FIRE Your Prospect!

Voicemail. Email. More voicemail. A few more emails. Wondering what is going on. Making excuses in your mind why the prospect is not calling you back. Talking with your manager about all the possible scenarios as to why the deal you have been working on (and forecasting) has not closed. More email. Maybe another voicemail. Complete exasperation. Staring at your CRM and pipeline wondering, Will you ever be able to mark this deal as closed?

Does this sound familiar? It’s the sound of the frustrated sales rep. We have all been there. Every sales rep on the planet has been there. It can be a frequent trip, and there are no frequent flier miles for that one!

Maybe it’s time you fired your prospect. Yes, I said “fired.” Shocked? Don’t be. It happens all the time and maybe it should happen more. It happens when we as sales professionals do everything we can to close the order. All of the right things have happened. The buying signals have been strong. Contracts submitted. According to our prospects, we are just “waiting for the signature.” Days turn to weeks. Weeks turn to months. We don’t know what to do. So as a final gesture we call the prospect and say something that might sound like “I have not heard from you, so I am assuming you are no longer interested in our offering. I am withdrawing the offer as we agreed. Good luck to you and I truly wish you the best. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you.”

Whoa! A sales rep challenging the prospect to stand up and deliver! The audacity! The temerity of that rep! Then guess what happens? The prospect might call and bring the deal back to life! It happens every day. I have done this, and I have coached my reps and managers to do it. It can be liberating. We have closure and we can move on.

You essentially fired your prospect, who…responded!

Sales is a two-way street. It involves a genuine and honest sales professional dealing with a genuine and honest prospect. It means a relationship has been built so that should the prospect go radio silent, we know why. We owe the prospect everything we can to conduct a credible sales campaign. The prospect owes us the respect to communicate the intentions.

Friends, think about this the next time you have a situation like what I have described. If you decide to take the step of firing your prospect, be sure you follow these steps: Be polite, be sensitive, and be professional and thankful for their time. Do not be antagonistic. Watch your tone of voice, be confident, and be ready to walk away. Take the high road, and keep your head held high.

Whatever you decide, do not burn the bridge that the prospect needs to walk back across to meet you. The reasons he or she went silent may have nothing to do with you or the sales campaign. It may be a personal or an unrelated reason. Give the prospect the chance to explain and meet you on the bridge.

Todd Cohen is the principal of Sales Leader, LLC, a speaking and consulting firm focused on growing sales through sales culture. Visit for more information.

11 thoughts on “FIRE Your Prospect!”

  1. Great point and very true… sometimes you have to be willing to walk away, be confident and have enough in the pipe to take its place…

  2. Todd,

    Great article. If a prospect is interested and has a need, this type of response can help the sellers position and move the process along. If the potential customer does not have an interest, you still benefit by not spending more of your valuable time as a sales person chasing a non-existent opportunity.

  3. Todd, great article and great advice. It always good to let the client know where you are coming from. As long as you are professional about it, you can maintain the long term relationship.

  4. Todd,
    I found this to be great advice and I am now using it to my advantage. I also am using your advice regarding picking up the phone more and sending fewer e-mails. It’s much easier for someone to say ‘not interested’ via e-mail, but harder to do when they have a live, friendly voice on the other end. Your rock.
    [email protected]

  5. Noelle Lambert


    This could not have came at a better time. I am having this issue with about 10 of my prospects.

    Thank you!

  6. Great article. I’ve done the “fall on the sword” tactic (eg- Haven’t heard from you, can’t help but think I’ve offended you). But I like straight forward word track above. Great reminder not to burn any bridges, too. Thanks, Todd!

  7. Great article. The bigger issue is that we often use this as an excuse to stop or slow activity. Or, if our activity is low, hold closely to the deals that MUST go through. Keeping our activity high just presents more opportunities and we get better at what we do the more we do it.

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