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One of the hardest decisions that you will face in your sales career will be the judgment to walk away from a potential deal or to double your efforts and just try harder.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.  It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body.  It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. Winston Churchill

All too often, professional sales people work continuously to win the deal.  They never surrender, never give up.  But, is this the best strategy?  Should sales people consider other options such as walking away from a deal when it becomes clear that the odds are stacked against them?

Top sales performers absolutely hate the thought of quitting.  They are a passionate breed who work hard for success.  Therefore, the idea of walking away from a potential opportunity is normally too painful to even consider.  No way, it will never happen! However, it may be the smartest decision to make and it can provide other opportunities that are more lucrative for the company.  Nothing kills a business transaction faster than ridiculously long selling cycles and a misfit between the seller and the buyer.

They say that in sales there are three answers that a client can provide you – Yes, No, and Maybe.  It is understood that Yes and No are both equally good answers as you know exactly where you stand, you won the deal, or you lost the deal, you can move on and pursue other opportunities with these two definitive answers.  Obviously, a Yes answer is preferred over the No answer.  But, both free the sales professional to act responsibly.  The killer answer is Maybe.  With this response, it drags out the sales cycle and burns your hours.  Hours that might be better spent on other, new, and different opportunities.  The Maybe answer is the worse outcome for a sales person.  As they say, time is money, and this is especially true in sales where we only have so many hours in a day, week, month, or quarter to make our numbers.  Burning precious sales cycles is a disastrous outcome.

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. Winston Churchill

Another concern in modern professional sales is that the older approaches do not always fit for today’s opportunities.  So, new thinking is necessary to decide if an opportunity is worth continued investment.  Again, historically, sales people fight to the bitter end. However, in modern professional sales today, it is all about “fit”.  Do you fit with the customer?  Does your solution fit with their need?  Can you succeed after you win the deal? Basically, is it a win / win deal?  A win / win outcome is essential to be successful today.  If you eventually win a deal with no profit, unclear deliverables, or with a multitude of other high risks, failure is eminent, and it can be extremely damaging to win a deal that does not fit.  Not only does your company lose money, but you lose your sales time too, a resource that should never ever be squandered.  When a project fails, the word spreads rapidly, and there is collateral reputation damage too.

In modern sales, we must have a selling strategy that makes sense and considers all outcomes, all results, all of the pros and cons. It is no longer good enough to try to win with the shear might of brute force and an untiring will to succeed. Today, you need to be highly tactical and make strategic sales.

As Winston Churchill once said, it is no use saying, “We are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.


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About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies. He is a Senior Executive Consultant with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 11 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN:TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO:TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX:TSX.V).  He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of four different Colleges in Ontario as well as for 16 years on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three Masters level degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.