One of the toughest lessons I have learned in business—and frankly, the lesson as often applies in person life—is to trust my instincts. From deciding between competing career opportunities to closing new sales, it is frustrating to think about how many times I had niggling concerns about a particular option or customer that I purposefully overlooked only to find over time that many headaches and much frustration could have been avoided by paying closer attention to those “feelings.” This is certainly not to say that pivotal decisions such as these should be made purely on instinct, but rather, that these concerns should not be ignored out of hand. Take the time to think about why you might be experiencing these bad vibes:
Does your customer fully understand the services that you can deliver?
Do they have realistic expectations of how quickly they should see results?
Does your customer understand the requirements on their end for successful implementation?
Is what you are saying what they are hearing?
You will get the niggling feeling in your gut when the answer to these questions is “no.” We all have our low or weak moments when we just want to close the deal, but by tapping into your gut, you can determine whether this is a solvable communication issue (and salvageable sale) or if it is a pattern of behavior during the sales process. If it is the latter, you have two choices: walk away or be ready to spend a lot more time with this customer.
On the pure COGS (cost of goods sold) side, is the prospective customer likely to be more trouble than he is worth? The biggest enemy for sales is time. Can you afford to spend five times as much time with this customer than with your best clients? It is downright painful to walk away from a deal, but if the additional resources required to maintain the business relationship takes a bite out of your profitability, it is often better to walk away.
Ending on a positive note, the converse can also be true. Making a lower margin deal with a customer that will be a long-time ally and provide positive word of mouth to other (more lucrative) customers could be invaluable to your career. Similarly, passing up a client opportunity that looks like a clear winner on paper but doesn’t act that way in reality could be the best career decision you ever make.