Adequate preparation is the cure for most sales mistakes

In all three instances, the seller let down his guard. What about you? What mistake has cost you the sale

Let’s talk today of mistakes that can cost us the sale.

Years ago, as a novice insurance sales agent, I once landed a huge prospect. I was now in his office, this Chief Engineer of a multinational firm. After the flawless presentation we found a vacuum which my product could fill. We agreed that I submit a sample of the contract he would sign for his perusal before he makes a final decision. Boy, was I ready! I flashed it from my folder and gave it to him. He promised to get back to me in a week’s time. And that’s when it all went haywire. You see, I had noticed and escalated a gaping anomaly in the wording of the contract which was unfair to buyers. It was yet to be amended. My copy had this offending sentence underlined. And I had just submitted it. Long story short, I was roasted-and lost the sale.

Punctuality. Or lack thereof

A student of mine from Kigali shared a mistake that cost him the sale, and his job.  His company had tendered for a ground breaking contract for which all indications were that they would win. He had initiated and spearheaded the process to its end. He had buy-in from his immediate boss all the way to executive. 

But that wasn’t why they were convicted of a win. The real reason was because his company had been involved in structuring the tender specs from go; getting in early, as this is referred to, is the cornerstone of successful business-to-business sales. In other words, they had worked with the tendering institution in creating the boxes that needed ticking by all interested bidders, and his company had, of course, ticked them all. So what could go wrong? On the final day of submitting the tender, the seller drove from home, document in hand, straight into unprecedented heavy traffic. He arrived late. The toxicity of the work environment from that day onwards intensified to the point where he opted to leave.


Yet another student told of how he realised, after the sale was lost, that he had not treated the buyer as a person. He had been talking at him, not to him. And why? It was the third year renewal of a contract and so he had approached it with a ‘been there, done that’ attitude. The problem, however, was two-fold. The buyer’s decision making power dynamics had changed, and so too his external business environment. The seller didn’t know, and therefore did not speak to, either. The buyer felt belittled, unappreciated, treated as a statistic. The email advising them of change of supplier read in part: “…we chose to go with them because they understood our needs better and treat us with respect.” Ouch!

In all three instances, the seller let down his guard. What about you? What mistake has cost you the sale and what have you done to ensure it does not recur?

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