How to lose a sale

How to lose a sale in 3 simple steps

by Rachel on July 15, 2013

Last year I was looking for someone to finish development of a website for a client. The company’s go-to developer had a health crisis and was taking time off.

I had a brief conversation with a ‘one-dude company’ that had a lot of experience with the type of site I needed. I told him exactly what I was looking for.

I received his proposal a day late. It was vague and missing one of the most important things I needed.
His rate was REALLY high.

He broke building the site into different phases, but he didn’t break out the payment into those phases. He listed a rather large lump sum.  I was unclear about what I was paying for.

I should have stopped there. But I like ‘one-dude companies’. I pressed on.

He set up a call to discuss the proposal.

He continued digging his hole.

He called me from his car while driving. I understand working from the road. I’ve run conference calls and webinars from my car. But not while driving. I ALWAYS pull over, especially for anything that generates revenue.

When closing deals I want to focus on my soon-to-be client, not on the semi crowding my lane.

His next move: Asking me to take notes on the call. Since he was driving. 

Another great exit point for me, but I was curious about how deep he would dig. 

We talked about different aspects of the proposal: required integrations and the missing features that were important to me.

He said those could be added on, but wouldn’t quote a price. Deeper hole.

We talked about the timeline. He was unwilling to budge. Even deeper.

Then we got to fees. I said ‘Your quote seems a little high. Especially related to the time table’.

The timeline was 3 times longer than I wanted.

His response? Not how he was worth the amount. Not a mention of the fact that he would get it done and exceed my expectations. Not a word about the value he offered.

He said “You {the client} use Great Plains accounting software, so I know you have the money to pay for this”.

What???? I said “What does that have to do with the price of shoes in China?”

He was confused.

I said, “We probably aren’t going to be able to work together. Thank you for your time.” Or some version of that. I hung up. Hopefully I cleared up his confusion.

Before I bash this misguided man for his sales tactics, I have been in his shoes. I’ve presented proposals and been questioned about my rates, methodology, and in one case – formatting. I strive to make deals a win-win for everyone involved, but there are times I miss the mark.

I have prepared as much as humanly possible for the ‘proposal talk’, and once or twice when my effort was less than stellar.

Unfortunately, I understand him. But I wasn’t handing him my client’s money.

He made a lot of mistakes, but here are the three keys to his demise:

1. A sloppy proposal.

Late. He sent the proposal late.

Rate. The proposal was broken down into phases, but the fee was not broken down. He included a lump sum. Clients don’t like that. I don’t like that.  He could have decreased my hesitation about the rate simply by breaking out the fee into phases as well. Then, I would know what I was paying for. Instead of focusing on the lump sum, I would focus on the smaller phase payments.

Missing items. (couldn’t get that one to rhyme. . .Late. . .Rate. . .). He did not include elements that were critical to the project.

        • Time – I wanted it done sooner rather than later
        • Accepting recurring payments. That was a requirement for my client
        • A few other items

2. Unprepared for the phone call.
A hurried conversation on the phone while he was driving was not impressive.

3. Failed to show he was worth what he was charged.
He didn’t show his value to justify what he was charging. He justified his rates by the amount of money he assumed my client paid for their accounting software. That is like saying because I drive a Porsche, I want to pay $25 for the McDonald’s dollar menu. Ridiculous.  The ability to pay does not suggest that an unrelated object has value.

I wasn’t a picture of perfection in this story.

This post could also be called “3 red flags of a NO Hire”. All three points are included in #1 above: Late, rate, and missing items.

I shouldn’t have set up a phone meeting with him. There were red flags all over the place. Lesson learned.

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