Turning away a sales prospect might be the best thing you can do

Instead of thinking about closing every deal, we should be thinking about creating long-term value

David FullerI recently told a prospective client I didn’t think I could add enough value and wouldn’t take his money for business coaching. I did this even though it would have been a nice-sized account and generate thousands of dollars in revenue.

He has 20-plus employees and does $2 million to $3 million in business. But he was stressed because his business had lost a key customer and he knew he had to make some changes to replace the lost $300,000 in revenue.

It’s not that I couldn’t help him. In fact, he said at the end of our conversation that the coaching session was very valuable. He had more clarity on what he needed to do. I’d provided him with some insight into solutions he hadn’t considered. He appreciated the opportunity to talk about his challenges in a confidential manner with someone who understood what he was going through.

But he already had a solution to his $300,000 problem and had cut his expenses by 30 per cent in the short term. He had an accountability and support structure in place and his business had systems that enabled him to work at a balanced level that sustained his lifestyle.

In other words, he was doing almost everything right.

I knew I probably could have sold him a coaching package and he would have got some value from it. But the value I could create for him would have been less than ideal from my perspective.

I know some people would think I’m crazy and would avoid having me talk to their sales teams. They’d ask why I didn’t close the sale? “You mean you had a fish on the line and you didn’t reel him in? You let money walk out the door?”

But it’s exactly that mentality that gives sales people a bad name. Why do we think we need to sell to every customer who expresses an interest in our products or services?

So often our sales teams are so focused on their targets that they don’t ask if what they’re doing is right for the customer. The pressure to close the sale is so great that they want to get it done at any cost.

Instead of thinking about closing, we should be thinking about creating value. Just being focused on closing is like putting your car in park while roaring down the highway. Things are going to come to a halt rather quickly and the result isn’t going to be good for you or the car.

If we can determine through our sales cycle and proper questioning whether the person is an ideal client, that they need what we have, can afford to it and are ready to make the decision, then we’re in a good spot.

But sometimes we go through that process of discovery and find that the conditions aren’t ideal. The customer isn’t ready, shouldn’t be buying, or the product or service we’re offering isn’t going to solve their problems in the long run. In those cases, we need to slow down the sale.

Unfortunately, some companies take the short-term approach in order to grab quick bucks.

If our customers don’t walk away knowing that what they just bought is going to make a significant difference to them, then we’re in trouble over the long run. We won’t get repeat business. We won’t get the testimonials and referrals that ensure our business will thrive for years to come.

Sales can be the toughest part of any business. Having great sales people who know how to create value and understand clearly the sales cycles and systems that generate repeat customers is essential to your success.

Having a sales system that ensures customers see the value you’re creating enables your teams to close transactions consistently and easily.

But there are times when turning away a sales prospect might be the best thing you can do.

I’m confident that the prospect I talked to recently will be get back to me in the future. He understands what I can do for him when he needs it and when he has customers who need my services. He knows I won’t sell him anything he doesn’t need and that I only work when I can create value for my customers.

Yes, I lost a short-term sale. But hopefully I’m building a valuable long-term relationship based on trust.

Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Email dave@profityourselfhealthy.com


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