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How to recover a sale you lost through bad qualification

Can you ever win back what you thought was a good sale when you lost it this way?

This is a scenario that comes up a lot when I’m mentoring businesspeople. They’ve been hoping to win a significant bit of new business, but they’ve fallen at the last hurdle because they’ve not asked the right questions, or didn’t get the early approach right.

There’s then the depressing feeling that all hope for this big sale is gone because it turns out the prospect doesn’t seem like a right fit, or they are raising a whole string of injections that you just can’t seem to overcome.

So today, let’s look at two aspects to this problem:

  1. Let’s avoid it in the future – what could you do differently next time?
  2. How you can try and rescue the current situation – can you get back in the game now?


The first thing you need to do is be brutally honest. Yes, it’s time for one of those mirror talks again. Looking back as objectively as you can, what were the missteps you made?

Did you try and sell to them too early?

Did you take the time to find out about them and find out what’s going on in their world?

Did you just focus the conversations on you, your business or service, and what you wanted?

A lot of businesspeople (and many salespeople, too) have a misconception that selling is all about hitting your targets and achieving your goals. And while that’s part of the game, the way to achieve those outcomes is by giving your prospects what they want, not what you do! 

The key is to find out what it is the prospect is looking for.

If you didn’t manage that, ask yourself some honest questions that need honest answers:

  • How could you have approached it differently?
  • Why is this person now giving you objections?
  • What value haven’t you shown to them that makes them think you’re worth spending money on?
  • What is it that they haven’t seen in you or your company that makes them uncertain about working with you?
  • Were they even the right person and the right fit for you in the first place?

If you find it difficult to self-evaluate your business sales failures like this, drop me a line to [email protected] and let’s book a call to see how I can help you improve your sales success. 

 After you’ve identified where it went wrong, don’t repeat the same mistakes again next time! Last week, I talked about having a qualifying criteria checklist or scoresheet. This is a vital tool in helping you to keep on track and making sure that you’re talking to good leads and questioning them in the right way to whittle them down into cracking prospects!


If you talk to most salespeople, they’ll give you the short answer – “no”! You’ve been slack with your qualifying, and now you’ve come to close the deal, and it’s just wave after wave of objections, ifs and buts.

My answer to this question is actually “maybe”.

 So, here are some key things you can do to try and turn it around when you receive these last-minute objections you weren’t expecting (because you failed to qualify properly, remember?!).

Strategy 1: First, and most importantly, shut up.

I mean it. Not talking at all over the objection is vital.

The key to turning this situation around is to get inside the head of the person you’re talking with. What’s going on in their world?  What are they really thinking?  What’s the real motivation behind the question or response they just gave?

How do we do this? By listening carefully to what they are saying and then asking further questions that deepen our understanding.

It doesn’t matter whether the “problem” they have is about your price, or the quality of your service, or who’s involved, or that they need to discuss it further. What matters is what you do next.

Ask open questions – the whats, wheres, whens, whos – to get to the heart of the matter.

Strategy 2: Just be honest

This one takes guts! Just say “I’m really sorry, I should have asked you some of these questions initially, and I apologise that I didn’t”.

Showing this level of honesty and transparency can actually help you when you’re trying to (re)engage with a prospect.

I’ve said this in the past to prospects who went on to become clients, and they tell me that they liked the fact that I was showing them that I’m fallible and human, and not a “sales machine”.

Don’t be afraid to ask to go back to the start and try to understand more about the issues and key challenges are that they’re facing. Unless they are very pressed for time, a lot of prospects will respond positively to someone asking them to get to know their needs better.

If you get to this “second chance” point, my “42 Questions” is a great starting point for you to ask for the key information you need to do the job properly.

It’s always better to do this from the start, of course, but better late than never!


There’s a final aspect to this “rescuing a sale” business – perhaps saying goodbye is actually the right thing? You need to realise that if you haven’t done a thorough qualification job on this prospect, you need to reflect on whether they are actually a good fit for you. And if not, walk away.

I always say doing business that doesn’t feel quite right at the start is like eating a hot curry.  It tastes ok, but after a while, it starts to hurt!

Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you’ve dropped your price just to get some business and then find that trying to work with that customer to deliver the service you’ve sold is a nightmare. 

 So, assess if they’re a good fit for you and be prepared to walk away rather than trying to chase the opportunity.  Looking needy doesn’t help you in business long term anyway.

You could use an exit like:

“From the conversations that we’ve had and the information that you’ve shared, it looks like we’re not the right fit for you.  I’d recommend speaking to company X or Y instead.”

This leaves the prospect feeling that you’re an honest person, and actually builds trust with them (perhaps trust that was missing at the start of the process?). You won’t win this business, but you will have built bridges and have the start of a relationship that might bear fruit down the line.


Be prepared to qualify your leads. Do it early, do it right!

Use the sales criteria score sheet to help you move the right leads into prospects and sales.

Use the BANT methodology that many of the most successful sales and business people around the world use every day.

BANT is a great way to assess whether anyone you’re in front of has the BUDGET, the AUTHORITY to make decisions, the NEED (although I prefer to think of this as a problem or a want), and that the TIMING is right.

If you ask these questions in the right way and with the right tone, you can then quickly and efficiently work out whether this is an opportunity that will be a great fit for both of you.

James White

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