10 reasons why you’re failing to make a sale

I believe this is something that should be recognised and addressed as early as possible. Following conversations with sales heads at technology companies the feedback as to why sales teams fail is pretty consistent across the board. Below are the 10 most common things discussed as to why an opportunity is lost: 

1. My sales people have two ears and one mouth. They rarely use them in the right proportion.

2. Selling can become more important than the customer, with demonstrations of the solution happening far too quickly.

3. A lack of foresight; if there isn’t a project that can close this quarter, it isn’t progressed – often without communicating this to the prospect…

4. The pain isn’t unearthed. In fact, unless the customer can explain their pain and the consequences of it, it’s often not recognised as an opportunity in the first place.

5. Overpromising; sales teams are all too quick at promising to fix the problem before having an adequate understanding of it.

6. Not walking in the customers shoes. A failure to take time to see the world through the customer’s eyes; very often sales people have not considered how the customer makes their profits for example.

7. Not recognising multiple stakeholders; misunderstanding that the person with the pain is often not the person paying for it.

8. A lack of preparation; not spending enough time researching the background of the individual involved, or the various individuals who will inevitably become involved in a high value sales opportunity.

9. Meetings are prioritised above all other objectives; mistakenly believing activity is the same as productivity.

10. An inability to turn a prospect’s needs into an appropriate action.

The solution to these problems lies in education and training and, crucially, if sales people listen to a prospect, understand the politics, and nurture an opportunity. In my opinion this makes the real difference in the sales process and why one of the biggest challenges for enterprises is finding and retaining good sales people. 

The ultimate solution, to avoid sales from failing, involves the below three points:


Sales people are optimists and can handle rejection well; these are pre-requisites for the role. However, it also leads very often to an over-inflated belief in their own abilities. 

We need to harness this optimism and ensure that it is used in the right ways but at the same time they are able to detach themselves from the moment and explore the prospect’s needs fully.


All too often the emphasis is on training sales people all about the products/services/solutions making it difficult to get in the head of the prospect because they have no idea what makes them tick. 

More time needs to be spent understanding the issues clients and prospects face, how these impact their business and the alternative means open to them to fix those issues.


The reality is some sales people will naturally be better at understanding, empathising with and developing pain than others and there are limits to how far you can teach people to mimic the behaviours of the best because their own personality still needs to be visible underneath it all.

If you recognise the above sales fails or have your own to add, I’d welcome your comments.

David Meyer is Managing Director at Clarify, specialists in business development.

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