steps that can be taken to increase your confidence – and that of your sales people – and reduce the incidence of lost business.

  • Be open and honest with yourself. This will help reveal the real reasons for failing to win business
  •  Ensure that these causes and how to resolve them are followed up. Make sure everyone knows and that they learn from it
  • Celebrate success. Success is infectious and builds confidence in individuals and teams.

People will always lose business, it is not a crime. Failing to understand why and not learning the lessons is a failure of both individuals and their management.

To learn more about our programmes and how our reinforcement system, AuxiliumTM ensures you get a much better return on your training investment, contact us today on 0141 611 9690 or email us at and we’ll take you through the new way to train your sales team.

If you would like a complimentary programme on creating a referrals strategy, simply visit