How to Bounce Back After Losing in Sales
Sales is a game of managing losses. It happens to everyone. Here are some helpful tips on how to bounce back from a sales loss from an AE who's been there.
Have you ever felt like you needed to get back on track? You need a bounce-back mechanism.
A bounce-back mechanism is a way to get back into the game or, in our case, back to selling. It can affect you mentally, physically, and emotionally. We can use the bounce-back mechanism when we get off track, take a big L, or feel unbalanced.
Why Do We Need a Bounce-Back Mechanism?
In sales, you lose more than you win. Even the best sellers must acknowledge losing can be exhausting.
Let’s break it down by looking at the daily numbers to give you perspective.
What’s a Cold-Call Session Like?
Eighty calls a session, seven connections, and one meeting booked. That’s a typical day for a frontline seller.
Once the meeting books, we’ll cheer, drop it in Slack, and hype the rep. You spent most of your time in voicemails, navigating phone trees, and getting rejected six times. But that one meeting is enough fuel to keep us going.
What About Email?
On average, you might spend about two hours writing 30 emails a day with a 10%* reply rate, with replies like “unsubscribe,” “not interested,” or “we already use competitor X.” This is such a fun game — you wanna lose again tomorrow? Don’t forget, the other 90% are non-replies — at least for now.
*These figures are hypothetical estimates.
The Deals Must Be Better, Right?
This previously mentioned flow goes for opportunity win rates, too. A 20% win rate is considered acceptable. You could lose 80% of your deals and not get fired. Pretty wild, right?
I’m not sure if there is any other role where 80% of the time, you lose, do bad work, or get told no, and can keep your job. You're doing considerably well with a 40% win rate. And at that rate, you’re still losing more than half the time; congrats!
Sales is a losing game.
The bounce-back mechanism is crucial to be in sales without burning out.
The Biggest L in Sales
I took one of the most considerable losses a sales rep can take. It was like trying to sell Nikes to a wealthy millennial, who interned at Nike in college, lived in Beaverton, Oregon, (Nike HQ city), but they bought from the Skechers rep.
It was one of those L’s that makes you reconsider everything. Dark thoughts, like, “Maybe I should just join the customer success team…” (shots fired?)
All the wind was taken out of my sales — literally.
Here’s what happened:
I worked a deal in a vertical where the company I worked for never lost. We had an 80% market share, clear technical advantages, and many of the largest companies in the space used our platform.
We hadn’t lost in this vertical in two years, and most deals came inbound via strong referrals.
Why is this such a big L, aside from the fact we never lost?
Here are the specs:
Our average customer value (ACV) was $359,242
Our average recurring revenue (ARR) for a 3-year agreement = $1,077,726 ACV ($1.5M quota)
Commission on a deal this size: $359,242 x 10% = $35,924.20 commish check
So you can see, I didn’t just lose a deal. I lost $35,924.20 in commission.
I lost a shot at hitting quota, taking my wife to President’s Club, and minting my name within the company — biggest of big L’s.
Congrats Junie, ya sucked. Now what?
I needed a bounce-back mechanism.
So How Do You Bounce Back?
Bouncing back is all about intention. The process requires a hard look at where you are, what you need and want to bounce back from, making a plan, and moving forward. I’ll give you the framework, but applying is up to you.
1. List it out.
What do you want to bounce back from? Keep it simple and short. (My advice is to pick one thing. Two at the most.) Examples:
- I didn’t hit end-of-quarter quota.
- I haven’t booked a meeting this week.
- Prospects aren’t converting from discovery.
2. Sit in your feels.
For real. Set a 15 to 20-minute timer, and think about how much it sucks.
- You lost a deal. You aren’t going to P-club. Let it sink in. Prospects aren’t converting and it reflects poorly on you, yikes. You will need to feel and process this to move forward in full force.
- We don’t spend enough time processing. We’ll lose a big deal, move on, never talk about it again, and then wonder why our anxiety peaks a few weeks later.
- Remember, a timer is crucial. You don’t want to spend too long thinking about it. Because the next thing you know, it cripples you from working.
- Ok, now are you ready to move on? If yes, great. If not, consider a mental health day. Don’t act tough. Take the time if you need it.
3. Fact check and detective work.
Reference the list you created in step one. Start fact-checking yourself and become a full-blown detective. Ask yourself these questions:
- Did you do enough prospecting activity?
- What did your outreach look like?
- Have you implemented something new that’s not working?
- When was the last time you made changes?
- How did you prepare for your discovery?
- Are there notes you can reflect on?
- What did you miss in the meetings?
Measuring your effort is one of the fastest ways to fact-check. Did you try as much as you think you did? That’s a great place to start.
4. Commit and timeline.
Because you’re a great detective, you found where you can improve. Hold yourself accountable for making the necessary changes by a specific date. Again, keep it simple and short. Write out the steps you’ll take and place the list somewhere you’ll see daily. Here’s an example:
- I will spend 15 minutes reviewing every discovery I have this month.
- At the end of each day, I’ll write out my prospecting activity.
- I will spend 20 minutes per deal working on the next steps, documentation, and follow-up. I’ll do this for two weeks.
5. Ask for help.
You don’t have to do this alone. Sales should be a team game. You know where you want to improve, so ask for help in that area. An obvious time to do this is during your manager 1:1. (if you don’t have one, please ask for it!). Leaders will respect your asking. Here’s an example of what this could look like:
- In our 1:1, can we please review X deal in-depth?
- In our 1:1, can we please talk about discovery and review one of my previous discoveries?
6. Timeline and review.
At the end of your committed timeline, do a review. Ask yourself these questions:
- Did you accomplish what you set out to accomplish?
- Do you feel like you’ve improved? If so, how?
- Have I fully bounced back?
If you kept it simple, it’s likely you’d improved significantly. We often need to bounce back because we start taking on too many things at once, and we lose focus.
How I Used the Bounce-Back Mechanism
- List it out: I lost a deal in a vertical where we never lose.
- Sit in your feels: One-hour suck fest.
- Ready?: Took two mental health days.
- Fact check and detective work: Found two major areas I overlooked (references and connections).
- Commit and timeline: I decided to give every deal two references, after discovery, specifically at the C-suite level.
- Ask for help: I asked all my customers to join a “reference list” I could leverage.
- Timeline and review: Closed two consecutive deals.
In sales, we’re going to lose more than we win. Our ability to bounce back may separate a good rep from a great rep, or a 10-year seller to a 25-year seller.
Use the bounce-back mechanism to your advantage. Sure, you likely won’t need this approach for the little things. But those little things can add up over time.
Author bio: Junior is a senior AE at Pickle AI. He's been selling for 5+ years. Before joining Pickle, he sold software in the property management space. Follow him on LinkedIn for more sales content.