4 Simple Strategies to Professionally Move On

The challenge with sales, well one of the challenges, is that no matter how much googling, research or asking around you do, you never know how qualified a prospect really is until you have an actual conversation with them.

We have all been there, we have done our due diligence, put in the time, only to find out in that first call that this prospect is not really a fit. Perhaps their decision making process is too cumbersome, their investment limits too low, or their idea of “personal service” too intense.

Whatever the reason, you are out there on a limb. This prospect is interested and you do not want to pull the trigger. You know that doing business with them would not be good for you or your company. Now what do you do? How do you broach the subject without making the prospect mad, without insulting them or worse, losing the chance to do business with them down the road? How do you professionally “move on?

Years ago, I was a banker. Working for a financial institution that was well, let’s just say ‘conservative.’ Sometimes, I would start working with a prospect, only to find out that due to our underwriting requirements, our credit limits or their high tolerance for risk, they were not a good fit.

How uncomfortable was that? My prospect was interested. I had gotten them to this point and then I realized I did not want to do business with them – right now. I had become the professional equivalent of a tease.

People talked, we were in a small town and reputation was everything. I had to find a way to “move on” from these prospects while still ensuring they felt taken care of. I needed them to see their needs were met, but not necessarily by me.

In other words, I had to learn how to get rid of my prospects and professionally move on. In today’s economy, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. And that certainly is true when it comes to moving on from a prospect. The ‘how’ is all about the service people get, the experience they have, and the way they feel.

Here are four strategies to get rid of a prospect and professionally move on:

  1. Understand the Problem

First and foremost, listen intently and get a clear understanding of what your prospect’s issues are. Determine why you are not the right fit to meet their needs. A few years ago, I was the closing keynote for a CEO event. At the end, one CEO approached me about doing some sales training for his team. I learned that his company was doing well, his team was engaged, and they were ready to take it another level. He seemed like my perfect prospect, at this point.

His budget was perfect, and he was more than willing to invest in my services. This could not get better. Could not get better that is, until I learned his greatest challenge. It turned out, at his wife’s request, he hired his brother-in-law. He was, at best, dead weight. My prospect informed me that while he was willing to do most things I ask, he was not willing to touch his brother-in-law.

In that moment, after all that conversation, after how excited I had been, I realized this CEO was no longer my prospect. Not only were his problems and challenges outside my scope, I had no interest in that type of work. But, I understood the problem. I had the information I needed to take care of this prospect.

  1. Make the Connection

Just because your prospect does not meet your requirements, does not mean they do not meet someone else’s. If you want to get rid of a prospect and move on professionally, you need to connect them with someone else.  Once I realized my prospect was no longer for me, I connected him with a colleague who specialized in that type of “drama.”

  1. Follow-up

With the connection made, it is a nice touch to follow-up. Ensure your former prospect is well taken care of and their needs are met. No matter which professional ultimately does the work, prospects remember who helped them.

Once my colleague started working with “my prospect,” I did a quick reach out. Things were fantastic. My colleague was diving in and navigating the difficult issues of dealing with family and non-performers. We had a great conversation, and I let my prospect know I would keep in touch.

  1. Keep in Touch

Just because a prospect does not qualify right now, does not mean they will not down the road. That is why you want to keep in touch. Remember, they now see you as someone who helped them, rather than as someone who did not want to do business with them.

Eighteen months to the day I had met my prospect, I reached out to see how things were going. He had made amazing progress. His brother-in-law resigned and his new sales leader was doing amazing work. He asked if we could get together for lunch, and that led to a two-year contract.  Now that his family issues were handled, my “non-prospect” turned into a qualified customer.

Sales is far more art than science, and nothing about it is black and white. Finding the right prospects, and having the courage to walk away from the wrong ones takes experience and skills. I would love to hear your stories, your strategies, and what you do to “professionally move on” from a prospect.