One of the most difficult things salespeople do is appraise a prospect’s level of interest and likelihood to close. We’re constantly juggling priorities and trying to figure out what to focus on to give ourselves the best chance to close new business. Deciding whether you’re dealing with an actual buyer or not can be tricky, because we don’t want to waste our (limited) time, but we also don’t want to turn our backs on a potential deal.
So can you tell when a prospect isn’t one you should spend too much time with?
It’s not as easy as you might think, because people have different personalities. For instance: a person who seems like they’re reluctant to move forward may just be shy or contemplative. But there are certain telltale signs that are usually reliable, and you can use them to help make a decision if you’re having doubts. So the next time you’re talking to a prospect and they do one of more of the following things, you might want to take a step back and reassess.
1. You catch them in a lie
While everyone tells a white lie from time to time, a prospect who tells you something that turns out to be untrue can signal a problematic relationship. To be sure, not all lies are created equal. There are people who love to embellish and tell made-up stories – some of which are very entertaining. But it’s when you get into lies that affect the deal that things can get hairy. When this happens, it’s perfectly fine to ask for clarification, just don’t ignore obvious signs of deception, because if you’re being lied to, there’s a good chance there’s no deal to be had anyway.
2. They ask you to do something unethical/illegal
Sometimes the “great idea fairy” visits a prospect and they come up with some harebrained scheme that they try to get you involved in. It happens more often than you might think, especially when there’s money on the line. Not only should you not do it, you should strongly consider ending the entire business relationship, since these people might end up being more trouble than they’re worth. No amount of money is worth throwing your reputation down the tubes, and there’s always another deal just around the corner.
3. They’re constantly evasive
Again, some people might seem evasive because of their communication style or personality. But when it’s clear that they’re actively trying to avoid giving you the full picture, or continuously steering the discussion away from the questions you need to ask, it’s very likely that you’re dealing with deception, or, at a minimum, not dealing with a viable prospect. There are only a few reasons why someone needs to be evasive, and none of them end up with you closing a deal. Don’t be afraid to politely call someone out when they’re not willing to do the bare minimum it takes to get a deal done.
4. They treat you with contempt
While this doesn’t necessarily mean someone is lying, it does mean that you probably can’t trust them enough to work on a deal together. Sometimes it’s personal, and sometimes people simply don’t respect salespeople, or think too highly of themselves to treat others with respect. Either way, how can you expect someone who has contempt for you to do what’s necessary to get a deal over the finish line? We want to please our costumers and make them like us, but there has to be a line in the sand that people can’t cross, otherwise they’ll just walk all over you.
5. Something just doesn’t feel right
You don’t need to believe in ghosts or astrology to understand that gut feeling counts for a lot. Have you ever felt uneasy when dealing with someone in your personal or professional life? How often has that instinct steered you wrong? This doesn’t mean you should hang up the phone when someone gives you the creeps. It just means you should pay attention to your instincts and be extra careful when something seems “off.” In the best case scenario, you’ll be proven wrong and everything will be fine; in the worst, you’ll be prepared when things don’t go as planned.
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