Outsmarting Lost Deals: The Predictive Power of Understanding What Buyers Want

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer, Corporate Visions
Two black cards with buy and sell written in white font.

Fifty-three percent of the deals your sellers marked in your CRM as “lost” were winnable, if not for a misstep in the sales experience. 

That might be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s backed by data. We analyzed buyer feedback from over 100,000 deals from 500 companies across 50 different industries and uncovered some shocking insights.

Not only are companies unnecessarily losing half of their deals, but the CRM data that sellers track is wildly inaccurate. In fact, the reasons sellers give for losing deals are different than the reasons buyers give 50–70 percent of the time.

It’s not your sellers’ fault. When they lose a deal, they can’t read their buyers’ minds. So they record the reasons they think the deal went wrong: pricing, a lack of features, or other reasons that are outside of their control. Meanwhile, buyers give entirely different reasons: poor needs discovery, poor differentiation, and a lack of communication.

Here’s the kicker: The reasons buyers give for not choosing your solution are all fixable missteps. But to fix them, sales managers must first understand what skills their sellers individually need to address.

The Coaching Conundrum

Many studies show that consistent coaching helps sellers achieve higher quota. And sales managers indicate that almost a third of their time is spent on coaching activities.

The problem is, only about 40% of sellers feel like the coaching they get is sufficient, according to Gartner.

Why the disconnect? Consider the collaborative nature of coaching today.

Because there’s no objective buyer data to reference, coaching starts with the seller self-assessing the areas they think they need to improve. They communicate their self-identified needs to their manager, who then proceeds to coach or train them in those areas.

But if your sellers are losing more than half of winnable deals due to their own missteps, that approach to coaching won’t address the areas that will actually improve their win rates.

When you’re using unreliable data supplied by sellers in your CRM, you can’t coach to sellers’ individual needs. Even if you use conversation intelligence software to record every call from every seller, you’re only hearing what your buyers say when talking to your seller. It’s just more data that doesn’t tell the full story.

You can’t coach sellers effectively if you don’t have an accurate picture of why buyers are choosing competitors. You’ll keep trying to improve skills that don’t influence deal outcomes, and you’ll keep losing winnable deals due to fixable seller mistakes.

What skills, specifically, should you fix?

The Eight Skills That Predict Deal Outcomes

Buyer feedback from thousands of deals has revealed eight selling skills that represent critical moments in your buyer’s decision-making process. We call them the “Great 8,” and each one can impact whether the deal is won or lost.

  1. Provide expert insights – Create a compelling vision of the future for the buyer and provide convincing reasons to change.
  2. Align solutions to needs – Identify and understand the buyer’s needs and develop the best solution fit.
  3. Demonstrate clear differentiation – Showcase the unique advantages of your solution compared to both the buyer’s status quo and your competition.
  4. Articulate meaningful value – Connect your solution’s capabilities with the buyer’s priorities to demonstrate value.
  5. Help justify decisions – Build a business case that convinces stakeholders and adds urgency to the decision.
  6. Negotiate creatively – Effectively manage pricing questions and negotiation conversations.
  7. Deliver compelling communications – Deliver engaging, memorable, and persuasive presentations to key stakeholders.
  8. Resolve concerns responsively – Understand and resolve any concerns or issues raised during evaluation.

When you measure and monitor these eight specific skills, you can pinpoint where your sellers are doing well and where they need targeted training and coaching to improve their approach.

But how, specifically, do these skills impact deal outcomes?

The Predictive Power of the Great 8

Using an Area Under the Curve (AUC) analysis based on buyer feedback data, we quantified the predictive power of the Great 8 sales skills.

In the AUC data, the closer the value is to 1.0, the more perfectly predictive the skill is in determining a won or lost deal. In other words, an AUC of 1.0 means the skill perfectly predicts winning a deal, while an AUC of 0.5 means it’s no better than a random guess.

Currently, “help justify a business decision” and “negotiate creatively” are slightly stronger predictors. But all of the Great 8 skills have high AUC scores (ranging from 0.80 to 0.84), meaning every skill is a strong predicter of sales success.

The gap between the highest and lowest AUC value is just 0.04. Such a tight range suggests that, while some skills might be slightly more predictive than others, all eight skills are critically important and closely related in terms of their predictive power.

Interestingly, the data also revealed how much more predictive the Great 8 are compared to other, more generic skills that many organizations measure:

  • “Provide expert insights” is 31.6% more predictive than measuring “industry knowledge” as a skill.
  • “Align solutions to needs” is 21.9% more predictive than measuring “product knowledge” as a skill.
  • “Negotiate creatively” is 25.5% more predictive than measuring “facilitating ease of purchase” as a skill.

These findings underscore that traditional skills like “industry knowledge” or “product knowledge,” while essential, are merely table stakes – they don’t differentiate top performers. But offering deeper, unexpected insights and aligning solutions to specific needs prove far more predictive of sales success.

Find and Fix Your Sellers’ Blind Spots

Nothing changes seller behavior faster than hearing feedback from the buyer they were selling to. In fact, our data shows that sellers who receive buyer feedback from three or more deals have 40% better win rates than those who don’t.

But it’s not just getting any buyer feedback – you need the right feedback.

When you continuously look across the Great 8 skills, you can benchmark performance and spot vulnerabilities as they emerge based on what your buyers want and need.

If buyers say your sellers struggle to align solutions to their needs, you can deploy targeted coaching on discovery. If negotiation skills ratings fall, you can invest in training before the impact hits your deals.

You can’t read your buyers’ minds, but you can gather real-time feedback from them after every deal – whether it was won or lost – and pinpoint exactly where your sellers need help.

To truly improve your sellers’ performance, you need to start with actual buyer feedback, not seller self-assessments. You can then provide customized, individualized coaching based on that feedback, and continuously monitor, measure, and modify your efforts.

Want more research and insights into your buyers’ decisions and the skills that win more deals? Register now for DigitalNow Revenue Summit – the must-attend event for revenue leaders in 2024.