It’s tough to walk away from a prospect, but it’s something that successful salespeople do when signs suggest a deal might not be beneficial. No one wants to walk away from potential money, but there are certain times when a prospect won’t be a good match. “It’s difficult because it goes against everything you are taught,” Paul Petrone writes for LinkedIn. “You are tenacious, you don’t stop at the first no, you always push to see if there’s a way you can provide value.” Plus, pursuing business that isn't a fit can lead to wasted time and money, as well as lost credibility.
Why you should walk away from poor prospects
But he admits that there are times to walk away. The best salespeople can admit when the prospect isn’t worth pursuing because they recognize warning signs. And by doing so, they keep their pipelines healthy and their time and efforts saved for better opportunities.
The trick, though, is knowing what signs to watch for, and Petrone shares four examples:
- You’re just selling, not solving.
- They don’t respond to three or more messages.
- You're in limbo, and there’s no clear next stop on your end.
- The prospect is making you uncomfortable.
You’re just selling, not solving.
If you find that you are going through all of the sales motions without offering any real solutions or value to the prospect, walk away. If you’re honestly not sure, Petrone suggests asking yourself the following:
- Do you actually think you can help your prospect?
- Do you believe your solution is a good fit for the pain points they’re describing to you?
- Will they succeed with your product or service and feel good about buying it?
Negative responses may be a sign that you don’t have a solution for the prospect and may be wasting your time (and theirs). Or it means you’re focusing on selling rather than the prospect and their business. Take a moment to determine if you simply need to adjust your strategy to a buyer-centric one. But, if you’re also practicing buyer-first selling, then it’s likely that your solutions just aren’t for this prospect.
They don’t respond to three or more messages.
Getting ghosted by a prospect? It might be time to simply walk away. A pause in communication could be a sign that the prospect is busy; or it could mean that they just aren’t that interested.
This is actually pretty common in sales, and you shouldn’t take it personally (no matter how close you feel you got with the prospect). What this does reveal, though, is that the prospect isn’t making your, or what you’re selling, a priority.
So, when do you walk away? “After the initial outreach, it’s fair to send one follow-up a week later, if there’s no response,” Petrone suggests. “And, a week after that, one last-ditch effort.”
And remember, when reaching out, be upfront and honest about what you’re writing about. If you tried reaching out via phone, tell them that you tried and didn’t get a response. Did they miss a Zoom meeting? Point that out. “Stating what happened outright helps you establish the facts from your perspective and avoid making ‘assumption’ statements that aren’t all that motivating,” Claire Murdough, content marketing manager at HelloSign, suggests.
And don’t overdo it. If you’ve made this final outreach, and there still is no response, it’s time to move on.
You’re in limbo, and there’s no clear next stop on your end.
There are times during a sale that you might not be sure of where you stand or what comes next. This shouldn’t happen. Perhaps the prospect has been enthusiastic but has never quite made it to their boss for approval. Or the deal is ready to go but someone in finance has concerns. What now? If your next step is unclear, and the prospect isn’t giving any insight, it’s time to take control of the situation. If you can’t move things along, either with the prospect or the other decision-makers involved, Petrone suggests you walk away.
He also points out that this situation is indicative of another issue: Your prospect apparently doesn’t have buying authority. “It’s clear that the prospect you’ve convinced doesn’t have the type of influence you need to get a deal done,” he writes. “That’s okay, but don’t continue to spin your wheels with them. Do your best to connect with people in the organization who do have that influence or move on.”
The prospect is making you uncomfortable.
Don’t shrug this one off. No deal is ever worth working with someone who make you uncomfortable, whether it’s due to disrespectful behavior or lack of emotional control. If you find yourself feeling discomfort each time you engage with a prospect, it’s time to be honest with yourself, which can be tough. As Petrone writes, “This is probably the most difficult. Because, as a salesperson, you are focused on serving the prospect, to both benefit them and your own business.” But it should never come at the cost of your own comfort.
And remember, you are also doing long-term planning. Any prospect will hopefully be a partner for far into the future; it’s vital that you able to build strong, healthy, sustainable relationships. That would be hard to do with someone who makes you uncomfortable.
Walk away with peace of mind
Yes, it’s tough to turn your back on a potential sale, especially if you happen to be close to hitting quota or another goal. But you will be doing yourself a favor for the long term. As leadership professional Frank Sonnenberg wrote, “Knowing when to walk away is Wisdom. Being able to is Courage. Walking away with grace, and your held head high, is Dignity.”
Photo by Bob Price from Pexels
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