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Practice Management > Building Your Business

When to walk away from a sale

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A friend recently told me about a sales opportunity he had been working on.

Multiple people involved in the decision making process and my friend met with everyone (as a group) to determine their current problems, goals and objectives. He developed a proposal, followed up, followed up and followed up some more.

However, as time went on, the terms of the deal began to change, including:

  • The size and scope of the opportunity dropped–significantly.
  • His prospects began asking for more concessions.
  • Several people who had expressed high interest now appeared disinterested.
  • A few of the decision makers stopped responding to his correspondence.

Consequently, my friend felt less comfortable pursuing the opportunity. So, he sent his contacts a polite email and said that he was walking away from the opportunity. He explained his rationale and expressed disappointment but he also left the door open for future conversations.

Within 24 hours, one of the decision makers called him, apologized for the problems and promised to get everything back on track.

Several days later, my friend closed a deal that was worth approximately 10 percent of his quota.

Having the courage to walk away from a potential sale is difficult for most sales professionals. However, it can actually help you increase your sales because it can free up time to work on better opportunities. Plus, in some situations, it can actually cause your prospect to sit up, take notice and get them to start chasing you.

The key is to know what deals to walk away from or turn down. Here are a few ideas that may help:

  1. Your prospect makes unrealistic demands. Anytime a potential customer starts making unrealistic demands–whatever those demands are–you need to seriously consider whether it makes sense to continue moving that sales conversation forward.
  2. The terms and conditions constantly change. It’s not unreasonable to expect the occasional change in your agreement. However, if your prospect continually makes changes, that should raise a red flag or sound a warning bell.
  3. Your key contact refuses to answer questions and just wants “your best price.” I don’t like to compete on price and neither should you. If a potential customer calls and refuses to engage in a meaningful conversation, you should walk away.
  4. Price is the focal point of the discussion. Unless you are the lowest priced product on the block, it’s unlikely you will win this game. Plus, even if you do have the best price, chances are, your prospect will still try to negotiate.
  5. The other person behaves in an unethical manner. If your key contact demonstrates unethical behaviors such as requesting a kickback or special favors or anything else that goes against your value system, you should consider whether it makes sense to move forward.
  6. Your customer demands concessions but refuses to give anything in return. Many decision makers expect major concessions but are reluctant to give anything in return. This means you end up negotiating against yourself and you will end up losing valuable profit in hard or soft costs.
  7. The sale will generate very little profit. Too many sales people focus on top-line revenues instead of considering the profit factor of a sale. However, the bottom line in business is that you need to make money on a sale. If you don’t earn a healthy margin on a particular sale, you won’t stay in business very long.

Although it’s easy to talk about this concept it can be challenging to walk away from a deal. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that at one point in your sales career, you closed a deal that you later regretted. I know I certainly have.

For more on sales techniques, see:

Kelley Robertson helps sales professionals master their sales conversations so they can win more business at higher profits. Get a free copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” and “Sales Blunders That Cost You Money” at


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