Life can be pretty hard sometimes. There are times when your basement floods or your car gets towed or that rare occasion where the lottery ticket you bought turns out to be a dud. In business, there are times when you don’t close the deal and when that happens, it can really shake the confidence of your sales team and company as a whole. The prospect seemed so interested. Was it the PowerPoint slide likening your competitor to David Hasselhoff that threw them off? Was it because the candy bowl at your conference table was filled with Smarties? Why aren't you in full-on pizza party mode celebrating this new client? Take a deep breath and don’t let your sky fill with little dark clouds that track your every movement! Tomorrow is a new day! Winston Churchill once famously stated that "All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” How can businesses gain a better understanding of what they need to improve upon in order to not lose more business in the future? How about creating a lost prospect survey that asks those lost prospects why they didn’t choose your company?
We are journeying through a world that is ever-changing. We are aging and transforming at this very moment. New industry shifting technologies are being developed right now that will disrupt the status-quo. Because things change, it’s foolhardy to assume that today’s winning business strategy is sure to win over tomorrow’s customers. Gathering business intelligence with a lost prospect survey will help you keep your finger on the pulse of where things are going so you can adapt with these changes and move your company where it needs to be so it can keep on winning.
Ideally, your company has a system that works to understand what kind of experience your customers are having so that you can improve operations and increase customer loyalty. This customer feedback system should also help you gain insight into why some buyers don’t choose your company. This type of feedback is sometimes called win/loss or lost prospect analysis. It’s crucial that we understand why we lost that business and how we can develop strategies to upgrade the public’s perception of our brand, our product or service, and our sales practices.
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There are times when asking a customer for feedback face-to-face can be a great way to understand how they feel about your business. However, other people may not feel comfortable being so honest with you during these in-person interactions because they’re likely feeling awkward telling you about the things that bother them about your company. Gathering inaccurate data can actually set you up for greater failure because your action plan will not address the real issues that are keeping customers from returning to your business or choosing it in the first place.
A customer feedback survey can be an ideal way of gathering honest feedback about your business partially because it is not in person and that degree of separation can allow people to be more forthright with their feedback.
How to set up your lost prospect customer survey
- Lower your expectations on the amount of feedback you are going to obtain. If you are used to having a high percentage of your customers give you feedback about your services, be prepared to have a gut check when you send off your first lost prospect survey. Understand that these people didn’t choose to do business with your company and many of these individuals may not take the time to tell you why. This is normal. Even though the numbers will pale in comparison to your usual customer feedback numbers, that doesn’t mean this information is less valuable or not worth making the effort to acquire. We are trying to understand why you’re not getting as much business as you could be getting and any insight that might help us determine that is going to be very valuable.
- Choose your words Because lost prospect surveys are aimed at people who aren’t your customers, often times, their motivation for wanting to help you improve is very low. With that in mind, when you go to write your customer survey question(s), first politely recognize that they didn’t choose you. Then ask them to help you improve things by explaining why they didn’t select your business. Keep the wording short and to the point. Make sure the tone of your words are genuine, friendly, and respectful.
- When will you survey them? Let’s say a new customer walks in to your store to learn more about your services. You get their information and follow up a few days later but don’t hear back. You follow up again but again...no communication. At some point, this prospect has become a lost prospect. You need to define when that happens for your individual business. For some businesses, not hearing back from a prospect for several weeks would be normal while for others, it would mean that the customer is likely no longer interested. Define when a prospect transforms into a lost prospect. Hopefully, you are following up with people that are still in the sales funnel but haven’t progressed or moved forward for some time. You need to decide when to classify these customers as lost prospects. The longer you wait to get in contact with them, the greater the chances are that they won’t remember your interaction, or worse, won’t remember why they didn’t choose your company.
- Analyze the comments and look for patterns. Are you hearing the same message over and over again? For example, if you are reading the results of your lost prospect surveys and you are seeing that the data is constantly mentioning that your staff isn’t courteous, you should probably train your staff on how to take care of and treat your customers in a more customer-friendly manner. Figure out why customers didn’t vote for your business with their dollars and then put fixes in place to correct any reoccurring issues. Win/lose analysis can also help you determine who might be the weak link in your sales staff. Do the surveys continually mention the same salesperson who isn’t closing deals? Perhaps you'll need to train that person so that he/she is more attuned to the clients' needs and expectations so that this salesperson can make more sales moving forward.
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- Reach out to lost prospects and convert them into a sale. I spoke to Jim Fitlow, a business owner that has been particularly successful at converting lost prospects into sales. He said that often times in his business the recurring message he receives back from lost prospect surveys is that he is too expensive. Upon hearing that, he said he reaches out to these clients to gain a better understanding of what “too expensive” means to that client. Is that person thinking that the job should cost $2,000 when Jim is quoting $15K? Or is it too expensive when the client thinks it should cost $14,000 and Jim is quoting $15,000? How big is that gap? He said that he really tries to understand what the customer was expecting to pay and why they were thinking that his bid was too high. Jim looks for ways to narrow that gap so that he can close the sale. He also said that he's found that there are times when members of his staff just neglected to followed up and ask for the sale. When that happens, Jim directly follows up with the customer and reports that these customers are usually receptive to his sales calls and efforts to reconnect. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to reach out to these lost prospects. Clarify why it is that they didn’t choose you and ask them to expound on their expectations so that you can tailor your message to meet them.
Close more sales while gaining greater insight into your company’s strengths and weaknesses by using lost prospect surveys. It could be just what your company needs to take things to the next step and soar to new heights.
Matt Jones is a co-founder of WebPunch. When he's not WebPunching, he is exploring the world, taking photos, creating edible art or making gains in the gym. The main love and joy of his life though, is his little boy Mac, who is his best friend.