Seemingly Little Mistakes That Cost You Big Opportunities

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
May 26, 2010

Most of the mistakes we make on sales calls seem to be small mistakes at the time we make them. They are rarely glaringly big, disastrous mistakes, and most of the time salespeople and sales organizations don’t spend enough time analyzing what went wrong and where; they usually blame the loss on another factor that may or may not be related to the mistake.

Plenty of these mistakes are the result of failing to execute the fundamentals of sales.

Not Planning Your Sales Call

You have been in your job for years. You know more than almost anyone else about what you sell and how you sell it. You could do the job on autopilot. You’ve won dozens—if not hundreds—of deals without ever planning a sales call.

Call planning looks like a waste of time. Except it isn’t.

Not planning the outcomes of the sales call means that you have no predetermined goal, no agenda that you can share with your prospect, and no control over whether or not you achieve some commitment that will advance the sale.

Planning your sales call outlines the goal of the sales call and how you will achieve it. Without the goal, it is easy to have a nice conversation that does nothing to move a deal forward. Planning your sales call also allows you to share your agenda and your planned outcome with your dream client when you open the sales call, establishing you as a professional in your field and differentiating you from many of your competitors. Planning you sales call provides you with a commitment—or choices of commitments—that, if obtained, will advance a deal.

By not planning the sales call, including the outcomes, salespeople often leave calls without having created enough value to be able to obtain a commitment to move forward. They also leave without having obtained anything that might reasonably serve as an advance.

Doing a Poor Diagnosis or Needs Analysis

We have all won deals without doing an exceptionally good diagnosis or needs-analysis. Because we have won deals without having really worked to diagnose the problem from an organizational perspective, it doesn’t really feel like it is necessary. And it isn’t necessary. Until it is, and then it has already cost you the deal.

A poor diagnosis or needs analysis ignores the fact that the decision to buy your product or your service will often affect more than the single decision-maker you have met with. The problems and business challenges professional salespeople help to solve are usually levels deep in an organization.

Too often we are not open to exploring the possibilities that what we see as the presenting problem may in fact be something else. We complete the needs analysis based on our preconceived notion of what the problem is and how we plan to solve it by assuming it is like what we have seen and solved in the past.

By not diagnosing well—or deep enough—we often causes deal to be lost later, especially when members of the buying committee see a solution that hasn’t taken into account their needs and the constraints that they have to work with.

Failure to Develop Dissatisfaction

I am sure you have a great product or service. You can tell me all of the ways that it is superior to your competitors and how it creates better outcomes for your clients. You may have even won deals without developing—or creating—the dissatisfaction that precedes and motivates all buyers to change.

Too often deals are lost because salespeople believe that having a superior offering and demonstrating so is enough to motivate buyers to change.

More than anything else, failure to develop dissatisfaction makes closing very difficult and very unnatural. By failing to develop dissatisfaction, you fail to develop both the rationale and the emotional motivations for the buyer to change. By failing to develop the dissatisfaction you remove the opportunity to create a vision of a better future and a better outcome.

Too many salespeople present too early, having not developed enough dissatisfaction. They then lose the possibility to creating a real opportunity, and their momentum naturally stalls.

Failing to Ask for the Advance

Some deals progress naturally and easily. Sometimes the wind is at your back and there is no issue moving successfully from one stage of the sales process to the next.

Too often, however, salespeople fail to ask for and to obtain the commitment that they need move the deal forward. They leave the sales call with no commitment, or something that feels like a commitment but is really something far less.

The dream client says that you can call them in two weeks to schedule an appointment. The dream client suggests that they will meet with their team to discuss your ideas and proposal. The dream client asks you to send them some additional information that they can review. All of these sound positive and seem like progress. None of these required that your dream client commit to doing anything that may reasonably be interpreted as a commitment to advance the deal.

By failing to ask for and to obtain a commitment that advances the deal, the opportunity stalls. Sales pipelines are full of opportunities that are stalled simply because a commitment wasn’t asked for and obtained, which is often the result of poor call planning (see the first item on this list).


Many of the reasons that deals and opportunities are lost are due to some seemingly small mistakes. But small mistakes made as the result of ignoring the fundamental principles of selling effectively produce disastrous losses later. Losses that might have easily been prevented.


    1. What are the benefits of skipping the call planning and simply winging it?

    1. How do you know that you achieved the outcome that you want and need on a sales call without having planned the outcome ahead of time?

    1. How do you ensure you have diagnosed the entire organization and that your solution meets the needs of the entire buying committee, as well as the stakeholders and end users?

    1. Why isn’t it enough to diagnose the decision-maker alone?

    1. How do you develop and create dissatisfaction when your dream client believes that they have no reason to be dissatisfied?

    1. When is it acceptable to present before you have created or developed dissatisfaction?

    1. What are the commitments that you need to obtain to move your deal from one stage to the next?

  1. What are the non-commitments that feel like they move deals forward but that actually result in stalled opportunities?

Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 26, 2010
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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