Sales Principle 4: Dying, Lying, or Buying?

Sales is a numbers game and a tough game. Most of the time we are getting told no or even worse getting nothing back.

“Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?” Nope.

Searching for potential customers is time-consuming. Painful. Heartbreaking. So, when you do get someone interested in having a discussion it is quite natural to be excited. It happens to even the most seasoned professionals.

The challenge is how do we find out what is real and what isn’t?

Therein lies the art of qualifying a deal. I have to credit my old pal Will Harrison who gave me an easy and straightforward phrase to remember. Find out if a prospect is dying, lying, or buying? DLB for short.

It’s not as harsh as it sounds but an easy reminder it is ridiculously important to understand the overall status of a deal as soon as possible. I like to think about qualifying a deal in simple terms.

Who is the coach, champion, decision-maker, and buyer? Meddic sales methodology is a popular one. All essential questions but when dealing with dozens of deals going in and out of the pipeline, I always come back to DLB. It feels more organic and natural to my style as I am engaging in multiple daily conversations.

I’ll share a few tips on how I try to understand what is real and what isn’t. By no means are these tips strict rules. Just some guidelines I use to help everyone involved. Including customers.

The key though is always to be empathic, authentic, and conversational. Never be robotic and go through a list of set questions when qualifying a deal. Don’t be a jerk.


Dying deals have all kinds of issues. No internal support. No real budget. No timing. Politics.

Projects come and go for various reasons. Most if not all projects require some management buy-in and support.

If your champion does not have internal support, your proposal will be dead on arrival.

  • Who else needs to review the proposal?
  • How do you usually buy these types of services?

Meeting others involved will help understand the realness of a deal. You’ll also learn more about the dynamics with team members.

  • Do you your homework also. Some industries such as the semiconductor industry are cyclical.
  • Are you catching them on a downturn? Budgets tighten up.
  • Is the specific company you are targeting dying?
  • Are they getting hammered by their competition?
  • Will your product or service move the needle?

Just a few questions to think about as you find an interesting potential deal.


In my years in sales, the most challenging competitor I have ever faced and continue to meet is the biggest and baddest of them all.

The dreaded “Do Nothing.” Three things usually happen in a deal. You win, you lose, or nothing happens. The customer decided to stay put and do nothing.

In the do-nothing scenario, everyone loses. The first person who got out wins. Don’t be the person who after countless emails and meetings finds out the customer is not going to spend any money at all. Crushing.

Or maybe they are going to push the project out to next year’s budget. Ugh! Those are the hardest ones to swallow and honestly the hardest part about sales.

When you get knocked out with a gut punch.

Often doing nothing isn’t anyone's fault — just the nature of the game. Shit happens.

Without hesitation, pick yourself up and dust it off. Our ability to shake things off is also why salespeople make the big bucks. However, the mental anguish does take a toll and sales aren’t for everyone.

Stay in close communication. Silence is death for a deal.

  • Confirm start dates. When would you like to start the project?
  • Has anything changed?
  • Get to know more people if possible
  • Build rapport. Relationships are critical.


“What is your budget”?

One of my very first sales calls in what seems like ages ago, I decided to make asking about the budget the first thing that came out of my mouth.

To the horror of my sales manager,  like a pro, he laughed it off and kicked me under the table. I didn’t say a word afterward.

Although understanding the budget is essential, there is an art to navigating the money question.

I learned a valuable lesson.

Usually, if the deal is active, you can feel it. There is activity. People are communicating. A solid timeline is understood. We have a budget. We have buy-in. We have a problem to solve.

We can get into closing a deal. It helps to have a good sales process at this point and be able to walk a potential customer through the process.

I admit I am not the best at following processes. I prefer a more freestyle approach. I prefer a more freestyle approach but I do have a process I tend to follow in my head. My advice is don’t do freestyle often.

Be disciplined in navigating a lead to close. At any point, buying can turn into lying or dying faster than you can say “Skiplist is awesome.”

There are many variables to consider when qualifying for a deal. By being in the right mindset and discipline you’ll find the early discussions more fruitful and more predictable.

Make it rain!

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