Lessons Learned Exercises

The head of the army, Sir Richard Dannatt, announced his 3-year tenure will end in August.  During the round of subsequent media appearances, I caught that he’d just “kicked off” a “lessons learned exercise” of the operation in southern Iraq.  This begins now as one had already been done on the “warfare part” and so the time becomes right he felt for looking at what followed.

I am forever amazed at how salesteams universally fail to conduct similar reviews.  A caricature it could be, but it is true.  When a salesperson wins a deal it’s because they’re the best [insert verb here].  When they lose, it’s the product fit or price’s fault.

Lost Deal Analysis as an initiative always fails.  Whatever cultural allowances may suggest otherwise, people shy away from providing potential ammo for any future detractors and instead cloaks and mirrors descend to apportion all blame firmly elsewhere.

I’ve seen this process formulised by both a form to fill-in and face-to-face meetings.  It takes a strong, supportive management style to make either of these work.  I have not yet witnessed such circumstance.

My view is that Lost Deal Analysis can work, but you need a standardised sales process in place against which to chart results.  And of course, far too few firms have one in documented form.  Also, anonymity is vital, yet hard to achieve.

I’ve found another issue is that there isn’t a person who has the time (or inclination) to own such a project.  The sales chief usually considers it too tactical for their direct involvement, and the “2 i/c” (typically with a title like Sales Ops Manager) realises it may subtract rather than add to their popularity so kick it into long grass.

Then there’s capturing why a deal was won.  I’ve spent much of my last ten years on this single subject.  The vast majority of salespeople are blissfully unaware of why they win.  I found that to dig as deep as possible often meant exposing this lack of tacit knowledge, leading to its own round of problems.

Here are four entry-level questions you can ask to institute an initial procedure in an (admittedly broad) Win Analysis, with the caveat that you should not rely on the salesperson themselves to document it:

what would you do again on future campaigns?
what will you not do next time?
what could have quickened the deal?
in a sentence, why did they buy?

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