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7 signs it’s time to move on from a prospect

Sales is a relationship. You put in the time and effort, you get to know them, find out their quirks, what they like and don’t like…and just like other relationships, sometimes the sales process needs to end. 

While it may not be as immediately devastating as the end of a friendship or partnership, realizing you need to walk away from a prospect can still be painful and, sometimes, even tricky.

In this blog post, we break down seven signs that you need to move on from a prospect. It’s like the book He’s Just Not That Into You, but for sales! Read on for some ways to tell that things have gone on longer than they need to and how you can fix it moving forward.

If they stop the process

This should feel like a pretty blatant example of when to move on from a prospect, but one of the core competencies of a good salesperson is persistence. It takes anywhere from 40-97 days, on average, to close a sale, and during that process, you can expect the prospect will take a few breaks from talking with you.

Though breaks are natural, if they put a full stop to the communication it may be time to worry. For instance, if your prospect stops returning your calls, answering your emails, or responding to your LinkedIn messages it’s a strong sign they’ve moved on. 

The best thing you can do in this scenario is send a final message leaving the door open for future communication, while thanking them for their time. Remember, just because someone doesn’t become a customer right now, doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. 

They’re not excited to chat

Just like in a friendship or a relationship, you can sense when their behavior is off, or something is wrong. If an otherwise cheerful prospect starts saying things like:

  • Can I call you back?
  • I’m swamped. Do you mind reaching out next week?
  • I’m still keen! I’m just not in the right space to make a decision right now.

You know it’s time to focus your energies elsewhere. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, after all. As with all relationships, it’s best to put your efforts in with the people that want you around. If a customer is dodging you, it’s either that they aren’t interested or aren’t telling you the whole story—either one is terrible for moving forward with a sale.

They don’t have the money

According to The Richardson Selling Challenges Study, competing against low-price competitors is the biggest challenge for 48% of salespeople Many of the people that come through your pipeline may just be price-comparing or trying to find the number of quotes they need to satisfy internal processes. 

It’s essential to learn the difference between when people really don’t have the money or are just trying to drive prices down.That said, some companies genuinely won’t have the cash to pay for your product. Here are a few questions you can ask to help uncover if it’s worth it to move forward:

  • What’s your current budget to spend on this type of product?
  • To buy, would you need to receive funding, or is it about proving value to a superior?
  • If we changed billing terms or offered a discount, would this price be amenable to you?

Knowing the stage your prospect’s company is at and how that relates to your traditional buyers may also help you determine if it’s time to let go. If their expectations or needs don’t align with what you can provide, you’ve got to move on.

They won’t talk about the sale

Some people are lonely and use any opportunity to forge relationships with sales, support, and customer success employees—especially right now. Pay attention to what they talk about. Do they talk about the sale, or do they want to chat about what you did this weekend or other non-product-related topics? 

Shift the conversation back to the product and sale at hand. If it doesn’t stay there for long or the prospect seems reticent, it’s time to end the relationship. Even if they like you as a person, they’re never going to buy your product.

Your product isn’t beneficial for them

As much as we all love making sales, getting hit with a chargeback isn’t pretty. If you’re moving through the sales process and realize your product isn’t ideal for your customer’s needs, it’s better to move on than try to make the sale.

Instead of moving forward, you can acknowledge your product isn’t the best fit for the customer and work to advise them for alternative solutions. This level of honesty and assistance for your customers builds trust. They’ll think back on your company positively, instead of remembering you as the company that sold them a bill of goods.

You can also use it as an opportunity to ask for referrals. Dale Carnegie says that 91% of customers say they’d give referrals, but only 11% of salespeople ask for them. Get those extra leads!

You’re talking to the wrong person

In a typical firm with 100-500 employees, an average of 7 people are involved in most buying decisions. Suppose the person you’re talking to can’t introduce you to other stakeholders, has no insights into budget or decision criteria, and can’t talk about the company’s needs, desires, or pain points. In that case, you’re probably not talking to the decision-maker.

The good news is they’re probably one of those seven people who are part of the process, but they’re not the final person to give the go-ahead. The bad news: if you can’t find the last person that makes the calls, you should call it quits with this prospect. 

If your contact moves from using “I” language to using “We” language, they aren’t the sole decision-maker either. See if you can find the person that has the buying decision responsibilities, and if not, move on.

Your gut tells you to

It’s remarkable what intuition can tell us. According to Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner for his work on human judgment, the quick thought process associated with intuition enables us to anticipate serious threats and recognize promising opportunities. While it’s not always right, in moments where your gut speaks up incredibly loudly, it’s usually good to listen.

If you’ve run into none of the above situations, but there’s still something telling you to walk away, you should probably do it. No one wants a runaway bride situation, where you get right up to the point of contract signing, and something falls through. Trust yourself and your intuition.

Always be learning

Even if it hurts to put in a bunch of effort and have to walk away, there’s always an opportunity to learn. Every time you end a relationship with a prospect, take it as a chance to evaluate if there are things you could add to your prospecting process to screen out bad opps.

Pay attention to what your customers are saying. Most of the time, they’ll let you know it’s time to leave before you’re even thinking about it. How do they react when you reach out? Do they want to talk to you, do they want to talk about the sale? Does what you’re selling meet any of their needs? 

Maybe it does, but they don’t have the money, or perhaps they aren’t the right person to make the decision. Learn to listen and trust your gut. Learn and grow from the things that go wrong so that you can make changes in real-time moving forward.

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