Strictly Sales Episode 2: Breaking Up with Bad Sales Leads

Nothing can sap your productivity like chasing a bad lead who is never going to close. In this episode of “Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman” you’ll learn how to sniff out the tire kickers and kick them to the curb before they waste your time.

In our first episode of “Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman” we dove into how to navigate one of the biggest hurdles salespeople face — office gatekeepers. This time around, Jeff sets his sites on a different target standing in the way of higher close rates — tire kickers, aka bad leads who will never close. Listen in to learn how to spot these productivity-sappers fast, and the best way to break up with them so you can move on to greener pastures.
There are two steps to breaking up with bad sales leads: First, you have to clearly identify that the lead is actually one that isn’t worth your time. Second, you have to end the sales process with them carefully so that they don’t react poorly. If you manage both steps smoothly, there is still the opportunity to make contact with someone else in that same company.
Ready to ditch your bad leads and focus your time on the ones with real potential to close? Listen in to the podcast below.

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Key Takeaways

  • Three signs you need to dump your dead-end lead: He or she uses the pronoun “we” instead of “I” [2:10]; they don’t seem genuinely passionate about their job [2:40]; they don’t seem to be very busy when it comes to work within the company [3:16]
  • Once you notice these signs you need to stop pushing and give them the responsibility to move forward. That puts the impetus on them and, at the same time, you don’t look like you are the one ending the process. [4:50]

“The easiest way to break up with [bad leads] is to give them responsibility to move the ball forward. Ninety-nine out of a hundred tire kickers will never call me…because they’re really not interested, because they really don’t have any authority, because they really don’t want to do this. Doesn’t that now free me to call other people in the organization?”

— Jeff Hoffman, M. J. Hoffman and Associates


Announcer: This is Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman and CeCe Bazar. For more information, go to OpenView Labs or
CeCe: Hi again, everyone, and thanks so much for joining us for Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman. We were so excited to kick off our series last time, where we talked a lot about gatekeepers and how to leverage them and had such great responses from everyone. So thank you so much. Keep those questions coming.
Last time we were talking a lot about how to get into a company, and people loved it. I heard the BDRs sitting in our office using a lot of these tactics. It was great to hear them actually be able to get through and talk to the person that they wanted to talk to.
Jeff: Outstanding.
CeCe: But now, people want to know about how to get out. So let’s talk about breaking up with your prospects, especially those “tire kickers,” who are eating up your time.
Jeff: That can be equally as painful, particularly when you realize, “Wow, this is a great opportunity in this company. I am with the wrong person or worse than the wrong person.” You know, it’s one thing if the wrong person is rude. That’s easy. But what happens when the wrong person is really interested and loves to take up your time, and all that rapport-building that you were so eager to do is working? It’s just working on the wrong person. How do you handle it? So I think there are some things you can do pretty quickly to help with that. But first, ask yourself:  Are you certain that you want to break up with them? Because breaking up is probably permanent when you do it.
CeCe: How do you know?
Jeff: How do you know?
CeCe: I mean, we talk about it in real life. Now, we’re talking about it in sales. Is it when you know, you know? Or how does that work here?
Jeff: I think there is a bit of that, you know, when you know, you know. But, you know, there are some tell-tale signs that I always look for. I’m very keen on how people refer to themselves using pronouns. So when people are quick to use a plural pronoun to describe themselves, it’s a warning sign for me. So, you know, someone says things like, “Well, you know, we’re really thinking about,” or, “It would be great if we could.” And the “we” is just them in the room. That’s really them diverting responsibility and ownership and authorship. That makes me a little bit nervous, like, “Oh, do I really have the right person here?”
I always look for answers to questions around things like . . . I like to do a lot of conversations early in a sales call around their background, and I like to share my background with them because people find that interesting. I’ll say, you know, “How long have you worked here? Why’d you choose to come to OpenView, CeCe?” By me saying “choose,” I actually just like planted a little word in your head that you had a choice. I look for your answer. If you come back at me with how great your firm is and this is an exciting place to be, well that’s taking a great deal of pride in where you work, and that’s a good sign, even if you don’t have a great title. That’s someone you might be able to work with. If you took the answer, “Why’d you choose to work here, CC,” and said, “Well it’s a short commute, and they have really good free lunch,” I’d take that as a bad sign.
CeCe: Which is true, but . . .
Jeff: Which is true. You know, the other thing, too, is I’m always aware of how they are with their calendar. Does it look like I’m sandwiched between a lot of meetings? Because I want to be. I want to be with people who are popular in their company.
People who are not popular in their company are not deal . . . they’re not going to be rule breakers. They’re not going to be champions. So I look for a lot of variety of things. I rarely use someone’s title or role or seniority as the benchmark on if I think they are wasting my time or not. That I don’t do.
CeCe: No. I think you bring up a really good point, because we talk about champions a lot, and, you know, I think they get kind of pigeon-holed in this, “Oh, they’re a lower-level person, and they’re going to be the ones using your technology.” Yes, that might all be true, but they’re not the quiet ones. They are popular, and they are the ones whose opinion matters, especially to the executive team.
Jeff: Amen. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in sales is to tether in someone’s title to your assessment of where they fit in the organization. In fact, whenever people tell me their titles, I generally move right past it. I say, “What’s your role? What are you responsible for?” Because that’s far more interesting to me than what your internal title is.
CeCe: And you get a lot more information from that anyway.
Jeff: For sure. All right. So let’s say I’ve got to a place where I think that I want to break up with this person. Well, the first thing I do, when I realize that, is I want to break up with them immediately. If I’m at minute 6 of a 30-minute demo call, I’m breaking up with them in minute 6, because to do anything else, I think, is disrespectful to the other person. So if I don’t want to go out with you, let’s do that now. Let’s not hang around together for half an hour.
So once I’ve realized that, usually I’ll interrupt wherever we are, and I’ll say something like this, “Well, CeCe, you know, actually you’re asking a variety of questions that I think have to be answered before we continue this demo, because I get it. I get why you’re asking why, how our product works with the following other technologies and how it would fit in when you actually decide to implement. I want to make sure we check off those boxes, or this demo’s going to be crazy.” So I’m really glad you asked. Are you in front of your computer?
CeCe: Oh, yeah. No. I’m here right now.
Jeff: Okay. Excellent. I’m going to send you an email right now, and it’s going to have two documents in it. One is a white paper on our product, and the other is an implementation guide. It’s about 12 pages long. It talks about how we actually implement. Hold on one second. Let me send it. All right. Did you get it?
CeCe: Yep. I see it right here.
Jeff: Okay. This is what I want to do. I want you to take a look at those documents, particularly the implementation guide. And I’m going to give you my cell phone number right now. It’s 617 . . .
CeCe: All right. Let me grab a pen.
Jeff: Great.
CeCe: 617.
Jeff: Yep. 968.
CeCe: Okay.
Jeff: XXXX. I realize this podcast goes out to lots of people. I almost gave out my cell phone. XXXX. And as soon as you finish the implementation guide, I want you to call me, without even having an appointment just call me directly on my cell phone. I will take your call, and then we can talk about setting up a demo. Is that okay?
CeCe: Sure. Yeah, that works for me.
Jeff: Okay, great. Great. I look forward to hearing from you. Click. All right. That sounded pretty friendly, I think.
CeCe: Absolutely.
Jeff: All right. It didn’t sound like I was breaking up with you.
CeCe: Nope, could have fooled me.
Jeff: Yeah, well, I broke up with you. Why? The easiest way to break up with people is to give them responsibility to move the ball forward to actually . . . I’m not going to move this. We are no longer advancing this relationship.
You, CeCe, you have homework to do. If we’re going to move forward, it’s going to be you reading a detailed white paper and calling me on my cell phone to continue onward. Ninety-nine out of a hundred tire kickers will never call me. But think about it. If they don’t call me, because they’re really not interested, because they really don’t have any authority, because they really don’t want to do this, well, doesn’t this now free me to call other people in the organization? Because I’m going to let you sit for a week.
You’re not going to call me. I’m going to call others, and if I ever come back, you’re going to say, “Hey, I have never heard from you, CeCe. I figured you weren’t interested. I never heard from you. My cell phone never rang.” It gives you this huge out when want to get around them.
CeCe: Absolutely. No. I mean, I think that’s huge, and especially when you’re early in your career in sales, you want to talk to everyone. And you know what? All the power to you. Go talk to as many people as you can, but you have to remember your time is valuable.
Jeff: Yep.
CeCe: And in order to be successful in this role, you have to keep that top of mind. I think we always are like, “Oh, you know what? Whatever works for you. Let me book this much time,” and someone’s late, and then you’re moving your whole schedule around. It’s bad form. So put the ball back in their court. I think it’s awesome.
Jeff: Absolutely. Let them come back. It didn’t sound like I was being mean or curt, or I didn’t want to talk to you anymore. I wasn’t making you feel bad, and I’m basically putting the onus on you. I’m saying, “Your questions are so wonderful. We’re stopping our meeting together.” That’s basically what I’m saying. But one out of a hundred, they do call. One out of a hundred, they surprise you. If they do, wonderful. Maybe you want to get back together with them.
CeCe: Right.
Jeff: Maybe they have enough interest that makes you think maybe this person has a deep need here. Maybe this person can be an influencer. Let’s find out. But like I said, it’s just nice and clean. I’ll write it in my notes in CRM on how I ended the call. I’m not done with this account, not even close. But I’m probably done calling that person.
CeCe: I mean, I think we talked about it before, Jeff. It’s the gives and the gets, and you got to get something before you give something.
Jeff: Amen.
CeCe: So there it is.
Jeff: That’s good. I think that breaking up is hard to do, but it really isn’t.
CeCe: Yeah. Well, thanks so much again for joining us today, Jeff. We’ll see you next time on our third episode of Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman. Take care.
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