When to Walk Away from a Sales Opportunity

This is the blog transcript of our video “When to Walk Away from a Sales Opportunity”. If you’d like to see more of our videos, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

Anyone in sales is always super focused on closing the deal. And that’s great – as a sales person or a business owner, you should want to close business. Obviously that’s how we close business.

But we’ve all had those times when you get a bad feeling about a deal and think to yourself “maybe I shouldn’t do business with this person”.

How do you know when you should really walk away from a deal?

Hey everyone, I’m Ian Campbell, CEO of Mission Suite. Before we jump into today’s video, do me a favor and hit the subscribe button and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos.

As business owners and sales people, we have the tendency to focus on overcoming objections and getting the deal closed. We tend to think in terms of making sure the prospect knows that we’re qualified to be doing the work we’re proposing.

Obviously this is mostly a good thing. It’s important to make sure that all of the work that we do gets that kind of sign off. Not only to help move the deal along, but it also helps us know that we’re on the right track and we’re offering something of value.

The challenge with this thinking, though, is that it’s pretty lopsided.

Not only does it give the prospect the majority of the influence in the deal that you’re working on, it can also blind you to the realization that sometimes THEY’RE not qualified to be working with YOU.

There are plenty of times that it’s VERY clear that you need to walk away from the deal, and doing so can actually help you grow your business, even though it may seem counterintuitive because you’re walking away from short term cash flow.

But you don’t want that short term cash to limit or stifle your ability to make long term gains.

So let’s take a look at some of the reasons that you might want to walk…or maybe even run…away from an opportunity.

You feel like you’re constantly trying to square a circle to get your solution to work for them.

This is probably the biggest red flag that I look for when deciding whether I want to do business with someone. 

At the end of the day, you have to acknowledge, and truly be ok with, the fact that you’re really not meant to work with everyone. There are some people and businesses for whom your solution is simply not going to be a fit. 

And that’s ok.

And because it’s worth hearing twice, I’ll say it again.

That’s ok.

Whether you consider yourself a sales person or not, at the end of the day you’re in sales. And being in sales, it’s in our nature to want to persuade people to see just how great what we’re offering them really is, and that it’s THEIR perspective that should change to work with us.

It’s human nature because when we hear the word “no”, it feels like a slight on us. And that rings even more true when it comes to those of us in sales or who own businesses because we’ve chosen to connect ourselves so closely to the products or services that we’re offering.

But you have to remember that while you might be a perfect fit for some, or even most, there will also be a lot of people that you come across who are simply better off using what they have, taking advantage of a different offer or doing just about anything than working with us.

Remember, though, that when those occasions do come along, it’s really a favor to you.

If you have to spend a crazy amount of time bending over backwards to make your solution fit their needs during the sales process, how smoothly do you think it’s going to go once you sign the deal?

Do you really think that all of that back bending is really going to magically be resolved and they’re just going to be able to easily work with you all of a sudden?

No, because now that the deal is signed, all of those promises that you made them now have to be delivered.

Every adjustment, modification, customization that you offered them is going to be expected. And if it doesn’t work out like you said it would, guess who is going to be held responsible.


Keep that in mind. At the end of the day, YOU are the one responsible for the relationship with this client. Regardless of whether you’re the one delivering the services, someone’s going to come back to you and ask you why you promised something that you couldn’t deliver.

It’s not worth it. If your offering isn’t a natural fit for what the client is looking for, move on – there are plenty of others for whom it will be.

The prospect proudly identifies themselves as “difficult to work with”.

There’s an old saying “if it’s not fun, why do it?” 

Obviously that’s not going to apply in all work situations, but why would you want to work with someone who’s made it clear that they’re going to make working with them a challenge?

I’ve worked with people like that in the past and it’s never worth it. But here’s how I got myself into this mess.

I got them to talk to me in spite of the fact that they swore up and down that they weren’t going to.

At this point, I’m pretty impressed with myself because I got over that first really tough hump. So now, I’m so stoked on that accomplishment, I want to see if I can get to through to the next milestone.

So I took a meeting with this prospect and we talked about what he was looking for, and I told him what I could do for him. Ultimately, I was able to get him to open up to an enjoyable and productive conversation and even agree to do business!

As I was getting to the point where I was going to take his credit card, he looked at me straight in the eye and said “I’m going to warn you, I’m really difficult to work with.”

He literally warned me directly to my face and I ignored it.


At this point, though, I was so excited about the fact that I got this guy who had told me that he wouldn’t do business with me to a point where he was ready to sign on the line that I thought that I could handle anything that he could throw at me! 

Boy was I wrong. Turns out, when someone tells you who they are, you really should take them at their word. 

Needless to say, this deal did NOT work out in my favor.

I ended up stuck working on this project about 10 times the amount of time that I should have and could never make this guy happy again. Eventually we parted ways in a less than amicable manner.

The lesson I took from this ended up being that it’s just not worth trying to change someone’s mind. The challenge might be fun and exciting to overcome, but if they don’t want to deal with you from the get go, it’s better to go find someone who does.

The prospect makes it clear that they expect you to work on their terms.

This is a fun one (he says oozing sarcasm).

Business, and by extension sales, is supposed to be a two way street. The idea is to come to a mutual agreement for the way that you and your client will work together. 

But what if the person on the other side of the table isn’t willing to agree with anything that you propose?

Instead they consistently kick back with “no, it has to happen this way”.

I know you might be thinking “why would anyone work with someone like that?”

Well, there are a few reasons that I can think of as to why I’ve continued working on a deal in spite of this kind of an attitude. 

Money has always been a big one – either I was in a position in the business where I just needed sales so I turned a blind eye to this or there was enough money on the table that I just ignored the red flags.

Another reason I remember vividly from when I was just starting out in sales was the assumption that this is just how business worked. The customer is always right, and I need to make sure to do what the customer wants.

Boy was I wrong.

Again, if someone makes you finalize a deal explicitly on their terms, or even mostly on their terms, that attitude won’t go away once the ink dries.

If you get that vibe, just walk away, it’s probably not going to be worth it.

Have you ever worked with someone you wish you hadn’t? I know that I have. And I’ve paid for it with lost productivity and frustration.

If you’ve ever worked with someone you wish you’d walked away from, drop down below this video and give it a like. And, if you have a story, share it with us in the comments so that the rest of us know that we’re not alone!

They don’t fit with your style or culture.

The culture and style of your company is hugely important. It’s that culture that allows for the long term growth of your business.

Not everyone’s going to have the same business style or culture as you, nor should they. It’s important and valuable to be able to work with people irrespective of that company culture.

But the important question here is really can you find any alignment between your culture and theirs?

If yours is a culture of giving, of employees first, of learning and transparency, then you want to make sure that your clients can fit with those ideals. 

For example, if they’re a churn and burn call center with a zero tolerance policy when it comes to mistakes and don’t care too much about personal growth, well they’re probably not going to be a good fit for you. Nor, for that matter, will they end up as a long term client, and they’re going to really bring down your team in the process.

And as the people who have to deal with that client get disheartened, that attitude can spread to the people that they’re working with and next thing you know your entire team is dreading coming into work.

You just get a bad feeling from them.

There’s a lot to be said for good old fashioned intuition.

If you feel like there’s a reason not to do business with someone, then it’s more than likely that you’re picking up on something that’s telling you that.

Don’t ignore it. Explore it and see if you can figure out what it is that’s giving you that feeling. It may not end up being a reason to let the business go – that’s something that you’re going to have to decide. 

But if you get a bad feeling from someone before closing the deal – even if you can’t put your finger on it – you’ll be much better off if you can figure out why you’re getting that feeling so you can go into that deal with your eyes wide open.

Again, I’ve made this mistake in the past. I ignored a little discomfort that I was getting from a prospect I was getting ready to close and regretted it.

If I’m being honest, I can think of three or four times off the top of my head when this has been the case. 

Remember, if you think you should walk away, walk away.

Your Turn

Obviously, the reasons to walk away from a deal that I highlighted in this video are identified from my own personal experience. After 20 years of sales and business experience, I’ve dealt with a lot of them.

What are your experiences? And, more importantly, how are you making sure you never have to deal with those experiences again? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments.

Hey I hope you got something out of this video. And if you did, go ahead and give it a thumbs up and maybe a share so that others can see it too. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos and while you’re at it, check out these videos too!

We’ll see you next time around!

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