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Using Critical Thinking + Problem Solving Skills in Sales Post-Mortems

Continual improvement. Never becoming complacent. Striving to learn from every success, every failure, and every event. This is what it takes to get to the next level, and the next one after that. It’s what enables the most successful sellers outperform themselves over and over again.  

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To learn at every turn, you have to pause long enough to capture the lesson. After every sales call, for example, pause and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What was the most successful part of this sales call?
  2. What did I do that directly contributed to that success?
  3. In the future, how can I do that again to achieve similar success?
  4. What was unnecessary in this sales call and could be eliminated in future calls?
  5. What did the buyer respond favorably to?
  6. How could I do something similar to generate favorable buyer responses on future calls?
  7. What was the least successful part of this sales call?
  8. What did I do that did not make that as successful as I would’ve liked?
  9. What can I do differently next time in order to make that more successful?
  10. What did the buyer seem to respond less favorably to? Why?

Implement changes based on these reflections. Ruminating on them isn’t the point. Taking proactive steps to continually improve is the aim.

Why It Pays to Take a Time Out and Reflect after Sales Calls

By reflecting on questions like these, you’ll be able to replicate what worked and replace what didn’t. You’ll avoid repeating mistakes. You’ll continually build on your success and get better and better with every sales call.

Research from The Center for Creative Leadership lists reflection like this as one of the key enablers of learning agility. To learn and be nimble in applying what you’ve learned, this is essential. It’s also a best practice for critical thinking that eradicates lazy thought patterns that will hold you back.

Reflection also keeps you honest. If we race through our days, we’re accepting our first reactions sans examination or reality checks. Unfortunately, our first reactions aren’t very accurate or useful. We can fool ourselves. A common thinking trap called “fundamental attribution error” misleads us into believing that our successes are the result of our talents and our failures are the result of others’ actions. That’s why, coming out of a sales call, your first reaction is either “I nailed it” or “The buyer made a mistake.”

Asking yourself questions to dissect what happened forces you to look at the replay. It gets you focused on what you DID, not what you are and not the circumstances we can’t control. What you DO is what you can observe, reflect on, and change.

Making informed changes to correct what doesn’t work makes you better. Not changing the actions that produced positive results keeps you succeeding over and over again. 

The Skills You Need to Effectively Debrief and Capture Lessons Learned

Critical thinking gives you opportunities for continual, incremental process improvement.

When you move away from lazy thinking habits, you'll be better equipped to conduct solid, efficient evaluation of decisions you've made and problems you've solved. You can engage in these "learning after doing" exercises or post-mortem examinations to capture objective lessons about what worked, what didn't work, and what could be done differently.

This video includes some best practices for capturing lessons learned. Unleash your mental might with simple habits like this one! 


The underlying skills and traits for conducting a useful post-mortem are:

  • The humility to acknowledge that you can always improve
  • The desire to improve even when it’s a little uncomfortable to face your failures
  • Objectivity to move past the first phase where you’ll make fundamental attribution errors
  • Ability to see cause-and-effect connections (“when I did this, she said that…”)
  • Intellectual honesty. If you’re defensive and making excuses this isn’t going to work.
  • Curiosity and willingness to experiment with incremental improvements
  • Analysis and tracking to detect patterns and continually build on your learning

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