The 5 Stages of Grief After Losing a Deal
Sales is filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows. There’s nothing better than finally closing a deal that’s taken months of your life to push over the finish line, and nothing worse than missing your quota by a hair, forcing you to question whether you should even be in sales to begin with.
But there’s one low that somehow feels worse than most of the others: losing a deal that you were sure would close. It hurts, because unlike a deal you never thought you had, losing a solid deal feels a bit like having someone offer you ice cream only to take it away at the last second.
When a salesperson loses a deal in such a way, they go through the five stages of grief. Not everyone experiences the stages in the same order, but they tend to look something like this:
Denial is the first stage, because we don’t want to believe that it’s actually happening, though by then, the die has been cast. Maybe they’ll change their mind. Maybe I can win back the deal. All of these thoughts go through a salesperson’s head after a deal hits the skids, but denial is not just a river in Egypt, it’s how we make ourselves feel better when things go wrong. Just don’t deny it for too long… move onto the next stage instead.
It’s normal to be angry after spending days, weeks, or months working with a prospect only to have them back out at the last minute. In fact, it might be a bit weird not to feel some level of anger and frustration. Let yourself go through it instead of fighting it off, but don’t take it out on your coworkers, friends, or family, and definitely don’t take it out on your next prospect. Better yet, find a punching bag and get it out of your system, and then leave the anger in your rearview mirror where it belongs.
We bargain because the stakes are high, and we bargain because of the sunk cost fallacy. But, mostly, we bargain because we’re salespeople, and we tend to believe that there’s always a deal to be made. Of course, there’s a difference between reaching out to the prospect to try to get them back to the table (which is worth a shot), and rationalizing things in our own minds. But, once the bargaining stage is over, we usually move onto the most difficult stage of all: depression.
This is when the harsh reality of our situation kicks in, and it’s usually when salespeople start questioning their career choice. After all, why would we want to waste so much time only to end up disappointed again? It’s okay to feel this way. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. But don’t stay depressed over a deal for too long, or you might turn a temporary setback into a prolonged slump, and you definitely don’t want that.
Once you’ve gone through the other four stages, it’s time to move on to the final stage: acceptance. By now, you’ve run the gamut of every thought, rationalization, complaint, and argument. At this point, you understand that the deal is gone, and you can either move on, or waste even more time that you won’t ever get back. So what if you lost a deal? Tomorrow is a brand new day and there are plenty of fish in the sea. So drink a cup of coffee, open your email, and get to work on finding the the next big thing.