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Choosing the right sales opportunity

Choosing the right sales opportunity
Image courtesy of Foto 76 at

Image courtesy of Foto 76 at

When to sell and when to walk away


You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away, And know when to run                  The Gambler, Kenny Rogers



Kenny Rogers was not referring to selling when he sang those famous words many years ago, but he could well have been. Whether you are an individual salesman, an entrepreneur building your business or an organisation intent on improving profits you should consider the words of the old gambler.

There are certainly sales that you should stick to, even though they do not close easily. There are others where you should realise that you have no realistic chance of success and yet others where the effort to close them is not worth the return you will get. There are definitely sales opportunities you should run from as fast as you can. As the old gambler advised in the song, the difficulty is in knowing which sales opportunity is which.

Which ones to hold? The overriding reason to persevere with a sale is if you genuinely believe that if the prospect takes your offer it will him or her better off than if they do not take it. This belief must be much more than faith in your product or service. It means you have to understand the prospects pains and opportunities and be sure your offer is the best to address those. There are lots of sales qualification systems, and every organisation should have a formal system to qualify whether the sale should proceed. Most systems will include:

  • Can the prospect pay? Is there sufficient budget, is there the will to spend it?
  • Is there a clear value proposition? Is the value the customer will get from the purchase reasonably assured? Can it be quantified so that the value can be compared to the cost of purchase?
  • Is there a reason for the buyer to buy now or soon?
  • Is the decision making process and the basis on which the decision will be made known to the selling party?
  • Does the person you are dealing with have the ability to commit the expenditure, or the clout to influence those who can commit expenditure?

If these are all yes answers then persevere, the customer will eventually be grateful you did.

Qualifying out

When do you fold and walk away? In other words when do you stop trying, because the effort is not worth while? There are some definite indicators, but like in poker this is very much dependant on good judgement. The indicators include:

  • You realise the buyer does not know what he needs, and refuses to be guided, or worse, that he or she is determined to buy a solution which you know will not work for them. You must be realistic, do not simply assume that a competitive offer will not be as good for the buyer.
  • You realise that despite the talk, that your contact does not have the power to commit their company, and worse, does not have credibility in that company – these ‘buyers’ can be the worst time wasters, but be sure your identification is correct;
  • There is no real reason for the buyer to buy any time soon. What you are selling is in effect an expensive nice to have. It is far better to withdraw for now and come back when there is a compelling reason for them to buy;
  • You realise you do not have the right product or service for the prospect. If you know of solutions that will meet the prospects needs then tell him or her about them. It is never a good idea to force an unsuitable product or service on a customer, but ethical and honest behaviour will be remembered when the prospect buys something else.

When do you run?

What sort of conditions would cause you to run away as fast as you can? As soon as you realise the deal is toxic, when it can hurt you even if you succeed in making the sale. The following are just some of the reasons to run.

  • The buyer demands prices, specifications or terms which are unrealistic, and will not be swayed from these demands;
  • The buyer wants open ended specifications to be developed as the product is delivered, but insists on a fixed or limited price. These dangerous sales are often made when selling computer software, construction projects, interior design, or by start-up businesses desperate for that first sale. Be aware that if you go into one of these dark tunnels your business may not emerge. Such deals have caused even substantial and mature businesses to fail, so accept a deal like this at your peril.
  • The buyer insists on unethical or illegal actions as a part of the deal. Such actions include bribery, fraud, corruption, favouring friends or family, bypassing supply chain rules or any similar conduct. Business done on an illegal foundation taints you forever, and locks you into repeating this behaviour next time as the word spreads. It is never worth it.

Remember this other sage advice from the old gambler:

You never count your winnings while you’re sittin’ at the table, There’ll be time enough to do that when the gamblin’s done.

A sale is never completed until the last detail is agreed. Some say it becomes a sale when the money is in the bank. Never count winnings in advance.


©copyright Ed Hatton. All rights reserved. You may republish this article or extracts from it provided you state I am the author, acknowledge my copyright and provide a link to my blog or my e-mail address.

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