When Do You Give Up on a Prospect?

Published on June 21, 2016

As a sales and leadership expert and Motivational Speaker, I find sales execs and entrepreneurs are wasting a lot of time and losing Impact on their markets by concentrating on prospects that will never buy from them. The trick is knowing when to let go.

Before we can understand that, we must examine the two reasons why people don’t want to let go. One is that it’s reassuring to see a pipeline full of names. Who wants to look at a paper-thin pipeline?  A thin pipeline leads to fear, and it is a clear signal that something is wrong. The second reason is that any prospect represents hope. Yet that is a fool’s mindset because if we waste time on prospects that are not properly qualified, we will be pinning our success on opportunities that have very little chance of closing. In other words, we won’t be living in reality, and that will hurt us.

Here are seven signs that it is time to give up on a prospect. Of course there are always exceptions, but the trends far outweigh them.

  1. Loss of Motivation—For some reason the deal is stuck in the mud. If you cannot find out what is holding the deal up, then it is time to move on.
  2. Lack of Qualifying—Sales execs and entrepreneurs often interpret a request for quote as a qualifying factor. Not so fast.  Sometimes a customer will contact you just to have the three quotes they need to satisfy internal controls. Sometimes they are just shopping for a better price without any intention of leaving their existing vendor. BEFORE wasting time on a quote, qualify the prospect for the following:
    1. Need—Is there a need within your strike zone of offerings? If not, move on.  You can’t be all things to everyone!
    2. Timing—No matter how good you are, if timing is not right, the deal won’t get done. Find out when the decision is being made and address the prospect’s issues in a timely fashion. If the timing is not right, then move on!
    3. Decision makers—Are you talking to the decision makers?  If not and you cannot get past the gatekeeper, then it is probably time to move on.
  3. Poor History—if you have provided numerous proposals to a prospect and lost every one of them, why do you think this time will be different?  Challenge your prospect with this question. Insanity is continuing to do the same things and expecting a different result.
  4. Gut Instinct—Your intuition is one of the best qualifying tools you have. If your gut is telling you it will not work, then chances are it won’t. Don’t allow “hope” to overpower your gut instinct. Our intuition is a mix of past experiences and knowledge that generates an inkling of what is likely to happen. Listen to it.
  5. Lack of Visualization—If you cannot visualize an outcome, then walk! There are times when I talk with a client and cannot visualize the value they will get from working with me. Yet I still rely on hope. That is the biggest mistake anyone can make. If you yourself cannot see a good outcome from the relationship, then walk away. A customer that drains you and your company is not worth the money they bring to the table, unless it is the kind of money that changes one’s fortune.
  6. Nothing Works—If you have tried at least five different angles and nothing is working, then it is time to consider walking. Maybe it’s just that the timing is off.  Figure it out and move on.
  7. Lack of Profit—If the deal is within your reach and the requested price is well below the number you need to make a profit, then find a way to add value and increase the number. If you can’t do that, then walk away. Not everyone can afford your fees, and that is okay.

Bottom line: Companies and executives looking to achieve a major Impact in their markets clearly define their ideal customers. When you define the parameters of your ideal customers, you will see yourself wasting very little time with prospects that won’t pan out.  And if you do find yourself with a prospect that is not moving forward, then check the situation against these seven signs.

Your time IS money. To grow a business, you need velocity to do more with less—selling more and servicing more with your existing bandwidth.  You cannot do this if you are wasting your time on prospects that are more like a prayer or a hope than a legitimate possibility.  You are best served by weeding out the prospects that are not going to work out, even if this means significantly reducing your pipeline.  At least then you will have the time to find the right prospects who will close faster and pay the value you deserve.