Are all prospects good prospects? If you answered “yes” then chances are you’re expending a lot of time, energy, resources—and therefore money—on chasing the wrong leads. Of course it’s important in sales to doggedly pursue each and every potential opportunity, but the reality is that not every customer is a good fit. As a sales professional, executive, or business owner, your time is your most valuable asset and how you judiciously invest that time will largely dictate your degree of success. So sometimes, it’s far healthier—and ultimately more profitable—to walk away from a lead.

There could be different reasons for the amicable divorce—maybe they are not the kind of client you want to serve or personalities don’t mesh, perhaps you honestly believe that your product or service doesn’t solve their problem or fit their needs, or often, they are just spinning their wheels without committing and therefore wasting your precious time. But how will you know when is the right time to “hold ’em” or when to “fold ’em,” as the song says?

Here are 10 tips to help you do just that:

1. Start from a position of power

Sales is like a dance, and be sure that you—not the potential client—is leading. Remember that you are the one who has the knowledge, products, services, expertise, time etc. to solve their problem or fill their need, so act accordingly from the get go. Not only does that mean dressing and always acting the part, but like a good dance partner, you should lead them firmly, confidently, and substantially, but also give them space to make their decision. Remember that if you take three steps forward or become too aggressive, the prospect will back up or distance themselves defensively, so keep your cool and keep it a harmonious dance.

It should never be about ego or trying to exercise your power, but keeping a balancing act by empowering the prospect, while at the same time commanding their respect. Like Donald Trump said, “In selling, you must never appear desperate. As soon as you look desperate, it’s over.”

2. Give them every opportunity to say “No”

From the start of the sales conversation, mention that it is perfectly acceptable for them to say “No” to you any time if facts bear that you are not the right person to help them. How does that help lead to a sale? Too often these days, consumers and even companies are bombarded with information and sales messages, all turning up the volume and overwhelming them. Realizing that every prospect is still getting information elsewhere and many suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) they may be reluctant to come right out and say “No” to you if they don’t want to proceed, instead being flakey and making hollow excuses. To combat this, let them know that it’s just business and you won’t be offended or displeased if they tell you “No” at any time. That sentiment will be extremely refreshing to them and they are more likely to open up with serious objections or reservations and value your time, work, and professional advice from there on out.

 3. Make sure you are talking to the decision maker

Have you ever spent six months chasing a lead or courting a prospect, fine tuning your every detail of your potential arrangement, answering questions, and handling all objects under the sun, only to find out at “Go Time” that they need to take the information back to their Board, management, CEO, etc. for approval? Don’t waste your time talking to the wrong person. Instead, ask if they are the one and only decision maker and if not, involve all relevant parties in the process from day one. If they refuse or object, they may not be a serious lead worth holding on to.

4. Map out the process ahead of time

They say any good presenter tells you what they’re going to tell you, tells you, and then tells you what they told you. Likewise, you should introduce a framework or process with each new lead that ultimately ends up with commitment and a sale. Show them, even visually with a flowchart or graphic, the different stages you will cover in the sales process, with plenty of points for their input, questions, and to voice their challenges or concerns. You should even have them fill in the blanks on the proposed timeline of when they want to solve their problem or commit to a decision. But by putting pen to paper on the process, both of you will know the end result will be a closed sale. If it turns out not to be a good fit that’s fine, but if they refuse to adhere to the process, want to backtrack or be redundant, or fail to move forward with the logical flow you mapped out, you know it’s time to leave that prospect at the altar.

5. Get the prospect invested

As a general rule, the more engaged a client is, the more they are taking you seriously and likely to buy what you’re selling. So take steps to get the client invested – asking them to provide documentation, write out answers to your questions, come to your office for meetings, or otherwise take action steps where it’s their time and energy on the line, too – not just yours.

 6. Questions

As a rule of thumb, a good sales person should be talking about 30% of the time and listening the other 70%. Remember that your goal isn’t to barrage your prospect with so much information that they can almost do what you do, nor is it wise to think you can “convince” them with words alone. Instead, ask the right questions and really listen to their answers—and that is where you’ll make a sale.

Some great universal questions include:

  • “Is there anything holding you back?”
  • “What would solving this problem mean for your business?
  • “How would things change for you if we could overcome that challenge together?”
  • “Tell me more about that.”

But if they are not being forthright or answering your questions straight, then you know it’s time to move on to the next lead.

7. Are they only about price?

If you try to win over your leads and prospects on the basis of having the lowest price alone, you’re not going to stay in business too long. Likewise, you can help weed out those potential clients who are just motivated by price with a conversation early on about value, which includes price but also factor in time, quality, experience, service, benefit, longevity, etc. Everyone wants a good deal, but if they still are price shopping and not paying attention to the rest, gladly let them walk out the door.

8. Be busy

Too often, we become far too invested in the thought of closing each sales lead, looking forward to a paycheck, as well as another satisfied client. But that same hunter’s mentality can cause us to chase leads and prospects that are phantoms—they appear but don’t really tangibly exist. One of the best ways to keep a balanced approach so you don’t get too high or low with each lead is to be busy, as a busy person is concerned with prioritizing and managing how they will help everyone, not just chasing one lead. As they say, “Success begets success,” and your energy and momentum will be apparent to the prospects you talk to and have a positive impact.

9. Be authentic 

If you think of your job as solving problems and helping people, you’ll come across as totally honest, authentic, and credible. Remember that prospects don’t only make the decision to go with you based on information, but also trust, comfort, likeability, validation, social affirmation, and other intangibles go into it. By being their trusted advisor instead of just another pushy salesperson, your relationship will have a lot more depth and substance, as well as value you offer. The good clients and people will appreciate that and won’t want to lose it, but the time wasters will make themselves known so you can move on.

10. Fire nicely

Just because you make a business decision that a prospect isn’t a good fit, that doesn’t mean their dismissal has to be a negative experience. Instead, “kill them with kindness” and very firmly but pleasantly let them know why you are moving on. Ask what you could have done differently and for feedback on your performance and you might learn some amazing things. Ask for referrals or a testimonial and let them know the door is always open for them to come back if they are serious and committed. Sometimes, our biggest defeats turn into our biggest victories down the road!

About the Author
Eric Cohen is CEO/Founder of SocialQualified, is a B2B lead generation platform designed to cater to the wants and needs of both buyers and vendors. Find out more by visiting