The Missing Question that Cost the Sale

The Missing Question that Cost the Sale

Almost every time I come to be on the buying end of a transaction, I get valuable lessons and reminders about the sales process that I know are useful to share with you.

But not always.  What I find is that when a sales process is good it feels comfortable and seamless and I walk away from the call with spring in my step and the feeling that I’ve found a solution to my problem, or the right person to help me.

But when things don’t go as smoothly I can always look back afterwards and with my sales expertise I can see what went wrong – even if I’m not aware in the moment why I’m not getting that “Yes please, when can we start?” feeling.   In those cases there is always a lesson in there and that’s what I want to share with you today.

Watch the video below or scroll down to read more.

The search for my new accountant

Sometime earlier this year I was looking for a new accountant.   The last time I did this I allowed it to be quite a lengthy process where I had conversations with quite a few potential accountants and only ended up increasingly confused about my decision.   So this time I’d set an intention that it was going to be “easy” and I’d asked the universe to support me with that intention through my journalling.

So the day rolled around when I had it marked in my calendar to kick off the process.  In the morning I had a couple of client calls booked in.  One was a 121 laser coaching call with a member of the Business from the Heart Community.   Now, I had no idea prior to the call that her background was as an accountant, so the conversation felt like perfect synchronicity and our call ended with her referring me to an accountant she knew who she trusted and felt would be a good fit for me.  I’m going to call him “Colin” (name changed).

Because I’d already decided to take the “route of least resistance” I decided that I this time I would just trust the referral, and I wasn’t going to shop around.

I’m telling you all this so you know that before I got on the call with him there was already a very high chance I was going to sign up to his accounting services.  The referral was trusted and I knew I didn’t want to speak to lots of people.

So we had the conversation.   Colin asked me all the questions he needed to ask in order to get a handle on my accounts and how much work might be involved.

He also took made an effort to outline some of the specific benefits of working with him and warned me some things to be on the look out for if I spoke to other firms.  He also struck me as safe, conscientious and well organised (which believe me is not a given when it comes to accountants!).

And he gave me a quote while we were still on the call.

So  far so good.  Gold star for a thorough yet non-pushy sales process.  Up to that point.

But he didn’t get my business.  Even though I wasn’t shopping around, and there was actually no good reason why I shouldn’t go ahead.

All because he forgot to ask me one key question at the end of our conversation:

Do you have any concerns about going ahead?


Do you have any concerns about anything we’ve just discussed?


From what we’ve discussed today, is there anything that might stop you going ahead


And this is exactly why “David” at a different accounting firm got my business instead.

You see, I did have a concern:

There were three parts to the quote he’d given me. Two pieces of work were double what I’d paid my previous accountant, but that wasn’t a problem as I knew I’d need to pay more for the level of service I needed and to support my business as it grows, so I was expecting that.

But the third piece felt overpriced to me – and not just by a small margin.  So I balked at going ahead there and then.   He didn’t ask me that one important question and so I said “I need to think about it”.    He responded by offering to email me the quote.   And  I promised to let him know my decision by the end of the week.

And with that the sale was lost.

All because he didn’t ask that one question.

The missing question that cost him the sale

And because he didn’t ask this what actually happened:

Three days later, while in conversation with another former accountant from within my membership community, it was pointed out that my bookkeeper could do the “overpriced” task for me. So suddenly there was no longer a barrier to me going ahead with Colin – I was ready to sign on the line.

But while 3 days isn’t long, it’s an eternity in a sales process.  Long enough that by then I’d had another recommendation.  I decided I might as well keep the appointment with David out of courtesy before getting back to Colin to say yes (yes, it really was that close a thing).

However the conversation with David was very different – we were on the phone for twice as long, David covered absolutely every detail and concern that I had, and he took the conversation right up to my giving him a verbal agreement in principle to work with them subject to my reading and signing their formal terms of engagement.

So if Colin got a gold star, David got triple gold with cherries on top.

I put the phone down on that conversation, and while no money had as yet changed hands – I had a new accountant.

Can you see how Colin lost the sale all because he missed that one simple but important question:  “Do you have any concerns about what we’ve discussed for far?”

Because that would have been all the invitation I needed to say: “Well, yes actually this one part seems disproportionately expensive….” and with another 5-10 minutes of conversation I would have been his client.

But of course he didn’t ask.   And I’m very British.  And I’m a people pleaser.  And added to that I know the “unspoken etiquette” of a sales conversation when I’m the potential client – the last thing I wanted to do was to risk insulting him by appearing to haggle over his fees.  It was his job to uncover my concerns, to raise the topic of money and to address it directly.

If he’d only asked, he would have known exactly what was standing in my way of going ahead and could have addressed it there and then.  He could have explained that actually I didn’t need an accountant to do it at all.   Or (in the interests of winning my business) he could have decided to wrap up this (actually very small) job and include it in the overall quote.

In other words he would have had the opportunity to address my concerns (and any others that I had) before I got off the phone and started asking around for other referrals.  He could have secured my agreement there and then.   Which is important because, like I said, 3 days is a long time in a sales process…

The moral of the story:

Always ask the question:    Do you have any concerns?

Over to you… Is this a question you always ask in your sales conversations? If you don’t then try it next time and let me know in the comments what difference it makes.  I always love to read your comments.

Join me for a LIVE Q&A: Wednesday 3rd October, 5.30pm (UK)

I’ll be hosting a Live Q&A in the Selling from the Heart Community free Facebook group on Wednesday 3rd October at 5.30pm (UK time) when I’ll be going deeper into the topic of what could be missing from your sales conversations. Just bring your questions and join me live – and even if you don’t have questions there will be plenty of insights for you to take and apply to your sales conversations now. Click here to join us.

PS   If you found this insight useful and you’d be interested in learning more from me about how to have sales conversations that feel comfortable and authentic, yet are incredibly effective at helping you to enrol new clients, I will be opening up my “Get More Clients Saying Yes!” online course for a short time later this month – I’ll be notifying you by email when it’s open so keep your eyes peeled.  Or click here to be notified.

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Please leave a comment as I would love to hear your thoughts


  1. Esther Lemmens on October 3, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Very interesting, thanks Catherine! 🙂

    Question: would you use the actual word ‘concerns’ intentionally, or is it sufficient to ask if they have any questions?

    • Catherine on October 3, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Esther! Yup. The word “concerns” is very intentional as the aim is to encourage them to share openly all those things that are going in on their head that might stop them saying yes, but that they are too polite or nice to tell you without prompting. “Questions” isn’t the same thing as they might say “Nope, no questions” but still have some actual concerns or doubts.

  2. Shola Kaye on October 2, 2018 at 10:06 am

    What a useful post. Thanks for this Catherine…it never occurred to me to ask this question during my discovery sessions!

    • Catherine on October 3, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Shola, I’m glad you found it useful – try it next time, you’ll find it makes all the difference!

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