We are a zealous bunch in sales, with beliefs that border on the superstitious when it comes to closing sales. One of the most damaging of these beliefs is that every lost client is a lost opportunity.
In truth, parting ways with a lead or client at the right time can be a huge opportunity, one that frees up resources for more valuable relationships to blossom. Cutting dead weight in your sales pipeline during lead qualification or client roster during a review can also mean a healthier system overall.
If you still hold great fear towards letting people go, consider the following concepts that could be the inspirational shot in the arm your organization needs to say “it’s just not working out.”
Beware the Sunk Cost Fallacy
Owning a high-mileage car is an exercise in risk management. On the one hand, you may have had it since you were 16 or found it on Craigslist for $800. On the other hand, you are facing a $2,600 transmission repair …again.
Many people weigh these costs against what they have already spent or the opportunities they have gained. “I have already invested three grand into this stupid car,” they think, “junking it now would be a waste.”
Except the opposite is true. Each decision should be weighed on its own merits — the benefits of saying yes versus the costs of saying no — because the money and time spent is already gone. Sinking more money into a literal non-starter does not somehow make that spent money in the past more useful if other opportunities — like eating the costs and getting a more reliable car — exist. And they usually do exist!
Such is the same with leads that have been nurtured, but go nowhere. You can’t get that time back. Decide instead what you stand to gain or lose in the future rather than holding proudly onto what was done in the past.
Consider Opportunity Costs
Basic economics theory talks about opportunity costs, the abstract benefits you miss out on when you make one decision as opposed to another. A traditional example is building a power plant; should something else like a fire station have gone there instead?
In sales, deciding to cling onto a non-producing lead or a dried up client means taking resources away that could be spent moving other people through the pipeline. Most critically, a sales pipeline is like an assembly line that needs inputs to keep it moving and operating effectively. When you ignore moving other people to the next stage, you lose the advantage you had in keeping them grouped together.
Think about it like a place that makes hamburgers from scratch: if you have rolls baking all the time, then you have fresh ones to use for recently grilled patties. However, if you have to start baking in the middle of a shift, then it doesn’t matter how many patties you can make at once because they have to wait on the more time-intensive input to come out of the oven.
Know What Lead Qualification Should Mean
The qualifying process is meant to make your job easier by helping you categorize leads according to their likelihood of buying and their unique persona considerations. A natural part of hand-picking the most qualified leads is rejecting others or putting them into the “maybe” pile.
When you instead cling onto leads in the vain hope that they will help boost your numbers, you leave tremendous opportunity costs on the table that could have lead to more lucrative activities. So never be afraid to simply leave someone with the following message: “Based on what I’ve heard from you, it doesn’t immediately seem like we would be a perfect fit for one another’s needs. If I am mistaken, or your needs change, or if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.”
You can also leave some sales content for them to chew on so that they are not feeling abandoned entirely, but in the meantime you move on to more productive activities. If you are worried that lead qualification may be just one problem in a generally suffering sales strategy, you can read our post on how to recover from sales failures or attend one of our sales strategy open workshops or webinars to learn more sales techniques from some of the best in the business.