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Famous Last Words in Sales

Posted January 25, 2015by Mike Schmidtmann

You are at a baseball game and someone yells, “Duck!” You’re thinking, “What duck?” and promptly get whacked in the head by a line drive.

“What Duck?” is a proud member of the “Famous Last Words” family of phrases. Others include: 

  • “What could possibly go wrong?”
  • “I wonder what this button does?”
  • “I wonder where mama bear is?”
  • “This potato salad tastes funny”

I’ll bet every Continuum partner has had at least one client who thought “I wonder what will happen if I click on this link?” Next thing you know, they are paying some extortionist behind ransomware like Cryptolocker to get their data back.

Sales has its own version of famous last words. These are the immortal words uttered by clueless salespeople just before they get forcibly kicked out of an account. Here are my top four:

1. Do you have a project I can bid on?

Nothing positions your company like a value-lacking bottom feeder than a question like this. You might as well shout, “I have no ideas, I have no solutions, and I don’t know any best practices! Can I underbid someone else who has done all the work?”

2. Let me know if we need to sharpen our pencil.

In other words, we have deliberately overpriced our solution in the hopes that you were too lazy to shop around. If you still want to do business with us, let me know, and I’ll provide the real price.

3. Can I email you a proposal?

If you want to avoid time-consuming, face-to-face meetings, email is the way to go. You also avoid those time-consuming questions, objections, and sales. Losers, misfits, and retreads love emailing quotes because they get to spend more time around the water cooler, grousing with each other about how bad the leads are. But when it’s commission time, their e-checks will be in their email.

4. Who is the real decision maker?

Every sales book tells you to sell from the top down. That doesn’t mean you need to insult the worker bees along the way. The young office manager you bossed around and asked to get you coffee could be training to take over the business one day. 


The sad part is, I’m not making these lines up. I’ve heard every one of these grenades uttered by real salespeople, and with predictably bad results. Do yourself a huge favor and ­don’t go there.

For more lighthearted sales commentary, check out Mike's blog! Have a comment or question for the Chump Change author? Maybe your own deal-killing phrases? Sound off below!

Mike Schmidtmann is a member of 4-Profit, an organization dedicated to education, growth and profitability of solution providers in information technology. With over 20 years of experience, Mike is veteran leader in sales management, helping both resellers and vendors improve margins and profitability by identifying what it takes to hire and retain the most talented sales staff. Mike is the author of the “Talent Rules” series, a complete guide for sourcing, screening and hiring productive sales individuals. He is also a frequent public speaker on business and management topics, and is past-president of the National Speakers Association DC Chapter.

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