When Should You Dismiss a Sales Lead?

male scrolling through sales leads on tablet at coffee shop

So, you’ve developed a solid marketing plan, and you’re feeling good about your strategy. Now you’re ready to see how your prospects react to your game plan. You then meet two types of sales leads: the qualified and the non-qualified.

The next step is pretty simple when it comes to marketing qualified leads, you either nurture them or try to close them. But what about unqualified leads? To be perfectly blunt, if pursuing a non-qualified lead means ending up risking more than what you can gain, then it’s probably a wise decision to walk away from that particular prospect.

Signs a Lead Isn’t Worth Pursuing

Stop Sign

Situation 1: The Buyer Does Not Have the Means to Purchase

Some leads simply don’t have the appropriate resources to take advantage of your product or service. In contrast, others are mum about budget information, afraid that revealing it too early might preempt your best offer. So, how can you tell the difference?

Generally, you can tell if a client is serious by the amount of work into the process. Do they show up for meetings? Do they involve other stakeholders? If none of these things are true, they may simply be on a fishing expedition and don’t have the intention or the means to purchase. In situations such as these, it’s usually best to walk away as amicably as possible.

Situation 2: They Don’t Have the Authority

Unless you have identified the person who calls the shots, you might be expending unnecessary time, effort, and resources trying to make your sales pitch to someone who can’t buy it. There’s no point trying to sell to any other person from the organization other than the decision-makers, or at least, the influencers. At the end of the day, it’s only their input that really matters. Speak to the right people or keep asking for an introduction.

Situation 3: The Client’s Needs and Your Solutions Don’t Match

When you see a disconnect between what the customer needs and what you can offer, resist the temptation to submit a bid. Otherwise, the odds are excellent that the customer won’t be interested in your offer. Effective targeting is key to optimizing your lead generation process.

Situation 4: The Return Isn’t Worth It

Ideally, businesses should be able to reduce cost per acquisition. Whether you like it or not, some leads are harder to win and require too much effort to maintain. If you’re a small enterprise, you might be better off focusing your attention on making profitable relationships with less demanding customers than clients who require high maintenance.

Situation 5: There’s No Clear Buying Timeframe

Timelines vary widely by industry, so you must know the general time-to-purchase framework of your prospects. Getting your lead to commit to a specific timeline may be a challenge, but you’ll need that information to help you decide if your lead needs nurturing or if it’s time for you to move on to your next prospect.

The Art of Saying “No”

Just Say No

One cannot overemphasize how hard it is to say no to someone, much less a prospective customer. But remember, trying to force a sale that isn’t a good fit to begin with, almost always yields negative results sooner or later.

Here are some tips to politely dismiss a non-qualified lead when you encounter one:

  1. Hear Them Out

Your customers will be more appreciative knowing that you’re trying to make room for their requests instead of shutting them out entirely. Customers expect to be treated fairly and to be heard out, but once you’ve determined whether or not they’re a good fit, don’t lead them on endlessly. Simply outline why this may not make sense at the moment and emphasize that if things change, you’d love to speak with them down the road.

  1. Tell Them What You Can Actually Do

Focus on the solutions you can provide rather than on the prospect’s particular problem. Show them how you might help, but don’t make any promises that are beyond your current ability. This shows your sincere intention to be of service while outlining your capabilities.

  1. Be Honest and Helpful

If you have to decline a customer’s request, be as tactful as possible and do it with all sincerity. If you’re not the right person or business to go to, perhaps you could offer some recommendations, alternatives, or other helpful insights to guide the prospect onward. You never know when an act of generosity will bring a prospect back into your fold even years later.

  1. Express Gratitude

Simply because you’re not the right fit at the moment doesn’t mean you should give the prospect the cold shoulder. Apologize that you can’t be of service and thank the prospect sincerely for their interest.

  1. Be an Expert Not a Know-It-All

Assert your expert opinion without patronizing when clients make unreasonable demands or decisions that you know are bound to be problematic. Stay calm and within your abilities. Don’t let yourself be dragged off course by an overly demanding client. Be patient and excuse yourself with as much grace as possible if your expert opinions are not heeded.

How Many Leads Should You Be Dismissing?

Knowing when to pursue a lead and when to let it go is a craft that all sales teams should master. Watch out for telltale signs that indicate if a customer is actively seeking to do business with you. But, at the same time, don’t simply ignore customers who do not seem to be potentially suitable for your current sales and marketing efforts.

At the end of the day, burning bridges is never a good idea. You never know when an old prospect will turn back up in a new role or under different circumstances. Make sure that they remember your earlier interaction positively, and you never know how things will turn out.