Sales Leads: Are They Alive or Dead? Blog Feature
Steve Bookbinder

By: Steve Bookbinder on February 3rd, 2016

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Sales Leads: Are They Alive or Dead?

Sales Tips | leads

It’s impossible to turn every lead into a deal. However, aggressive salespeople are usually reluctant to let any lead die. Working dead leads takes time and energy away from working on live ones.

Just to complicate matters, sellers tend to assume that letting a dead sales lead go may signal incompetence or a lack of persistence in the mind of their sales manager, so they keep on trying to push the rock up the hill.

How do we know the real difference between live sales leads and dead ones?

Solving that riddle would maximize a salesperson’s efforts and give sales managers a little more peace of mind. It also reflects the difference between working “hard” and working “smart.”


Before letting a lead go by the wayside, here’s a four point test:

1. Does the lead have any real need for what you’re selling?

Just because the seller thinks there’s a need doesn’t mean that’s the case.

If there’s an identifiable and critical need, then it ought to show up in the value proposition and questions that the seller has prepared. If it’s terribly difficult to establish that “statement of need” then chances are strong that chasing this lead is a waste of time.

2. Have you identified for certain who can make the deal?

Let’s face it: a lead isn’t really alive until we’re connecting with the person who can say “yes.” It’s wishful thinking to assume that selling “someone else” will get the deal done. Simply assume that any lead that doesn’t have a decision maker in the mix as dead until that happens.

In B2B sales, working through the labyrinth of players to the key decision maker is often the most difficult part of making the sale.

3. Is it getting easier or harder to connect with them?

Assuming that the seller is in contact with the key decision maker, is the proximity to that person improving?

If the decision maker is truly engaged or even interested in the value proposition, his or her behavior will reflect that. Driving the deal requires the seller to keep getting the decision maker closer and more comfortable with what’s on the table.

If the deal isn’t moving forward, then it’s dying—and that includes if it’s standing still. Keeping leads alive and well means nurturing the decision maker’s comfort zone with the value proposition.

4. Do they keep asking endless questions and offering more excuses?

This may be a smokescreen for a dying deal. For a variety of reasons, decision makers may give a seller the “runaround” as opposed to simply saying, “we’re not interested.”

Even the best salespeople can delude themselves into thinking that the deal is moving forward when it really isn’t. If the feedback is repetitious, that’s not a good sign. If the reasons for “needing more time” seem conveniently contrived, the deal is probably dying.

Always pay close attention to the quality of feedback and the decision maker’s subsequent moves.

Ascertaining whether a given lead is dead or alive is absolutely critical to being successful in the B2B sales space. Don’t let “magical thinking” get in the way of having a clear-eyed assessment of the status of every lead that’s in play.

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About the Author


Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

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About Steve Bookbinder

Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.

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