Anyone who has ever sold for a living has encountered the following situation. You’re talking for the first time to Larry, a decision maker at ACME Tech, a company that you feel could potentially be a fit for your product or service. But almost before you get two words out of your mouth, Larry shuts you down by saying one of three things: 1. “We already have a supplier.” 2. “We’re not in the market right now.” 3. “We’re not interested.”

Many sales trainers would have you believe that this response from your “pre-prospect,” is merely an objection that can be overcome with the appropriate salesmanship. Not interested? No problem. Not in the market? No problem. Already have a supplier? No problem.

Well, actually, there is a problem. The problem is the reluctance of salespeople to walk away from a potential prospect that doesn’t want to become a prospect. Statements of disinterest are usually statements of fact, not objections. There are always exceptions to the rule but in general people mean what they say.

In my consulting and speaking work I am frequently asked the “What should I do when people say they’re not interested?” question by sales people. For my response, I harken back to my first boss in sales, Ray. He had the best, and simplest, answer to this question: “Go find someone who is (interested.)”

If you would like to be more methodical and analytical about how to respond to these statements from a potential prospect then you need to ask yourself two tough self-directed questions and be sure to give yourself completely honest answers.

Self-Directed Question #1: Is this customer a great fit for our product or service? Not a good fit, but a great fit. Do they fit the profile your company has established for the target customer for your product?

Self-Directed Question #2: Is the solution I’m selling clearly superior to the alternatives the customer is already using or could acquire in the near term? Set aside your corporate loyalty for a minute and give an honest answer here.

Simply put, would this company be substantially better off if they adopted your product or service? And, secondly, are you better than the other guys? In similar situations, with similar customers, have you reliably beaten the competition?

If you answer either question incorrectly, you run the very real risk of investing your most precious and limited resource, your selling time, in the pursuit of a customer who will never buy from you. Think of all the other sales opportunities you’ll have to forgo in order to work on this one.

These are not easy questions for most salespeople to answer. Sales professionals typically are confident people and thrill to the challenge of the chase. They would like to believe a) that the solution they sell is superior to all of the others, and if it isn’t, b) they are such great salespeople they can convince the customer to engage anyway. However, we all know that isn’t the case. This is a risky bet. As the old expression goes, there are horses for courses. Sometimes, the horse isn’t yours.

What should you do after “We’re not interested?” Find a prospect that is interested and worth the investment of your time. Remember that, as a salesperson, the biggest constraint you face in selling is the limited amount of time you possess to sell. Squander your sales time trying to convince a reluctant “pre-prospect” to talk with you and you will find yourself short of time to develop the real prospects that will ultimately buy from you.


Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A frequent speaker, Andy conducts workshops and consults with B2B sales teams of all sizes and shapes to teach them how to sell more by selling faster. Sign up for our monthly newsletter, “The Speed of Selling.” Enjoy what you just read? Subscribe to our blog!

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