How to Lose Control of your Sales Process


Share on LinkedIn

This week I thought I’d share a lesson I learned a few years ago. Essentially, I dropped the ball with a good opportunity through what is really quite a common mistake in our profession.

I was dealing with an inbound lead and initially had a great first phone call with my prospect. I asked a few good questions, did 20% of the talking throughout the whole conversation and had a very clear idea of exactly how I could help.

The call ended with a next action that I would briefly summarise the details of our conversation by email complete with costs.

I did exactly that and the prospect mentioned that the price was a little more than he had expected, so here’s what happened when I started to handle his price objection:


(I’ve changed the names on the email for privacy reasons but the content of the emails is totally unmodified.)

On 22 Aug 2011, at 13:17, Pete Stuckey wrote:

Hi Clive

In that case, as we’ve not worked together before and I’m confident you’ll be very pleased with results and go on to work with us in future, if you could give me an order today I can offer an introductory dicount so both places for £1880.00 + VAT inclusive of the 4* accommodation.

Does that make things more comfortable for you go ahead today?

Thanks Clive


I got a pretty quick reply….

On Wed 22 Aug 2011, at 13:32 Clive wrote


Can you send me through an official quote and I will need to have it approved internally our end.

Best Regards



At this point, like a lot of sales people would, I read this as a buying sign and began getting a little excited preparing an official quotation that I was expecting to close quite quickly. (I’ve abbreviated the quote because it’s not massively relevant to my point)

If you’ve already noticed, I dropped the ball some time ago in the first email! (Did you spot it?)

On 22 Aug 2011, at 13:51, Pete Stuckey wrote:

Hi Clive

The 2 Day Tactical Field Sales course …….

As a next action, I’d ask that if you feel comfortable and would like to book the places straight away I’ll make all of the necessary arrangements with the venue/hotel today.

If there’s anything you’re unsure of we can discuss it when I call you back later this afternoon.


So I did do something right. I did quite a good job of setting my prospects expectations that I’d be in touch for a decision later that day quite intent on doing my best to gain a commitment to proceed, however things didn’t quite manifest themselves as I’d hoped.

Wed 22/ Aug 2011, at 13:56, Clive wrote:

Great Thanks.

It will be next week before I can confirm

And there you have it. This is the point at which I officially lost control of the sale and was unable, despite 2 attempts, to win it back. If we go back to the very first email in this blog you’ll see that this is where the problem lies. I went about things all wrong and positioned myself in a really poor way leaving myself exposed to my prospect switching seats and taking control.

“if you could give me an order today I can offer a discount so both places for £XXXX + VAT inclusive of the 4* accommodation.”

First of all this isn’t actually even a question which is not a good start! What I should have done is change the structure of that sentence to make it a conditional question (which would have been far more direct and far more appropriate for achieving my objective).

Now, if ever I find myself in a similar situation, I will make sure that if I have to resort to offering discounts for whatever reason, they are always conditional and in effect not offered unless accepted.

“If I can give you a 10% discount, will you give me an order today?”

You can see here how powerful this question in comparison to the above and it’s probably quite self-explanatory as to why this is 100 times more effective. These are what are known as conditional questions that will have both a main clause and a conditional clause in them.

Generally speaking they will start with the words ‘If’ or ‘Will’ in this instance (although that’s not exhaustive) and they will usually be responded to with a yes, no or uncover a buying objection.

My advice is that you always stick with the format of “If I xxxxxxxx, will you xxxxxxxx?” as your customer is more likely to focus on the benefit you offer first above anything else in the rest of your sentence.

I guess the key lesson to be learned here is that as sales people, losing control of our processes can have pretty disastrous consequences on our conversions and forecasting so we really need to be sharp when it comes to written communication.

Remember, prospect requests can often be a good time to attempt to close your opportunity.

“If I can do X for you, will you give me the order today”

By the way, I lost this deal, probably because I was outsold by a better, smarter sales person at the time and probably in part for being ineffective with my written communication.

One thing’s for sure… Never again!

Republished with author's permission from original post.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here