5 deal breakers that kill your sales (and how to avoid them)

We asked some battle-tested experts for the biggest mistakes they see sales people make—and their best advice for correcting them

Canadian Business Sales Week

Woman listening in a meeting

“FYI this pitch is not going well.” (Skynesher/Getty)

Just as there’s no better feeling than finally landing a big sale, there’s no worse one than letting one slip through your fingers—especially if you don’t know what went wrong.

These five salespeople from the PROFIT 500—Canada’s fastest growing companies—know both feelings all too well. Luckily, they’ve been in the industry long enough to spot possible problems in advance, and steer clear of them whenever possible. Here are their most common sales deal breakers—and how to avoid them:

Deal Breaker No. 1: No personal touch

“Listen, half the time the sale is based on the relationship, too. People don’t have conversations, they do everything over email. And when you’re using a computer to build a relationship, you don’t have a relationship. And then it really comes down to price, or whatever the negotiating tactics are.”

How to avoid it? Go the extra mile: “It’s harder to negotiate against somebody that you like; you’re more willing to work with them if you like them. So you have to get to know your client. I’ve saved a deal by literally jumping on a plane and flying down to see somebody; picking up the phone and having the necessary conversation.”

David U.K., CEO, Cue Digital Media, Toronto

Deal Breaker No. 2: Too much jargon

“A lot of times what will happen when it comes to something complex, like billing, is that when you start talking about how it works, it can kind of scare off a client, or give them a reason for hesitation. You’ll get, ‘I need to think about it,’ and as soon as that happens, you’ve lost the opportunity to close the deal that day.”

How to avoid it? Leave it ’til after: “Anything to do with complex matters, I would always leave for after the deal, once you have everything confirmed with the client. If you hear ‘I have to think about it’ don’t take that at face value—ask the necessary questions to continue the conversation. Your first response should be, ‘Great, no problem, what do you need to think about? Is there something I’ve overlooked, or something you don’t understand?’ 99% of the time, we find out what it is that’s making them hesitate. Ultimately we don’t get into the intricacies until everything is signed, sealed and delivered.”

—Vishal Nanchahal, Vice President, Sales, BreezeMaxWeb, Vaughan

Deal Breaker No. 3: Not understanding your client’s needs

“If we don’t understand what our client is looking for, it is a deal breaker immediately, because the solution we’re proposing isn’t going to fit their actual needs. If they’re looking for oranges, and all we’re offering is apples, there’s no point in us having that conversation. We had approached a client with what we believed to be the best solution for them, and it just wasn’t in their budget. We’re now backtracking our steps, trying to work with this new information.”

How to avoid it? Overprepare: “We should have clarified what their actual needs were before going ahead and making assumptions. There are always opportunities to research, and consult several sources, when preparing your offering. Now, to keep them engaged while we are back-pedalling, we’ll ask to re-clarify their original needs and ask for the opportunity to go back to the drawing board.”

Ted McRae, Strategic Relationship Sales Manager, People Store Staffing Solutions, Mississauga

Deal Breaker No. 4: Taking “No”—from someone who doesn’t have the authority to say “Yes”

“Quite often you’ll be talking to one person and they’ll say ‘no we’re not interested.’”

How to avoid it? Always ask another source: “People will sometimes take a ‘no’ at face value, instead of continuing to explore other people they could be speaking with. Once you’ve received a no, you often have to accept that no from that person, but then you can find another person that you could be speaking with, who might give you a different answer.”

Sonya Meloff, Co-founder, Sales Talent Agency, Toronto

Deal Breaker No. 5: The Brochure Dump

“Salespeople want to go in and talk about their product, and its features and benefits right away, without thinking about the customer’s actual need. They get trained on their product, and that’s all they want to talk about, and it might not be what the customer wants to talk about.”

How to avoid it? Listen first: “The number one thing is to listen to the customer and uncover what their actual need is, and go from there.”

Lou Lacchin, Vice President Sales, Eden Park Inc., Toronto