How to Bounce Back from a Tough Sales Loss

Off the starboard bow! You spotted your own personal white whale – the big sale that got away. You remember how you spent months working that deal, and were just days away from closing when you were suddenly dropped. And there it is again, taunting you from afar. Instead of moving on, you obsess over the details of your failure, and try to keep chasing that same deal endlessly.

Even though it’s tough to suffer a big sales loss, you can’t let it drag you down to the deeps. Don’t become obsessed with that lost whale like Captain Ahab. Lingering over that lost deal will only slow you down and hurt your sales numbers going forward. Here is how you can move past even the roughest sales loss and focus anew on the next opportunity coming down the pipeline.

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End on Good Terms

The day a prospect calls and says the deal is dead, it can feel like a slap in the face. After all those hours spent on phone calls, meetings and demos, you just didn’t make the cut. In that moment, don’t get angry and burn bridges with your contact. By staying on good terms, they will remember you positively and you never know what could happen in the future. This same company may decide to take another look at your product in a few years, or someone could leave for a new job and recommend your product elsewhere. Be polite and professional, no matter how disappointed you are.

Accept It

In these situations, everyone has a tendency to blame other people for messing up the deal. But you didn’t lose the deal just because the price was too high or because your product isn’t as good as the competitor’s. Be honest with yourself and take personal responsibility – admit that you may have made a mistake or were outsold by the competition this time around. Whatever the loss reason, you lost the deal and it’s time to accept it.

Learn from Mistakes

Once you realize you can’t change what happened and take responsibility for the loss, you can turn it into a positive learning experience. Look back at the interactions you had with the prospect and analyze where you may have tripped up. If you were able to stay on good terms with your contact, they may even honestly tell you what was the deciding factor, to help you better understand what cost you the deal. Use that information and apply the lessons you’ve learned the next time you find a whale coming down the sales pipeline.

Let Off Steam

Even though many sales reps like to act as if they’re invincible, it’s OK to be upset about losing a big deal. You know how hard you’ve worked, and it’s incredibly tough to stay calm and reasonable in the face of a massive disappointment. If you stayed polite on that last call with your prospect, you’ve done a fantastic job. But it’s also important to release your anger and frustration at the loss – if only for your mental health. Go out for a drink with coworkers and vent, take a day off from work, or do whatever else you need to get out of your own head. Once you’ve expressed your anger, it’s easier to put it out of your mind and move on.

Get Back to Work

To employ a well-worn cliche: there are other fish in the sea. After you’ve recovered, one of the best ways to get past a big sales loss is to continue to work hard on other leads in your pipeline. These deals may be smaller and less exciting, but they’re also usually more likely to close than the whales. Instead of being dragged down by a major loss and focusing on the hit to your win rate, you can keep working hard and win other deals instead. If you still manage to hit your sales quota for the month – even after a big loss – you’ll feel accomplished and happy despite it.


It might seem impossible, but you can stop obsessing over that white whale. Stay calm, learn from your mistakes, focus on work and you can get past even the worst sales loss.

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