As we’re working through our first few sales at LinkSquares, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the process so far. One thing that stood out to me was what we call “false positives” in sales.

Wikipedia describes it as:

a false positive is an error in data reporting in which a test result improperly indicates presence of a condition, such as a disease (the result is positive), when in reality it is not

In sales it has similar connotation: When you’ve had a really positive interaction with a team member at a company and think you have a sale, but later realize there was no sales opportunity as you originally thought.

You do your research, you find the right contact, you get in and have an awesome conversation. They tell you they’re interested and guide you to the next contact or plan to get in touch with you. Then later. you realize it just wasn’t an opportunity.

So why does this happen?   Lets take a look at some scenarios:

  1. The person wanted to be nice – Even if you ask people to be honest, they typically dont want to hurt your feelings. They are going to be positive, especially if you are an entrepreneur at a startup. I mean who wants to destroy someone’s dreams and hurt their feelings if they just put it all on the line to do this company? It’s much more common for people to be nice and polite.If the person is a peer (age-wise) they won’t want to ruin the networking opportunity, they’ll be generally nice.  They won’t be negative or mean, so they will just provide some good product feedback (more features thanks!) and tell you to “keep them updated”.  If you needed any other reasons this happens, they also may be on the fence and may be curious so they will continue the conversation for a bit, then decide its not right for them. All the same outcome.

    As a business guy its your job to qualify this opportunity and seek types of questions out that will cut through this. Sometimes you have to ask tough questions too, but remember its important because you just cant afford to invest your time in ways that wont merit revenue opportunities.

  2. You weren’t realistic about the conversation – We all want to be positive. Its hard enough doing a startup and then to just constantly pick it apart is tough to do. Still, you have to be realistic and even more, skeptical, when you’re having conversations with people.Review conversations with customers, think about why deals may fail more than why they may succeed.

    Again its for your own benefit, because if not you’ll waste precious time on deals that aren’t going to work out.

  3. You weren’t talking to the right person – This one can be difficult. Everyone knows about finding your key department and identifying key roles for people to target.  Even to beware of gatekeepers, or entry level folks whose job is to vet technology and turn people away.But there are other scenarios I’ve come across that are more tricky, like when you talk to a Founder/CEO only to realize he was just trying to be nice or help. Again, situations where the person are most likely to be positive with you, irrelevant if they may or may not like your product.

    Even if they get you a meeting with the right person, don’t put too much stock in their positive feedback, its most likely they wont provide any more of a recommendation to the key user inside the company.

All good things to think about if you’re in sales or handling sales for your startup. Be skeptical and do your homework to understand each deal you are working. And don’t kid yourself about the opportunities you have. If it seems too good to be true it probably is!