Classic Red Flags You’re about to Lose a Sale – How to Save It



You’re in the hunt for new business. You’ve done your research about a prospective anchor client. You’ve had some preliminary discussions. Now, you’re seated with the person and making your case.

But will you seal the deal?

Here are the red flags you’re about to lose the sale, and what to do about it:

1. Instead of a meeting, you’re asked for a proposal. This is a sign you’re about to enter a “cattle call.” That’s an old phrase used in the entertainment industry to indicate you have to get in line with your competitors – the prospect is shopping around.

Solutions: Cut through the clutter of competition. Ask to sit down with the prospect to discuss the prospect’s needs and objectives, and on what basis a selection will be made.

Your two goals should be to get an agreement on need and the answers to your questions for an opportunity to present a proposal with laser-like focus.

Otherwise, you’re walking in blindly.

2. The prospect says you’re too pricey. There are  typically four possibilities.

Firstly, you’re dealing with 18 percent of the population who only buys at the cheapest price.

Secondly, price is usually an objection if your offer doesn’t create an image of value.

Thirdly, the prospect believes there are other options for less money.

Fourthly, the client might think you’re trying to over sell –more than is warranted.

Solutions: In order to overcome objections in sales, it’s important to use empathy in a three-step process:

  1. Get the prospect to restate the concern. Then repeat the person’s words:  “If I understand you correctly, you feel…?”
  2. Empathize:  “I can see how you feel that way”…or “You know, someone said the same thing last week.”
  3. Overcome the objection with facts and/or creativity with options.

3. The prospect is impervious about setting a start date. In your initial discussions with a prospect, ask open-ended questions about the person’s concerns about timing until you get the answers you need. If there’s no urgency, you don’t have a priority A prospect. You have a priority B or C.

Solutions: Discover the person’s emotional hot buttons. What would be appealing? Is it a discount, added value, or limited time offer?

You don’t necessarily want the person to buy out of fear. But you can heighten the person’s awareness issues about the competition. The classic “join the bandwagon” approach is often effective.

Strategically identify and suggest the financial risks by not acting. If you’re successful in portraying yourself as a senior advisor, prospects frequently respond favorably if delicately told they need what you’re offering for competitive sustainability – but you must be authoritative and be absolutely certain it’s the right thing for the client.

4. You suddenly realize you’re not talking with someone who can sign your checks. It might be an indication that you have a suspect instead of a prospect – if the subordinate doesn’t introduce you to the right person after a few discussions.

It isn’t ideal if your initial discussions are with a subordinate; hopefully you’re being tested before the meeting with the brass. If so, it’s a good sign if you’re being introduced to other managers for their buy-in before you meet the decision-maker.

Solutions: It’s so important to start prospecting at the top. It’s much easier to work your way down than trying to work your way up.

Otherwise, you face climbing a mountain. So always have collateral that the boss might see after you leave the premises. But never give a subordinate something to give to the boss – a sales guru never expects anyone to carry the ball.

Two options:

  • If it appears you’re spinning your wheels at the subordinate level, diplomatically request a quick chat with the boss. People can get easily offended if they feel you’re going over their head.
  • Ask the subordinate some deep questions that only a CEO can answer. This would likely disrupt their screening process, and would accelerate your move to the C-suite.

5. The prospect appears indifferent or too detached. If you’ve succeeded in piquing the prospect’s interest, you can expect questions, concerns or objections. All three demonstrate you’re being seriously considered. If you don’t get any of the three responses, you’ve got an obstacle to success.

“You’re as good as the best thing you’ve ever done.”

-Billy Wilder

Solutions: This is where your branding and relationship approach are so important – to lay the groundwork for an archetypal consultative posture – the image of a senior advisor. Trust and respect are what you want to create in the minds of prospects. You will have enhanced your chances, if you initially used such an approach.

Many businesspeople will open up with an advisor as opposed to a mere salesperson. Remember that’s how Progressive sells insurance. The company provides insurance shoppers with rate quotes from multiple competing insurance companies. That’s how Dick Cheney became a vice president. He helped then-presidential candidate George Bush screen for a running mate.

So, your only fallback position is an advisor’s role. If you have enough credibility, you can suggest other providers or offering to help locate others. Such detachment can work in your favor.

Try such an approach. Let the vendor interview others. The process might prove to be disappointing to the prospect. You might be surprised to discover the prospect knocking on your door, after all.

Happy selling!

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related sales tips:

7 Tips for Strong Results in Setting B2B Appointments with CEOs — As every salesperson knows, face time with B2B prospects gives you a foundation for sales success.  Execution in the appointment-setting process is, of course, is key to being successful.  

Valuable Secrets for Profitable Deal-Making with Clients — If you’re in professional services or consulting, many times you’ve heard the phrase: “Give me a proposal.”

The Lost Art – How and Why to Use Cold-Calling for Higher Sales — Do you get enough face time with the right prospects? Here’s how and why in-person cold calls will help you make sales.

The Seven Steps to Higher Sales — Secrets for sales success – seven steps to higher sales, five value perceptions that motivate customers to buy, and the three-step process for overcoming sales objections.

“You’re as good as the best thing you’ve ever done.”

-Billy Wilder


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.



Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.