3 Types of Difficult Prospects and How to Handle Them

BY Jessica Helinski
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Not all prospects will be easy to deal with, and you’ll encounter many types of difficult prospects. As HubSpot’s Jay Fuchs notes, “difficult prospects are a fact of sales life.”

But even the most difficult prospects can be worked with to reach a deal. The key to success is understanding what’s behind their behavior and the best approach for each type. 

The more effective you are at identifying common types, the more readily you’ll be able to successfully work with them. 

Difficult Prospects and How to Sell to Them

During your sales career, you may encounter a prospect who always seems busy. They may say they don’t have time for a meeting or they may have to cancel multiple calls. Despite their clear interest in your solution, they just haven’t prioritized setting aside time for you. 

This can be especially frustrating because you know they’d be a good fit and they have genuine need and interest. According to Baidhurya Mani, founder of SellCoursesOnline, the key for connecting with these types is urgency. They suggest creating deadlines. 

Without a deadline, they get too comfortable postponing things because there's no urgency.”

When sharing a deadline, treat it as an opportunity, though, rather than a threat. Express the need to act quickly to take advantage of your offering. This creates a sense of FOMO (fear of  missing out). 

SalesFuel shares some phrases you can use to gently yet effectively impart urgency. Consider using these when you’re needing to nail down a busy prospect. 

The Demanding Prospect

One of the most common difficult prospects is the one who is overly demanding. They want everything exactly how and when they want it. They don’t want to compromise and expect the seller to deliver everything at a discount. 

And often, their demands are immediate. They don’t wait to develop a relationship with the seller or learn more about the value you can provide. 

Efforts to work with these prospects require patience. It may be tempting to immediately walk away or just give in. CMO and co-​founder of Merged Media, Jason Hunt, suggests waiting to do either. First, be honest yet polite about their demands.

Address concerns directly yet diplomatically, clearly explain standard offerings, and try to find some common ground.”

If your attempts to placate the prospect without giving in to every demand don’t work, then consider moving on. 

As SalesFuel points out, walking away from a demanding prospect may save you grief in the future. If they’re this difficult as a prospect, that likely won’t change once they’re a client. Your chances of ever making them happy are low. Not pursuing their business is the best choice.

Walking away may be the wisest path to maintain trust with other, more reasonable clients..,” Hunt writes.

The People Pleaser

This difficult prospect may not be as obvious as other examples. They are agreeable, polite and seem excited about doing business with you. But really, they are simply being agreeable, often out of a desire to be polite or avoid conflict. 

It can be tricky to tell when these folks are truly considering your solution,” explains Michael Alexis, CEO of teambuilding​.com.

They may avoid directly answering questions or committing fully to the next step. To identify and deal with this type, sellers need to be very observant. It’s important to uncover if they are genuinely interested or just being polite. 

Active listening will help you read between the lines of their responses. Look for signs of engagement, such as eye contact and open body language; these are signs of interest. 

If they continue to give empty answers, avoid sharing details or hesitate about moving forward, take note. They may not be ready to buy. Offer them an easy exit from the process to avoid wasted time.

Difficult prospects come in many forms. The more familiar you are with various types, the more you can understand how to proceed. You may be able to work things out for a successful sale. Or you may recognize red flags and move on. 

For more guidance on dealing with less-​than-​ideal leads, take a look at this SalesFuel post.

Photo by Yan Krukau