• Alec Drake

When To Walk Away From A Sale

Updated: Sep 5

My Sales Management article published in Radio Ink's January 2022 issue.

As the expression goes, "not all business is good business." Before we describe if or when to walk away, let us consider four forces at work when an order is about to be placed and why it could be hard to reject a sales opportunity.

Four Forces Pushing a ‘Yes’

Equity in the process: Consider the time spent with all the attempts to make first contact for an initial appointment, the discovery phase, the brainstorming to build a solution, and the final presentation to the close. Your equity in the relationship makes walking away a complex decision and not a preferred outcome for a salesperson or sales manager.

Commissions on the line: A salesperson's distinction of good or bad business can be muddled by conflicting compensation structures. Typically, the sales commission amount applied to the total order is calculated and lodged somewhere in the salesperson's head. Paying the next mortgage payment or having extra funds for a possible sales slump are potent motivators to say ‘yes’ and accept an order.

Budgets and Bonuses: An order that gets someone to a budget goal with a bonus attached could influence the walkaway decision. The salesperson may get a higher commission percentage or a flat amount awarded by exceeding a budget. The application of this incentive can also cloud judgment if time is running out in the month or quarter to hit a budget number.

Poor Sales Performers: Saying ‘yes’ to an order may appear when you have an underperforming salesperson. They are on the bubble, and every order is magnified in its ability to help them stay in the job. While the manager is the gatekeeper on approvals, they do not control commitments made in the field. Management may be required to step in for a difficult prospect interaction, or worse, be cornered by circumstances to take the business reluctantly.

Image by Pete Linforth - Pixabay

When Do You Say No?

There are times when saying no or walking away is clearly defined. Industry standards from the F.C.C., legal standing in your state (sports gambling), and company policies can make the decision to walk away remarkably simple. An order that violates regulations, such as protocols for political advertising, may force you to reject the business.

If the creative advertising message conflicts with acceptable guidelines, you can also be in a walkaway situation. Specific structure in these cases gives you direction and enables you to move on to the next sales opportunity.

How Do We Get to ‘Yes’?

The dilemma of walking away from a prospect normally arrives when unreasonable requests are tied to the order that management cannot support. What proactive steps can be taken to avoid the standoff?

  • Price: Get in front of any price objections before they arise by better defining the product’s value. When price and value are in balance, we see fewer price objections. If price is critical to a ‘yes’ and the customer sees you as a commodity, they will not be a long-term customer. Consider the consequences if the short-term realities push you to accept any uncomfortable discounts.

  • Terms and Conditions: If managed early in the sales process, terms and conditions can be beneficial and help you avoid late-stage objections. Terms and conditions as a road map provide needed structure, and the opportunity for mini closes along the way to an order. There is one rule for your terms and conditions; if not enforced, leave them off the list.


Every day we are faced with protecting the value of our products while responding to a client's agenda. The forces that push us to say ‘yes’ should be kept in check by avoiding last-minute fear of loss and misplaced incentives. In any negotiation, the ability to walk away is there if necessary.

A successful negotiation means finding a compromise while maintaining respect for the product’s value and integrity in managing the sales process. Your best customers care about results first, along with R.O.I., and price should not be number one on the list. Remember; strong prospecting, a complete sales funnel, a vibrant sales team, and high customer retention all give you the support and advantage if you do have to say no to a potential sale.

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About Alec Drake:

As President of Drake Media Group, a content creation, and sales consulting company, Alec is on a mission to share his unique perspective on best practices to enhance sales performance and drive revenue. The company offers a range of consulting expertise including sales operations, team and individual coaching, yield and revenue management strategies, event sponsorship formats, and sales marketing.

Drake Media Group, LLC retains exclusive rights to the original content in all articles written by Alec Drake, contained in any podcast appearances, or articles published on third-party platforms.

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