Marketing Failure: Are you UNSELLING yourself?

I had a very interesting experience recently. I was looking for a graphic designer to help me with a new website. The gal I wanted to work with was unavailable and she referred me to three other providers. I checked each one’s website and decided to talk with one specifically. I liked his portfolio and his transparency in his values evident on his site.

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And Save Your Sale!

We had a call of about an hour and really hit it off and I was looking for a proposal. At this point, I was already sold and simply needed to make sure the numbers meshed with what I had planned to invest (notice I don’t budget ever, it is all about planned investment because it has a return on it!)

He sent me a sequence of three emails. The first two shared more of his work and were entirely unnecessary and I hadn’t requested them. This annoyed me because it indicated he wasn’t paying attention to my need for a quote. The last email had unedited chunks of other client’s quotes but nothing customized for my project.

Then it got even more interesting because he sent a long email that was loaded with “i” instead of proper “I” and spelling mistakes. I’m kind of an English grammar nut (uh oh, this is where you pick apart all of my errors and send them to me or comment on them) and this indicated a serious lack of attention to detail and actually made me physically cringe. Not a good sign. He was unselling me outrageously!

In fact, at this point I was so taken aback that I got back  in touch with the original talent I wanted to work with and found that if I waited an additional week or two she would be available. I decided to wait.

When I let the graphic designer know that it wasn’t his talent that was in question, but in fact his lack of attention to detail, he suggested I was a “tire kicker.” I reminded him that I had been largely sold on working with him until he unsold himself with additional samples of work not requested, failure to quote my project specifically, and emails laden with grammar errors and spelling challenges. Enough, I’m working with a very talented individual now and will reveal the results soon.

The lesson here is about listening to what your prospect (or client) is really looking for. Deliver to their specifications  and quench your desire to overload them with too much information or inaccurate or inappropriate information (like other people’s quotes.) There is never a sure thing in business unless money has traded hands and a contract has been signed. Speaking on the phone or in email demands the same level of professional service that you apply to every other area of your business.

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The Price of Poor Grammar

Three Simple Actions to Succeed By in Your Business, Big or Small:

LISTEN (to what the prospect/client really wants and needs)

DELIVER (specifically what is requested)

CLOSE (by proving you listened and have attention to the details that count)

Oh, and in case you were thinking this was a generation gap, it wasn’t. The talent who I checked out and unsold himself is just three years younger than I am. This was not a case of a Millenial working with a Boomer. And even then, for me, that would not be an excuse.

Comment here and tell me when you might have UNSOLD a customer.  Or when someone UNSOLD you.

And as always find me online Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.


  1. Willena says

    How in the world could the graphic designer thought you were a “tire kicker”? You were referred. You asked for a specific quote. You already have a web business. How does HE stay in business?

  2. says

    If this is the new design, I like it. It seems aimed to appeal to women with the stitched design contrasting with the graph paper and typefaces–right and left brain so to speak.

    As a teacher, I strive to get my students to understand that the mechanics of writing are part of the message, providing clarity and meaning.

    As as web designer, I struggle to figure out how to ask my internal customers what they want and to explain to them what I need from them.

    • says


      This isn’t the new design and the “stitching” is a blueprint background, lol.

      Consider creating a checklist for your customers of what you need from them. It makes it easier for both of you.

      Hugs, Melissa

  3. says

    Great that you were able to identify the lack of fit with the first designer early on. We write and design many websites and have had the best success by listening to the client and providing a proposal that meets their stated needs but always takes it a step further in identifying opportunities they may not have thought of. We always like to add this extra value. The risk of this of course is that we may on occasion, “give it away” before a clients agreed to work with us or as you’ve suggested, alienate them by giving them things they haven’t asked for. What are your thoughts on that approach if it includes added value?

    • says


      Adding value is a far cry from dumping a lot of extra logos at a clients feet. The logos were from his portfolio, it had no bearing on my project at all, in fact I wasn’t looking for a logo!

      You are on target and doing it right, always :).

      Hugs, Melissa

  4. says

    Yes, Melissa, I couldn’t agree with you more!
    Listening well is a specific skill set. What I find most annoying in situations like the one you’ve described is that, even after I’ve gone out of my way to be extremely clear about my needs, sometimes the service provided still doesn’t get it! From experience, I’ve even learned to lay out exactly how I prefer to be communicated with, and then spoon feed the service provider my “hot buttons”. I figure it’s worth my upfront time to get everything on the table so we avoid uncomfortable misunderstandings later. Yet, I still have experiences like yours every now and then.
    What I find most disheartening in your story is that even when you tried to provide this individual with some helpful guidance, he was still unable to open up to listen and accept your compassionate support.
    In the big picture, you’re story has made me wonder — is it really possible to teach listening skills to individuals who have none? And, what’s getting in their way?That’s for another blog post, I’m sure.
    Thanks for the reminder that using our time saving standard sales kits and proposal processes may actually be doing us a disservice when we don’t review them carefully based on the needs of each individual.
    Wishing you well–

    • says

      Thanks Nanette,

      Yes, listening can be taught. In fact, I’m betting it is the core of most sales trainings, certainly any I have provided.

      It is amazing how a person’s history and how they buy can get in the way of a successful sale.

      You are very generous with your upfront time. I’m not quite that patient.

      Hugs, Melissa

  5. Louise says

    Melissa…this is so true. I run into this too often right now. I’m involved in real estate investing and people tell me they are direct to a buyer for a deal I may have. Then when it comes to doing the paperwork, I find out they are many times removed and the deal falls through. And I’m sure you guessed, I stop working with those people.

    • says


      Real estate is rife with this. I had an incredibly poor convo just this week with an agent and actually hung up on him to stop the conversation (I don’t do that!)

      Honest professionals who know their stuff are rare to find.

      Hugs, Melissa

  6. says

    Melissa, I see businesses “unselling” themselves all over the place. If an individual or company can’t pay attention to detail in their own marketing and proposals, how will they be able to pay attention to detail when they work on my project?

    Here’s a blog post I wrote with a recreated image of a handyman truck I had seen that day (I didn’t get a picture, so had to do my best to show what I had seen).

    Who hires this guy?

  7. MamaRed says

    To my embarrassment, I got so excited the other day I did this (although, I hope, not to this degree). My husband calls it “talking yourself out of the sale” ‘cuz I’m learning to talk less and listen more.

    Your points are so on track and so appreciated. Thanks for the great reminder.

    Many blessings

    • says


      Betting you can rectify the situation if not too far gone.

      Yes, it does come down to listening and paying attention.
      It can be easy to get carried away with enthusiasm and forget that our client has specific needs and wants, lol.

      Hugs, Melissa

  8. says


    This happened to me just recently – very similar response. Asked for information and quote. Got alot of other stuff not requested including talking down to me. The person was very surprised when they didn’t get the job. Reason why? didn’t listen very well plus it was obvious we couldn’t work well together. After all it’s more than just money, it’s relationships too.

  9. says

    I think this kind of thing happens when the entrepreneur can’t identify his/her ideal customer and try to be all things to all people. That never works!

    My guess is that this guy was trying to cover up the fact that he didn’t know who his ideal customer was and was offering up everything as a way to find out.


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