Why Sales Fail

end of a meeting
Things are going great, and then...

You've no doubt been through the following scenario more than once: you've set up an appointment with a hot prospect, you've given a great presentation, the prospect expresses interest, and then... that's the last you ever hear from him. These breakdowns are particularly frustrating because they often happen after you are counting on the sale closing and have invested considerable time and energy into making it happen.

Here are a few of the most common causes of sales derailment and how to prevent them.

No Real Need

If a prospect thinks that your candy-apple red widget is really nifty but has a perfectly serviceable khaki widget back home, he may not be willing to buy. A prospect in this frame of mind may go ahead and schedule an appointment with a salesperson out of simple curiosity, even though he doesn't really need the product.

When this happens, you're not going to close a sale because the prospect has no need to buy (yet). Careful questioning early on can determine how interested the prospect truly is. Ask questions like, “Have you owned a product like this before? How is your current model working out for you?” and so on to identify a less-than-eager prospect. When you spot such a prospect, find out when he WILL be ready to buy (for example, when the warranty on his current widget expires) and make a note to call him again at that time.

Not a Good Fit

Sometimes your product just won't have the features that the prospect wants. If Mr. Prospect needs a widget that spins at 150 RPM and your best model only reaches 120 RPM, there's not much you can do about it. Of course, misunderstandings do happen, so it's also possible that the prospect thinks your product isn't right for him when it actually does have all the features he needs.

Again, doing a little qualifying before the appointment can help. Ask which features are important to the prospect, and if your product doesn't have those features, let him know. If your product does have all of the features he wants, then be sure to bring up each of those features in your presentation and touch on how well your product would work for the prospect.

Never Intended to Buy

Some buyers like to periodically check on their current supplier's competitors, just to make sure that they're getting a good deal. They will set up appointments with salespeople and go through the whole process without ever intending to buy anything. Particularly savvy and price-conscious buyers may even run through the sales process with you just to squeeze a better deal out of your competitor (“As you see, Mr. Salesperson, Jane Smith from ABC Widgets is offering me a 10% discount. What can you do for me?”).

Unfortunately these tricky folk can be hard to spot, because it's a game they're usually very good at. If you suspect that you've been set up into this kind of situation, you can always ask the buyer flat-out if that's the case. By then, the sale is dead anyway, so you've nothing to lose – and you may impress the buyer with your perceptiveness, possibly opening the door for future sales.


Building trust between yourself and the prospect is a vital part of sales. If you fail to create enough rapport between you, the prospect may be unwilling or unable to overcome his natural fear of making a mistake. He'll probably tell you at the end of the appointment that he needs to “think it over,” and then stop taking your calls.

In this situation, you haven't spent enough time showing the prospect that you're reliable and trustworthy, and/or you haven't addressed all of his objections. You'll need to find out his main point(s) of concern and show him how your product is really a good choice for him. This will probably entail setting up another appointment (if you can reach him). A non-threatening, relaxed approach will work best. Remember, fear is holding the prospect back from buying, so if you pressure him you'll only make him less willing to close the sale.