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Tire-kickers in sales: Who are they and how to avoid them?

Don’t you just hate it when someone eats all your time for nothing? 

Now imagine, this happens to you while you try to make a sale. And it’s none other than your prospect who’s wasting your time by asking too many questions (not necessarily useful). And sadly, has not made up their mind to make a purchase.  

There’s a special name for such prospects in sales, and that’s what we’re going to learn in this article. 

Who are tire-kickers in sales and how do they look like? 

A tire-kicker is a prospect who seems interested in making a purchase but never makes a buying decision. Tire-kickers frequently engage with the sales teams, asking questions and raising objections, prolonging the sales process without committing to a deal. 

The term “tire-kicker” is a reference to a customer going into a car dealership and kicking tires for several cars, thus establishing their interest, and then leaving without ever buying a car. 

It may seem like a small issue in the world of sales, but it hampers the overall productivity of your team to a great extent. Once a week, Salesmate’s social team covers important sales terminologies on LinkedIn. We covered this issue a few days back.

Tire-kickers are the worst fit for your product or service, but perfect for wasting your time. These leads drive you nowhere while taking up most of your time with unnecessary bickering. 

However, as much as it’s important to avoid these tire-kickers, it’s not always easy to spot them. 

Every new prospect starts their sales journey by gathering a lot of information on your product/service, asking questions that are important to them. They try to understand how your product/service can be beneficial to them. 

So, in a way, every prospect can seem like a tire-kicker at the beginning of the sales process

In many instances, you may think you are dealing with a potential customer when in actuality, they are just some troublesome tire-kickers who prolong your sales process unnecessarily. 

Here’s why tire-kickers are bad for your sales: 

  • They waste your time while taking advantage of your professional knowledge 
  • Throw off your sales metrics 
  • Hinder you from investing your time in more important and profitable tasks and prospects 

Working with every lead that walks into your pipeline can seem to be a good way to increase your sales, however, dealing with tire-kickers will drain your energy while preventing you from making any profit. 

Hence, quality over quantity

According to data says that more than 50% of your initial prospects will be a bad fit for what you sell. The study suggests that 71.4% of the sales reps think that less than half of their prospects are good leads. 

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This insight suggests that you don’t have to try and close every prospect in front of you, because more than half of the time, it’s going to be a bad lead. 

So, it’s important to adopt a ‘no tire-kickers’ policy by spotting them and marking them beforehand, so that you don’t waste your time over a lost cause. 

Let’s see how you can identify these trouble-makers in your sales pipeline. 

How to identify tire-kickers? 

Ever been to a shopping mall and came back empty-handed? Don’t kid yourself, you know we’ve all been there. 

We all enjoy window-shopping every once in a while. This way, we have all been tire-kickers at some point in our lives. More than we would like to admit 😉 

Since we have all done this, we can relate to it and try to understand what typical tire-kickers act like. 

Here are some of the characteristics of a person who seems like a prospect but will end up wasting your precious time: 

  • They ask a lot of questions 
  • They raise a lot of objections 
  • They haggle over the prices 
  • They are reluctant to move the deal forward 

It’s essential to look for the giveaways early in the sales process so that you don’t give away too much of your time in dealing with a tire-kicker. Instead, once you identify a tire-kicker, you should leave them be and move towards a potential client. 

The first step into identifying these tire-kickers is looking for signs. For example, excessive chit-chat is a common tire-kicker behavior. 

Another sign is that they ask too many questions, not only about the product. Service that you are selling, but also about your personal life. These tire-kickers are typical gossipers. 

Although, sharing a thing or two about your personal life can sometimes help you nurture a good relationship with your clients, but tire-kickers will have opinions on everything and they’d use it to elongate the conversation- leading nowhere. 

In addition to being the time wasters, tire-kickers often display the following characteristics: 

1. They don’t fit your ideal buyer’s persona 

The very first step into identifying a tire-kicker is by filtering them according to your ideal buyer’s persona. Every business has a specific target audience, and it’s important that the sales reps qualify each lead by segmenting each customer accordingly. 

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself while qualifying your new leads: 

  • Are they in the industry or territory that you’re targeting? 
  • Do they fit the demographics of the targeted persona? 
  • Does your product/ service fulfil their needs? 

If the answers to these questions are no, then that particular lead doesn’t fit the buyer’s persona that you and your team have set. Which means they are not worth your time. 

This is the simplest way to tell tire-kickers from real prospects. 

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2. They haven’t done proper research on the sales solution they need 

In the time of the internet, everyone is well-informed, especially the buyers. They research a lot before making a buying decision, or even before reaching out to a solution provider. 

This is true for B2B and B2C companies alike. 

Research done by Gartner found out that when B2B buyers are actually considering a purchase, they only spend 17% of their time meeting with solution providers, and 45% of their time doing independent research.

This means that your leads must be well-informed about your business and how it can cater to their needs. 

Then comes the cold leads, who are completely disinterested in your business from the start. It takes time to educate these leads about your business properly and convert them. 

However, if there’s a lead that shows interest in your business, but isn’t well-read about it, then it isn’t hard to tell that they are just kicking tires and are about to kill your time. 

3. They don’t have the budget 

Tire-kickers often come up with budget objections, indicating that they are not interested in making a purchase. They are compelled to get the lowest price possible even when they are not ready to buy.  

Tire-kickers often aren’t aware of what a particular product or a service should cost, since they lack enough research (and the will to buy!). Hence, their budget would never realistically accommodate the product they are enquiring about. 

“A price objection isn’t real until the customer has brought it up twice.”- Geoffrey James 

When the prospect first raises an objection saying “it’s too expensive”, try using this response: 

“I hear you. The best products are often more expensive.” 

Giving a response such as this will help you segregate the customers that are really low on budget but are willing to buy from those who are just kicking tires. 

It’s easier to sell to someone who has the budget and the authority to spend. These are the prospects you should be spending more time on. 

In case, the prospect isn’t really a tire-kicker, but honestly has a low budget, just tell them this: 

“Given what you’ve told me about your budget, I don’t think this product is the right fit for you.” 

Then you can provide them with some free tools or resources to help them until they are ready to make the purchase. Just because they aren’t a good fit right now doesn’t mean they won’t be a good fit in the future. 

4. Their need isn’t urgent 

While you try to understand whether your services fit the prospect’s needs, it’s also important to know how urgent their need is. 

  • Are they highly motivated to solve it? 
  • Do they have a timeline for when the problem should be solved? 
  • Is there any other issue or initiative that might compete for their attention and decision-making capital? 

If the prospect doesn’t show a willingness to act upon the need right away, then they might not be ready to work with you or buy your product/ service. 

How to differentiate between tire-kickers and potential customers? 

It can sometimes be difficult to tell if a promising prospect is a tire-kicker or simply decision-averse. Some prospects take a longer time to close the deal just because they are afraid of making the wrong purchase despite their needs being urgent. 

Here’s a table explaining the key differentiators between a genuine prospect and a tire-kicker, so that you don’t push away a good sales lead just because they need some more nurturing than the rest in your pipeline.

Differentiate between tire-kickers and potential customers

The most successful salespeople are those who walk away from customer relationships if they are not a good fit for their product/ service. They kick the tire-kickers out of their sales pipeline as soon as possible and invest their time in nurturing quality leads

How to avoid tire-kickers? 

Once you are clear that the prospect you are dealing with is a tire-kicker, it’s essential that you push them out of your pipeline as soon as possible, and focus on deals that have higher chances to get closed. 

Of course, each prospect needs to be treated differently, however, there are a few strategies that you can use in general to keep your time from wasting by the hands of the tire-kickers. 

Here are 5 tricks that can be used to keep tire-kickers out of your sales funnel and remove the ones who are stuck there without making a purchase: 

1. Identify early by establishing context 

You, as a sales rep, can ask as many questions as you want, as long as they are relevant. So, when a prospect gets over-critical, you can ask more questions to find out what they really want. You can start out with these basic ones to understand their needs better: 

  • Where do they work? 
  • What’s their job role? 
  • What does that role entail? 
  • What are their challenges? 
  • What are the current solutions they are using, if any? 

You can ask more questions to understand what they want to accomplish and why are they looking into your product/ service. Such open-ended questions can help you realize where the prospect stands in the sales funnel, and what their real intentions are with you. 

If you feel they are just kicking tires, you can get straight to the point and eliminate them from your sales pipeline. 

Here’s a statement you can make to make sure you don’t waste any more time on a deal that leads nowhere: 

“I suppose you are still pretty early in the process. At this moment, what is it that I can provide you with and help you add value to make your decision?” 

This kind of statement helps you determine the prospect’s real interest, giving some meaning to the conversation that can later lead to a fruitful deal. 

2. Establish fit by matching customer profile 

As stated earlier, your ideal customer persona can help you determine what kind of prospects are successfully converted into paying clients and which ones can be counted out as tire-kickers. 

If you can, use this to determine a tire-kicker early in the process so that you don’t waste any of your time on them. 

For starters, you can add a couple of questions relating to your ideal customer persona in the lead-generating web forms on your website, thus establishing the fact that only genuine inbound leads get through into your sales pipeline. 

This saves your time and energy manyfold as you eliminate most of the tire-kickers before they can even connect with you. 

3. Take control of the conversation 

A deal favors the side that takes control of the conversation. 

Some prospects talk forever, so don’t just sit there listening to them. Instead, take the lead and make the conversation flow in the direction you want. 

You can interrupt them politely by asking relevant questions to understand their needs. 

For example, you can say: 

“I’m sorry, what was your role again? I must have missed it during the conversation.” 

Such a remark can bring the conversation to the starting point from where you can take the charge of it and make the sale happen (or let the prospect go). 

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4. Make sure you’re talking to the decision-maker 

Take an instance where you work at a grocery store. A child comes to the counter with a chocolate bar that he likes, and says he would like to take it home. Do you think you’ll sell that chocolate to him without the permission of his mother? 

We think not. 

In the same way, if you are not talking to someone who has the authority to make a decision, you cannot make the sale happen. 

As a salesperson, your job is to talk to someone who will purchase your product. If you are talking to a researcher, then getting an introduction to the decision-maker will help you present a refined sales pitch to someone who will make the purchase. 

This will save your time and shorten the sales cycle.

The easiest way to get through to a decision-maker over the call? Ask for it. 

If the prospect isn’t willing to pass you to a decision-maker, chances are they are just kicking the tire, and aren’t worth your time. 

5. Know when it’s time to get a hard yes or no 

If you are in sales, it’s impossible that you haven’t heard of the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 principle. The principle states that in sales, 20% of the work drives 80% of your results. 

Our point is, focus on the 20% that matters. 

Instead of grinding over slow buyers and tire-kickers, apply the principles of persuasion on the prospects that have higher chances to get converted. 

Practice enough to show your authority to demonstrate that you are only interested in talking to someone who takes quick and hard decisions. 

Try to present some use cases from your past sales and ask the prospects if they can relate to those. If not, then break up with them, but keep the door open for any future opportunities. 

Here are some good examples of phrases that can get you a straight answer when it’s time: 

“I know your time is valuable, and I don’t want to waste it if I cannot help you. Do you foresee your team applying this solution in the [amount of time of your average sales cycle]? 

“With the information that you’ve shared with me, I don’t think this product/ service is a good fit for you. However, I did some digging and found out [alternative solutions that might be a better match for them] might be a good fit for you right now.” 

“It seems like you are having some trouble making progress with this solution to your problem. If you can [get the budget approved, schedule a meeting with the decision-maker, etc.] by next week, then we can move forward with the deal. If not, then I guess this isn’t the right time for us to work together.” 

These responses allow you find pick out tire-kickers from your sales pipeline while allowing space for a future sale. 

Can you convert tire-kickers into customers? 

Some tire-kickers lack enough persuasion towards making a decision.  

Depending on whether the tire-kickers is completely disinterested in buying or they are just fearful of making the wrong decision, one can understand if the tire-kicker can be converted into a buying customer. 

By understanding sales psychology, you can determine the reason why a prospect isn’t making the purchase- is it the fear of making the wrong decision, or is there something else hindering their process? 

While there’s a little chance to convert tire-kickers into buyers, you can still convert some who are just fearful of the wrong choice. 

For example, if a prospect is suffering from decision paralysis brought on by too many products, vendors, or price choices, but you know your product fits them the best, you can try and make efforts to clarify how your product benefits them. 

You can come up with a single, best-fit solution that can do the following for them: 

  • Increase their profit margin 
  • Improve their reputation in the market 
  • Help them establish a competitive edge 

Note: It’s important to spot tire-kickers early in the sales process, but remember that not every hesitant buyer is a lost cause. 

Final thoughts… 

Stop wasting time with tire-kickers and focus on the prospects that matter. 

Without hesitating, practice the steps stated above and pick out the tire-kickers that slow you down, and clean up your sales pipeline

Keeping your sales pipeline clean is essential to get accurate sales forecasts, and keep the process going smoothly in the future. 

Track your sales metrics to find out the tire-kickers easily before they waste your time. For example, knowing your average sales cycle can help you realize which prospects are taking longer than necessary to make the final decision. 

Set up the slow buyers in your pipeline for automated sales sequences, so that you don’t have to drain yourself over manual follow-ups for the deals that never seem to close. 

Parijat Lamba

Being an avid reader, Parijat developed a keen interest in writing at a very young age. She's passionate about topics like Spirituality, History, Psychology, and Philosophy. She's now a Product Specialist at Salesmate and strives to write her own novel someday.

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