How to lose a sale…

It’s important to learn from your mistakes. That’s what they say, anyway, and I intend to do so. However, learning from mistakes involves a certain amount of painful honesty – admitting where you screwed up. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes downright excrutiating, but it needs doing. So here I go.

Last week I lost a sale. A gentleman contacted me asking me to do some work for him, and I – me, nobody but me – screwed it up and lost the sale. The reasons are a bit convoluted, and obviously I won’t give details, but here in a nutshell is what I did wrong:

I didn’t make personal contact

The gentleman concerned sent me his phone number and asked me to call him, but because I was wary of what he was asking me to do I stalled and asked for more details by email. Bad move. Emails can be misconstrued so easily, and even a short conversation with him by phone would have cleared up any misgivings about the project. It would also have put a favourable light on any future communication between us. Even if I had sent him a negative email, if I had spoken to him first he would understand that I was an approachable and friendly person who was interested in his business. However, by relying solely on email, I kept him at arms length and so trust was never established.

I presumed the worst

My misgivings turned out to be wholly unfounded, but not before they had got me in trouble and lost the sale. The gentleman was a genuine businessman from a genuine business, and I should have treated him with more respect. And respect means you don’t believe the worst until such time as it has been proved. I’m not saying you should always believe the best, but don’t always believe the worst.

I was hasty in my communication

I made the huge mistake of rushing to send emails, and even worse negative emails, rather than waiting to see what the outcome was and then respond after due thought and consideration. I’m sure the gentleman concerned would have understood if I had said “I won’t be able to respond to this today, I’m very busy. But I’ll have a think about it overnight and get back to you in the morning.” Better to be honest with someone and admit you’ll be slow to give them an answer than to rush into an answer that turns out to be wrong.

I didn’t put myself in his shoes

If I had thought for a few minutes about where the gentleman was coming from, I’d have realised how stupid I was being. Generally you can tell a genuine enquiry from a hoax, and I knew this was genuine. But I didn’t stop to appreciate the enquirers position, I rushed stupidly into a wrong decision. I’m not a great salesman, but the least I should be able to do is think like a potential customer. If I was him I wouldn’t have been as gracious as he was with me.

So, there’s one sale I have lost. But I hope that I’ll learn from my mistakes so that I don’t make them again. And I also hope that by being honest and putting my mistakes down here, you’ll benefit from them.