Hope springs eternal for most salespeople. I’ve been to too many sales meetings where salespeople repeat week after week, “This deal is going to close soon.” Yes, the word “soon” does mean different things to different people. My thought, when I hear this claim about deals closing soon, is “not likely.” How will you know when the deal you think will close really will or won’t? Here’s how to know when you can stop calling on a prospect.
1. Stop calling when your prospect misses deadlines.
Consider deadlines when you work with prospects. I would encourage you to never miss the deadlines you set. It’s a bad sign for your prospecting when prospects miss their deadlines.
Be sure you set deadlines that prospects can easily achieve. How do you do that? You don’t give a prospect a deadline. Instead, ask your prospect when he can accomplish the task. Your prospect is more likely to compete a task when he sets the time. You may wonder why this works.
There’s a persuasion principle of commitment and consistency. This principle says that people will do as much as possible to appear consistent about their words and actions. This principle is behind people publicly stating their goals. People are more likely to keep striving for their goals when they’ve stated them publicly. Let your prospects state their intentions. They are more likely to make those deadlines.
It’s a sure sign they lack commitment when prospects miss deadlines they set. Yes, there are extenuating circumstances that exist, like family emergencies or Covid 19. Consider the difficulty of the task as you evaluate whether you give a reprieve for the missed deadline or you have a danger sign.
It is a danger sign when your prospect misses a simple task. A more complicated one which requires other people’s input and effort might be more difficult to make the deadline. It’s your call as your rate the seriousness of the missed deadline. Just be sure you do assess what you are dealing with when a prospect misses a deadline.
2. Stop calling when your prospect breaks promises with you.
Missed deadlines are a form of broken promises. You have more evidence that you have problems with this prospect when your prospect makes specific statements of what he will do and then doesn’t do them.
Think about it. Your deal will move forward when your prospect keeps promises. Perhaps your prospect said he would introduce you to other key decision makers at his company. Then he doesn’t make the introductions. Your prospect may have agreed to complete a credit application, and then he doesn’t complete it. You may have asked during a sales call, “When should I follow-up with you?” Your prospect replies, “Monday”, but doesn’t return the phone call. He just broke a promise to you.
Prospects who break promises are unreliable. Even worse is that they are giving you a preview of what they are like to work with after the sale. I call unreliable customers high maintenance customers. Do you really want more high maintenance customers?
3. Stop calling when your prospect is misaligned with your ideal prospect.
What the first two situations may be showing you is that this prospect really isn’t an ideal prospect for you to pursue. You should have already determined the characteristics of your ideal prospect. Maybe you thought this prospect, although not truly ideal, would be close enough for you to pursue. Now on further examination, it just might be that he is farther from ideal than you though. Determine how far or close to ideal this prospect truly is. It’s time to stop calling on a misaligned prospect.
Yes, there are some cases where there is a good reason for the delay or a broken promise. In most cases, the prospect’s real intention of never moving forward is the cause of the delay. Yes, you can continue to hope for a signed contract and a closed deal. I’m more of a believer in reality. Coco Chanel was right when she said, “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” I say, “In sales, move on.”