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Salespeople frequently undermine their chance of winning sales when they allow value leaks — instances where your email, proposal, word choice, presentation, or body language diminishes the perceived value of your solution — to creep into their sales processes.
Value leaks undermine a buyer’s confidence in your solution, reducing your likelihood of closing — and even if you do win, you’ll have a harder time charging full price. Buyers will request concessions to address their concerns about perceived shortcomings. In worst-case scenarios, you can lose the sale completely if the buyer’s concerns reach a level that you can’t overcome.
Value leaks are easy to spring, but if you remain mindful of where and how they can pop up, you can ensure that you‘re not undermining your chances of closing throughout your sales process. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the “why” behind value leaks, get a better sense of when they might occur, and review how to avoid them.
Why do value leaks occur?
Value leaks are often the byproduct of previous losses. When a salesperson has battle scars from deals that went south, they tend to lose confidence in their solution and exhibit evasive behavior — exposing themselves to potential value leaks.
For instance, let‘s say a salesperson is selling a product that isn’t backed by 24/7 support — and once upon a time, that factor held up a deal or two. In turn, those unfortunate experiences have the rep rattled. So when they're presenting to a prospect, they hastily speed through the support slide in their presentation deck.
Prospects can pick up on lapses in confidence like that, and those moments — those quick gaps in assurance, authority, and assertiveness — allow value leaks to come to the surface.
Let's take a look at some examples of value leaks during various stages of the sales cycle.
12 Ways You Undermine Your Chances of Closing Throughout the Sales Process
- You reference price or 'low costs' in your outreach email.
- You leave voicemails that project a defeated attitude.
- You're too nervous or eager when following up.
- You're too cagey or apologetic on connect calls.
- You have poor nonverbal communication when meeting.
- You're too passive when setting meetings with prospects.
- You're too passive during meetings with prospects.
- You get rattled when managing skeptics.
- You get nervous or defensive when handling objections.
- You drop the ball during sales presentations.
- You undermine your value in your proposals.
- You make unnecessarily drastic and tactless concessions when negotiating.
1. You reference price or "low costs" in your outreach email.
An outreach email sets the tone for your entire sales process. You need to project confidence and authority, right off the bat. You can‘t come out of the gate hobbling — so don’t lead by referring to your price or “low costs”.
A prospect will only buy your offering if they perceive it as being better than the one they currently use. They‘re interested in the most valuable solution — and there’s a major distinction between valuable and cheap.
In most cases, you don't want, “Look how much of a bargain this is!” to be the basis of your entire value proposition, and you don't want to attract buyers only shopping around for the cheapest price.
Send an outreach email that sets your sales process in motion with the ideal outcomes, personalized perks, and benefits that come with your solution at the forefront — and avoid springing a value leak right as things get off the ground.
2. You leave voicemails that project a defeated attitude.
Leaving a voicemail with a defeated attitude and an “aw shucks” tone is one of the quickest ways to expose a value leak and undermine your chances of closing. If you sound like you are making calls to fill your day, your buyer will sense that lack of value immediately.
Know what you‘re going to say — and be intentional with your voice, tone, and vocal pacing when you leave voicemails. Don’t trail off. Don't rush through common phrases. Avoid too many “uhs” and “ums”, and don't speak too quietly.
The way you speak is one of the easiest ways for a prospect to gauge your authority, understanding of the deal at hand, and level of confidence in your solution — so be mindful of how you come across via voicemail.
3. You're too nervous or eager when following up.
Silence from a prospect tends to erode a salesperson‘s confidence. It often gives them the impression that they can’t win the sale — and the anxiety that comes with that can send them into desperation mode.
If you find yourself in this situation, don't be quick to chase down your buyer — doing so can weaken your negotiating position, and a pushy “just checking in” email can hurt your margins. Remain composed when you get here. Stay confident in your solution and your ability to convey its benefits, and avoid springing a detrimental value leak.
4. You're too cagey or apologetic on connect calls.
Don‘t apologize for interrupting a prospect’s day, and don’t assume they're too busy to speak with you. Putting the buyer on a pedestal and making their time more valuable than yours harms your perceived value.
The same principle holds true for phrases that place the buyer on a different level than you or your company, like “We would do anything to work with a brand like yours.” A statement like that is essentially an admission that you've never worked with a business like theirs.
“I know you're busy,” is also problematic. Remember, if you‘re on a connect call, it means that the prospect wasn’t too busy to pick up the phone — and bear in mind that you're busy as well. Your time is equally as valuable as theirs because you have valuable information and insight that will ultimately benefit them.
5. You have poor nonverbal communication when meeting.
Body and language and posture are two of the main sources of potential value leaks when getting face-time in with prospects — whether that be virtually or in-person. Poor nonverbal communication can easily erode a buyer's faith in you and, in turn, your solution.
Little things like slouching or avoiding eye contact rarely go unnoticed if you do them too much. And if you constantly fall back on bad habits like those, you‘re going to project a lack of confidence — and that’s the quickest way to undermine your sales process.
6. You're too passive when setting meetings with prospects.
A successful deal generally requires some give-and-take throughout the sales process. It's not a matter of making unlimited concessions to your prospect and kissing the ground they walk on until you close.
By no means should you make a point of being rude to or confrontational with your prospects, but you can‘t automatically give them all the leverage by sucking up too much. So when you’re setting a meeting, be willing to be assertive.
For instance, don‘t over-thank them for accepting a meeting or ’“making time to meet”. Again, that kind of “aw shucks” mentality undermines your position and — like so many other mistakes covered on this list — projects a lack of confidence.
You also don‘t want to accept changes to the terms of a meeting without mild pushback. And if a key stakeholder doesn’t attend as promised, you should note your disappointment and establish that you invested time and money to travel to the meeting — and the executive’s attendance was a key part of the reason you made the effort.
7. You're too passive during meetings with prospects.
Your assertiveness shouldn't be specific to scheduling the meeting — you need to bring that willingness to push back on prospects a bit to the meeting itself.
For instance, you should never respond to a request for pricing in the first five minutes of a meeting. Your solution deserves a full discussion of the value it provides, and jumping right to price diminishes your ability to convey that and undercuts the content you came to present.
You also don‘t want to quiver at the mention of the competition. If you seem uncomfortable when your prospects mention the other options they’ve reviewed, you give those companies an immediate bump while shortchanging your solution. You can‘t project confidence if you’re showing fear of your competitors.
8. You get rattled when managing skeptics.
A skeptic raising a question is, at once, a challenge and an excellent opportunity. Unfortunately, many sellers don‘t see it that way. They get defensive and feel like they’re being treated unfairly.
Ceding too much power to a naysayer and acting disgruntled when they pose a tough question demonstrates a lack of confidence in your solution and undermines your ability to win the sale. Skeptics often have great internal credibility in their organization, and their tough questions earn them respect because they scrutinize vendors and their solutions.
If you crumble under pressure when a skeptic challenges you, other attendees in the meeting will be thinking, “If your product is so good, why wouldn't you challenge the skeptic?” So when you‘re put in this situation, don’t cave. Engage the skeptic, and show the rest of the room that you don't fear their input.
You have to give your champions material and a platform to combat the skeptic's objections. When you leave the room, the stakeholders on your side will only fight for your solution if you were willing to fight for the sale.
We have all been in a meeting where the skeptic sits to the side with their arms crossed, sending a very clear message that they're not “buying what you are selling.” They want to let everyone in the room know they are not on board with the proposal.
But if you don't try to engage the skeptic, you let them win by default — and you wind up doing more harm than good. Fearing the skeptic in the room and ceding too much power to them gives the buyers a valid reason for concern.
9. You get nervous or defensive when handling objections.
How you handle objections shows a lot about your ability to maintain the perceived value of your solution. Just like tough questions from a buyer, an objection gives you a great chance to put their fears to rest. Body language, speaking pace, and eye contact send the right message: “I hear your concern but I believe we can win your business and make you satisfied.”
Don’t fear the tough question. Many sellers misunderstand the nature of a tough question and their fumbling response or defensive reaction shows the buyers your company has gaps in your ability to satisfy their requirements.
A tough question proves your buyer is trying to build a case to support your proposal, and they need this information to position your solution with their bosses and financial buyers. A tough question isn’t an obstacle to the close — it’s a strong buying sign.
10. You drop the ball during sales presentations.
Obvious as this might sound, composure is key when conducting sales presentations. That means you need to know your stuff and have confidence in your slides — even if your position isn't perfect.
For instance, let‘s say you’re selling to a hospital, but your customer logo slide doesn't have any hospitals on it. You dread that slide and get hung up on whether the prospects will grill you about not working with any hospitals.
You imagine them asking, How can you expect us to be the first hospital to sign up with your company?” And when you finally reach that slide, you race through the talking points — hoping that they won't ask you about healthcare references.
If you do that, you'll create an unnecessary value leak. Instead, understand that the slide might raise some issues. Remain calm when presenting it, and brace for objections. Again, tough questions are opportunities just as much as they are challenges.
Don't lose composure over perceived flaws in your presentation — understand the strengths of and potential gaps in your value proposition, and be prepared to address both.
11. You undermine your value in your proposals.
Don‘t sell yourself short with your proposals. I keep saying it, but I’ll say it again — you need to project confidence. If the language in your proposal is cagey, passive, or awkward, you're going to undermine your ability to do that.
For instance, I once reviewed a proposal for Virtual CRO that included the following text as part of the pricing proposal:
“(This part is optional and many clients elect not to use this part of the solution.)”
That statement suggests, "You shouldn’t buy that — and even if you do want it, you should not pay full rate.”
12. You make unnecessarily drastic and tactless concessions when negotiating.
Never pre-negotiate. Steer clear of statements like, “We always throw that in,” or “If we wait until the end of the quarter, management will give you our best price.”
Buyers have a responsibility to negotiate, and you have a responsibility to protect the margins and avoid discounts. Additionally, you don’t want to acknowledge that there is another layer of your company that controls pricing. You make yourself irrelevant to the sales process if you are not going to control the negotiated price.
Additionally, don’t provide a discount for a multi-year commitment. The relative purchasing power of a dollar decreases every year, which should allow you to raise prices. However, in an effort to lock up clients, many sales teams will discount the second and third years of a contract.
Standard software contracts with perpetual licensing include the provision to raise the support price by 5% each year, and all procurement departments know this fact — but many sales teams still feel the need to provide discounts on the SaaS licensing costs.
Pay attention to your fears about selling, and acknowledge how your fear can lead to a value leak in your sales process. Buyers respond well to confidence. Sellers need to project confidence in themselves and their products at every stage of the sales cycle.