How To Snatch Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory


True story. One of the people I coach was recently in a meeting with their reseller and the room was filled with all the stakeholders and decision-makers for a huge enterprise opportunity they had been working with a large government department for 15 months. Toward the end of the meeting the CIO (who owns the budget and signs-off on a purchasing decision) asked; "How long will it take to stand this up for us?" The channel partner sales person didn't miss a beat and jumped-in; "That's an interesting question... the really good thing about what we're offering here is ..." He went on to talk about the joys and wonders of the features they were offering. I kid you not – it really happened.

The best response would have been to ask; "When do you need to have it up and running?" Then follow-up a little later with; "Why is that date important and what happens if it's missed for some reason?"

We need to really listen rather than simply wait for our next opportunity to speak. So many sales people are not really engaged in listening and instead focus on projecting their message or pitch.  No matter what the situation – counseling, resolving conflict, interviewing, consulting or selling – we need to lead by being fully immersed in the conversation and ask insightful open questions. It's always a mistake to use clumsy outdated questioning techniques to attempt manipulation. Transparent sincerity and a genuine interest in the other person is the best way to build trust and positive influence.

So, how do sales people manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after they've done so much good work to develop an opportunity and establish value? 


A lack of situational awareness causes failure in business and other areas of life. Here are other things that sales people must avoid:

  • Being distracted and failing to be fully there. A sure-fire turn-off for anyone you are seeking to influence.
  • Acting without first thinking. Every action can have unintended consequences and all tactics should be executed within a well conceived strategy.
  • Failing to plan a meeting or leaving without creating progression. You're not a professional visitor; instead you need to be an engineer of value, process and tangible business outcomes.
  • Failing to understand the customer's internal processes for evaluation, selection and procurement process. What date matters to them and why is it important? What's their process and who needs to approve?
  • Introducing unnecessary new information or people. Beware your chest beating boss who wants you to take them out there to close the deal.
  • Allowing lawyers to hijack the process. Lawyers need to be instructed rather than be allowed to engage in esoteric ego-fests. Especially beware external lawyers who make more money the longer it takes and the more complex it becomes

Join the conversation... what are some other common pitfalls you've seen? Let me know by commenting within this post and I'll add them to the list.

In line with the shark theme here... did you know that more people died this year from selfie mishaps (taking daring pictures of themselves in precarious situations) that by shark attack? This summer has been a record for shark attacks here in Australia where we breed them to be very big. I'm a wakeboarder and every time I jump in the water here in Sydney I have flash-backs of the movie Jaws which I saw as a young teenager at the movies. The video below is breathtaking... this real shark is bigger than the one in the movie Jaws.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker

Main image photo from Flickr.