After Further Review…


“Prior to the snap, false start, everybody but the center…”

–     Walt Anderson, NFL referee, in one of the funniest moments in sports officiating

Instant replay.  Like it?  Hate it?

In sports, it’s not going away.  The NFL owners spent most of yesterday figuring out how to get it closer to right without adding time to already-too-long games.

In business, we ought to use it more, and more frequently.

We don’t (and shouldn’t) have multi-camera, super-slo-motion replays of our meetings and presentations, but the exercise of re-playing is perhaps even more important in what we do than it is in what those big dudes do in helmets and pads.

Why?  Because what we do puts groceries on our tables, those of our teammates and our clients.  What we do educates our kids and their kids.  What we do makes a difference for people we see every day in our towns, churches, parks and grocery stores.

Yet often, we miss the opportunity to “watch the replay.”

“That was a great meeting!” we often hear or say.  “That was a train wreck,” we moan when the meeting went off track (pun intended).  Was it?  Was it great or awful? Was it seen, felt experienced the same way by all participants?

Yes, no or maybe, no surprise here, the key is to drive to “Why?”

Doing a review of every client interaction and every meaningful internal interaction is important if our goal is to get better every day.

It’s especially important at the end of a sales cycle.  A win review captures the reasons we get deals, and then we can socialize and document those drivers for the benefit of other teammates.  A loss review captures the reason we lose business, and might be even more important — because if we can correct it and when we do, we move the needle, perhaps dramatically.

One word of caution on loss reviews.  I’m winging it here, but in my 35 years of leading sales professionals, 87.8% of them have told me, on first review, that we lost on price.  Um, no, we probably didn’t.  It’s another reason the replay is so important — if we start changing, dropping or becoming inconsistent on pricing as a first defense when we lose, we’re eroding the very base of our business.

It’s also why the sales person probably shouldn’t conduct the loss or win review.  While this exercise may ultimately be about growing their skill set, it’s about dispassionately getting to the reason the deal happened or didn’t happen, and removing the ego and emotional engagement of the person selling the deal is important to get accurate, unbiased feedback.

Loss Review questions, a partial list:  “What question should we have asked?  What question should we have asked sooner?  What piece of information did we not know but should have known?  Did we validate “BAIT?” (Budget, Authority, Intent and Timeline).  Did we listen, learning where their pain really was, or did we just prescribe our “antibiotic,” hoping they’d feel better and give us some credit?

Win Review questions, a partial list:  “If you had to break down this decision to one reason, what was it that made you choose us?”  “You considered five different providers.  What was it that made you confident we were the correct choice for you?”  “Thank you for the business.  What concerns do you have with your choice, so that we can make sure we handle those, in addition to delivering what you bought?”  “Do you have friends, colleagues, people in your network that are facing these same challenges?  Would you feel good introducing us to them?”

Internal meeting questions, a partial list, including one to begin with:  “What is it that you want to have at the end of this meeting that you don’t have now, that will have made it a great use of your time?”  Then, after the meeting, “Did you get ________?”  “On a scale of 1-10, how productive a use of your time was this meeting?  How could we have made it better?”  “Is everyone clear with the next steps and to-do’s that we established, and committed to the timelines we agreed to?”  “What do you need to make this meeting immediately actionable in your part of the team?”

Long post.  Sue me.  And, I’d apologize if it wasn’t really important stuff.

“Looking at the replay,” whether it’s under the hood in front of 70,000 in a stadium and a few million on TV, or whether it’s just with our partner or client, face-to-face or on the phone, helps us get better, correct mistakes, and avoid repeating them.  Looking at the replay will make a difference.

After further review — we’ll get better.  Each and every time.



  1. Tim Hill says

    Excellent piece! I would also suggest taking it a step further. The best players are known for their commitment to “film study”, individually and alongside coaches. If you want to be in the HOF you must be coachable. Admit there is no perfect meeting and ask “what could I have done to improve on it”? The game changes and if you aren’t “watching film” you won’t see it coming.

    • Great point, Tim! The idea of “film” is under-utilized too, even literally. On-video role playing (think new product launch, difficult client call) can expedite improved performance just like watching a missed block or a great tackle in the football film room. We can also use a simple bathroom mirror. I suggest people practice their voice-mail greeting, and then do it again, facing a mirror, and making sure they’re smiling. The difference in the way it sounds is pretty cool!

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