Closed Lost: The 5 Stages of Grief

5 Stages of Grief: Sales Edition

Sales prospecting is a lot like life—you win some, you lose some a lot.

Even if you (salespeople) do everything by the book, and go over and above, there is no guarantee that every prospect converts to an opportunity. Every hit is followed by a sense of accomplishment, and similarly, every miss manages to throw motivation out of the window (for a while, at least).

A prerequisite to having more closed-won deals on the sales report is having a team of highly motivated Sales professionals. That sounds like a lot of responsibility. But what happens when a lead is lost? How do salespeople deal with their closed-lost deals? Do they go through the standard drill—acceptance, learning, and eventually getting over the loss? Maybe they do!

Let’s see what the five stages of grief would look like on salespeople.

Stage 1: Denial

1st stage: Denial

You woke up in the morning, slightly anxious on the inside because something tells you that things may go south.

You open your inbox, wishing to read the word that would get you a step closer to your target. But, alas, it’s your prospect telling you that they aren’t ready for your solution yet.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

You think this can’t be true. As you process the information, you are also trying to survive the disappointment. Your reality has shifted completely ever since you read that email. You’re now pretending like everything’s fine. At this moment, the loss does not exist.

Stage 2: Anger

2nd stage: Anger

As you try to adjust to this new reality and try to make sense of the “Sorry, and thank you!” email, anger seems like the only humanly possible output. 

You want to go through your email thread, understand where did your approach go wrong, figure things that you could’ve done differently, learn from external sources, maybe Slintel’s ebooks, and check with your manager if your prospecting strategy was flaky. But, you just can’t identify what went wrong. 

Your anger leaves you feeling isolated in your experience. Your colleagues (or folks at home) want to let you be because you walk around like a person who can start a forest fire at any moment.

Stage 3: Bargaining

3rd stage: Bargaining

Anger has to leave someday, and so it has. At this stage, it isn’t unusual for you to be willing to do anything that it takes to alleviate the situation.

In your desperate attempts to give it one last shot, you write back to your prospect and ask them if there’s any way at all that your offering can be of use to them, if not now, then maybe in the future. You’re hoping to get control of the situation, hoping against hope, that you would hear in the affirmative.

Stage 4: Depression

4th stage: Depression

By this stage, your hopes and imaginations have calmed down. You are trying to accept the reality of your situation and you’re prepared to deal with it. Bargaining no longer seems like a reasonable option.

You might retreat from the situation, do some analysis of your own, reach out to experts from your field to understand more about such situations and read a bit more on the topic.

Will doing all this make you feel better? Maybe. Will it teach you valuable lessons? Definitely!

Stage 5: Acceptance

Congratulations! If you’ve come so far, it means that you’re completely over your loss. You’re no longer resisting your reality and you fully understand that losing deals is an inevitable part of the process. It’s time to gather your lessons and move on.

But, but, but

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 

Sales professionals are a unique breed. They’re mavericks driven by competition, targets, challenges, and success. The good ones know how to stay self-motivated. But even the best of them can get stuck into the ruts of low levels of motivation, self-esteem, and enthusiasm. 

It’s times like these that require team leaders to step up and lead the way. What good sales managers understand very well is that winning is fun, but getting over setbacks is winning.

As a wise king, Mufasa, once said –

There’s more to being a king than getting your way all the time.

Neha Mestry

Neha Mestry

Neha is a Content Marketer by day and an illustrator at night. With a profound interest in art and all things creative, Neha often indulges in creating content in various forms—blog posts, watercolor paintings, digital illustrations, and quick doodles. Oh, and she can survive an eternity on a deserted island as long as she has a good book (read: fiction only) by her side.

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