Time is a preciously rare commodity in sales, and you have to be very careful when deciding how much of it you can sacrifice just to make a single sale.
If you only had to consider the projected customer lifetime value when making these decisions, the math would be pretty simple. However, you also have to take into account other potential benefits and costs of closing the sale, for instance, positive brand exposure that working with a prestigious customer would bring on the one hand, or expected difficulties in implementation on the other.
Fortunately, while you have to know a great deal about a prospect before you can claim they are promising, it often takes just a sentence or two to recognize those who are highly unlikely to actually make the purchase. Giving up on them then and there may result in some missed opportunities, but the amount of time it is going to save you will more than make up for the loss.
We have written about ways to recognize dead-end prospects before, but we feel that the subject is more than important enough to merit an expansion, which is exactly what this post is meant to provide. We recommend you read the entire article, but if you just want a quick recap, some of the things we suggested you should pay attention to include:
- How close they are to your ideal customer profile in terms of their size, location, revenue…
- Prospect’s inability to define their needs
- The possibility that the person you are talking to is actually an independent researcher or even a corporate spy employed by your competitor
- Those who constantly demand discounts
- Lack of involvement of other stakeholders
This time, we are going to take a look at some of the other signals indicating that a prospect is not a good fit.
1. You Are Not Solving Their Problem
This one should go without saying, but we have all seen sales reps getting carried away by the thrill of the chase and trying to close the deal, oblivious to the damage it might do to both their company and prospects.
If you pick up on the fact that what you are offering is not an adequate solution to their problem and are tempted to sweep the matter under the rug and try to make the sale anyway, you’d be well-advised to consider the impact that such a deal would have on your customer churn rate, team morale and the reputation of your company.
As tempted as you might be to throw the caution to the wind, by doing so you would paint your company as either incompetent or duplicitous, ensuring the alienation of current and future prospects alike.
2. They Are Not Solving Their Problem
The scenario described in the previous section is not the only road leading to a mutually unsatisfactory deal. In fact, a disinterested prospect could do just as much damage as an overly eager salesman.
If the person you are talking to is a part of a small company or startup, you can probably expect them to be heavily invested in its future and to actually care about its efficiency. On the other hand, if your contact is just one of a multitude of cogs in a large, soulless conglomerate, you shouldn’t be surprised if you find them slacking off and trying to rush the deal without taking any real interest in it.
Even if you are willing to make up for their lack of enthusiasm or expertise, there’s only so much that you can do without the prospect’s earnest cooperation. In the best-case scenario, you go through an inordinate amount of trouble to provide an adequate solution to their problem; in the worst-case scenario, you end up in the same situation we described in the previous section, this time, through no fault of your own.
One of the ways to identify prospects of this kind is with the help of Autoklose and our lead scoring feature. Our tool tracks the engagement of individual contacts and assigns points to them, based on how responsive they have been so far. Once you identify the least active ones you can either remove them from the list altogether or use tags to label and classify them any way you see fit.
3. They Are Difficult to Deal With
This one might be a bit more difficult to specify. Naturally, we are not saying that you should only deal with perfectly polite and accommodating prospects, but we also wouldn’t advise you to put up with just any kind of behavior.
So what standards should you use? Basically, you need to try to objectively assess if the prospect’s peculiarities are liable to hurt the deal, or if the only thing being hurt are your feelings.
So, if a prospect is too crass for your taste, but at the same time they are honest, industrious and competent, you just need to bite the bullet and power through your discomfort.
However, there are certain behaviors which might make your job impossible, or at least, unfeasibly arduous. We suggest you think twice whether you want to maintain contact with prospects who:
- Insist on micromanaging you from the very get-go
- Are acutely indecisive
- Are known to be litigious or impossible to please – try checking if they’ve reviewed products similar to the one you are offering and assess how reasonable and honest they tend to be
- Are too emotional
While you may not be too happy about it, a rude but capable prospect should be given much more attention than a perfectly pleasant one whose timidness might slow the process down to a crawl.
4. They Don’t Know the First Thing About Their Company’s Decision-Making Process
Naturally, this doesn’t mean that the first person you reach in a company has to be able and willing to answer all of the questions you might have. However, if you’ve done your due diligence and went up the ladder as far as you could, and are still not getting concrete answers to your questions, you wouldn’t be at fault for doubting their competence or commitment.
This scenario is perhaps more common among smaller businesses, whose owners are not capable of doing everything on their own but are still hesitant to delegate some of the more important tasks. Naturally, that is not to say that businesses of all sizes and profiles are not at least somewhat vulnerable to similar issues.
5. They Refuse to Provide Pertinent Information
If you are sure that you have reached the right person, but they refuse to provide you with information you absolutely need to move forward, you are most likely facing one of three distinct, almost equally unfavorable possibilities:
- Like in the previous example, they could simply be incompetent
- They could be overly paranoid, which is likely to hinder you at every step of the road
- They might just be testing the waters with you, without any real intention of committing to the purchase
It should be mentioned at this point that none of these hurdles, however inconvenient, have to be insurmountable. Just like with most of the other red flags we’ve listed, if the prospect is valuable enough you can risk wasting some time and try to work through some of the challenges they are presenting you with.
Recognizing a perfect prospect requires much more scrutiny, experience and luck than identifying the utterly hopeless ones.
While you can’t hope to be right 100% of the time, you can spare yourself a fair bit of trouble by keeping an eye out for:
- Prospects whose problem you are not equipped to solve to a satisfying degree
- Those who are not willing to do their part
- Those who are more of an obstacle than a partner
- Those who don’t know what they are talking about
- Those who don’t want to talk about what they do know
While this is still not the complete list of warning signs, it should provide you with a starting point for the analysis of your prospects, and perhaps help you start recognizing other, similar patterns.