How You Can Actually Kill A Sale

kill a sale

There are various reasons why people don’t buy from us, or don’t buy again. However, there is one huge deal killer and it is lack of trust. Lack of trust can instantly kill a sale. If your prospect or client doesn’t develop, or loses, trust in you – it’s over. You’re toast.

In the U.S. we are unfortunately dealing with a very public example of this – The Affordable Care Act. What I’m about to discuss isn’t political. It isn’t about the merits or lack thereof of the legislation. Rather, it is about the sales lesson we can learn.

So, take off your partisan hat (if you have one) and put on your sales hat.

Trust: How to Kill a Sale

We’ve been told that people buy from people they trust and that trust is earned and developed over time. If we look at what causes us to trust someone, it is this:

  1. They are honest and truthful.
  2. They have our best interest in mind.
  3. They are the expert in their field.

Using our example, the people who ‘bought into’ the idea of the ACA trusted the salesperson (President Obama) because those three elements existed for them. They believed that he was honest and truthful. So when he said they could keep their healthcare plan and their doctor, they believed him.

They believed that he had their best interest in mind. They didn’t think he was trying to be political or put his legacy above their needs. He is articulate and persuasive. He is, some would say, a great salesman because he can share a message convincingly.

They believed that he had gathered enough information to be able to create a valuable product. Something that would be beneficial to them.

This is something we see every day. Salespeople tell a convincing story, they sound sincere. And frankly, they may really believe what they are saying. The company believes it has a great product or service – for everyone.

Then, what happened?

People found out that this person who they trusted wasn’t being truthful. That what he kept telling them wasn’t how the product worked.

The result?

They started fleeing his ‘company’ and his approval rating tanked. This is also something we see played out in many industries. When a client or prospect discovers you aren’t being truthful with them, you lose their trust. They will either not buy from you, or they will not buy again.

This is when they develop the belief that you really don’t have their best interest in mind. They realize that you are really only looking out for yourself and are ‘selling’ them something.

Let’s spend some time on another aspect of the ACA experience. The website didn’t work. Sometimes we have logistical problems that get in the way of us providing outstanding service. THAT is not a deal killer.

If we are honest and truthful, and have our client’s best interest in mind, and we are sincere about our dismay over a problem, and we work tirelessly to resolve it, they will stay with us. We’ve got their trust so they will work with us when there’s a problem. What was discovered here is that the vendor wasn’t the expert. The vendor didn’t realize the complexity of the product offering.

Trust issue #3 dissolved.

Once again, the value of universal healthcare is not the point of this discussion. The sales pitch, failure to perform, and subsequent appearance of a lack of concern led to the loss of trust – and a deal killer.

Do your company a favor and hold on to trust. BE the company that is honest and truthful – even if it means you can’t sell to that person/company. Keep the prospect/client’s best interest above your own.

Be the expert. Know what you are talking about so you can match your solution to those who have a need.  It matters more than anything else in winning the sale.

No Sale Photo via Shutterstock


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

11 Reactions
  1. I did not expect something like this. I thought that it is not all about winning trust. It is also about sustaining that trust. It would help to be honest at all cost. If it is hard to gain trust, it is quite easy to lose it.

  2. As they say, honesty is the best policy. Trust is not easy to earn but when customers trust you, your sales may improve and you see more profits.

    • People only buy online based on trust. After all, they don’t know if the product will be shipped and if the service will be rendered the way they want it to. Doing something to damage that trust is a surefire way to get your customers looking elsewhere.

      • Such a valid point! Earning and maintaining your customer’s trust is even more important with online sales. The name you’ve built for yourself, a reputation of quality and trustworthiness is 10 times more important when using online distribution channels because you can’t touch or feel the product and have to rely on the accuracy of the information offered in the sales pitch.

  3. Of all the ways to kill a sale, losing trust has got to me the most important and hardest to come back from. Some companies won’t ever make it back from that while others will take many years and lost profits to do it.

  4. An excellent article on how not to treat your clients and customers. Staying honest and trustworthy are easy rules to follow. Once a trust is broken, you lose it forever.

  5. First, ouch. Too much truth with the ACA example. Second, you’re totally right. People need to trust you and if you oversell yourself and can’t deliver, you’re done.

  6. As we walk into the new year I hope more people lean into the idea of being trustworthy first, last, and always.

  7. Nothing stinks more than a cover-up. Come clean and come clean early. Break the new rather than have the news break and need to respond to it. Coming clean about a mistake can actually get you good publicity and build trust.