The Problem With Sales Is There Is No Lifeguard

Recently, I was lamenting to Townsend Wardlaw about a lost sale. Since it tied with his series on sales discovery and How to Win Sales and Why You Lose, by Ian Edwards, I thought dissecting my recent experience is a good way for me to debrief as well.

I just lost a sale yesterday, or should I say, I never had it. I was not in control of the buying process. The individual owners of the business were beyond desperate to find a solution. It was like when I was 16, when I was training to be a lifeguard. You should not go in after a drowning person if you are concerned that they will bring you down as well. In this case, the business owners were grasping so quickly for solutions that I was not able to control the buying process.

Most salespeople move quickly from sales discovery to solution. If Townsend had taught you, you will quickly know that this is not the direction to go.

Sales management is a very linear process of sales discovery, solution presentation and decision. Move too quickly through one of these positions and it will be very difficult to go back.

Most salespeople want to move to the solution too quickly. In this case, it was the buyer.  I was brought in by a friend to meet with this prospect. My friend already had these individuals as clients and had debriefed me. I knew that they were in a hard place and were very eager to move fast. The question of how fast, I would quickly find out.

After a call to initially understand their situation, I scheduled a second call and sent this email to set the expectations and the specific agenda:

Thank you for the call last Friday. I understand you want to move quickly once you make a decision. You have a great opportunity before you and you don’t want to lose out on that opportunity. I want to review what we discussed and the next steps we are going to undertake.


  1. Biggest issue is having capacity to bring on the potential advisors
  2. Capacity issues are holding back profitability
  3. Need to correct custodian problems
  4. Need to either drop aggregation software or learn how to use more effectively and efficiently
  5. Reviewing 4 options

Next Steps

  1. See if the three sub-advisors will all get on the platform
  2. On next call, understand the billing and customer service process.
  3. Jamie – to create scorecard and recommendations from this call.

For our next call, I see two outcomes that we need to achieve: (1) for me to understand your current billing and customer service process and (2) to continue our conversation regarding the four options and to discuss their respective positives and negatives. Having your operations director be on the call will be a huge benefit for the first part of the discussion. You will need to decide if it is beneficial to also have him in for the second discussion.

I am glad it helped review the options and the benefits and costs of each of the 4 options. 

If you get more information about Envestnet from the advisors or would like to talk before our scheduled call, you can email or call so that we can talk before then.

Have a great weekend.


So this is how that call went, I reviewed the agenda and asked them if there was anything they would like to add. One of the partners said “What is the solution you bring?” … I replied, “Before I can tell you that I need to understand your situation.”

It was too late. In a week’s time they had decided to leave their current system. We had four options with one specific target, and they decided to throw that out for a completely new solution. And oh, by the way, their Director of Operations was only brought in 4 days prior to this call.

They were moving at light speed.

I should have ended the call right then. They had already passed the point of wanting to go through sales discovery. They were in solution mode. Unfortunately for me, following the linear sales process, it was difficult to go back.

I will be interested to see where this prospect ends up. The prospect wanted possible solutions. They were already in solution mode, making decisions in their mind.

The buyers were rushing passed the problem and wanted to start talking solutions.

The prospects were offered different solutions. Some would certainly help in the problems they were facing. Once they identified a problem they naturally moved into solution mode.

The problem is they are moving into decision mode without having gone through the exercise of fully understanding their own situation, not to mention the fact that we don’t have all the evidence and information about their situation that we might need to close the deal.

I had lost before I even began. Just like I learned in lifeguard training, you must understand the situation before you jump in, otherwise they can bring you down as well.

Jamie Cornehlsen | Don't Move Through Sales Discovery Too QuicklyBy Jamie Cornehlsen

James (Jamie) B. Cornehlsen, a Chartered Financial Analyst®, co-founded Fitter Financials in 2013 to meet the growing needs of entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Denver area. On the heals of launching AUM in a Box in 2012 to meet the growing needs of fee-only financial advisors and provide them with the tools and resources to succeed in their businesses, Jamie’s newest venture in Fitter Financials builds upon his expertise in sales, revenue growth, and business processes and procedures.

Jamie is an investment advisor of Capstone Investment Financial Group, and founded Dunn Warren Investment Advisors, LLC in 2001 and continues to serve as the organization’s Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director.

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

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