life 863674 640
life 863674 640

Don’t Waste Your Time With Time-Sucking Tire-Kickers

Tire-kickers are individuals who are best described as time-wasters who parachute into your business and pretend to be an interested buyer.

Don't Waste Your Time With Time-Sucking Tire-Kickers - Lioness MagazineTire-kicker is the moniker given to individuals who are best described as time-wasters who parachute into your business and present themselves as interested buyers, when nothing could be further from the truth. The tire-kicker will pepper you or your sales staff with questions; raise red-herring objections; discuss the availability of product or service options and upgrades; and then vanish without ever spending a dime.

Those of us whose livelihood depends on B2B sales regularly contend with these faux “prospects” whose mission in life, it seems, is to squander other’s valuable time. Tire-kickers feel entitled to mislead as they feign interest in products and services that they have no intention of purchasing any time soon.

Addressing the questions and objections that prospects may have is a standard part of the sales process and the engagement is always welcomed by those who sell. But how can you recognize the difference between a prospective customer and someone who will only waste your time? What you need is an easy and effective technique that will allow you to efficiently and politely expose and dispose of the tire-kickers. As you may have already guessed, it’s about asking the right questions.

The Zero Pain Hypothesis, developed by Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace, is such a technique. In it, Ryan suggests that sellers approach a potential prospect as if s/he has no real need for your product or service. Practitioners find her counterintuitive stance to be an effective B2B sales process road map. The hypothesis recommends that as sellers work the technique they should keep their communication style friendly and helpful. In the best-case scenario, sellers may be able to persuade the tire-kicker to either make a purchase in the near term or refer a colleague who has the money and motive to do business.

1. Who?

“If you’re serious about checking out this product/service, why don’t I get your contact information?”

To whom are you speaking? Get the name, title, company, phone number, email and location of the person who makes contact. Get qualifying info up front and begin to make that person commit to the buying process. The Zero Pain Hypothesis advises you to graciously answer questions about the product or service and simultaneously telegraph that this is not a game, it’s business. The prospect’s job title can help you know whether s/he could be a decision-maker or key influencer.

2. What and Why?

“What have you and your team been doing to address the issue and what is the outcome you’re looking for?”

Why is the product or service needed? What business imperative is a priority for this potential prospect? If s/he can provide a logical reason for contacting you, or describe what’s been done but hasn’t worked, then you probably have a prospective customer. The Zero Pain Hypothesis recommends that you first propose an inexpensive, maybe DIY, alternative to your product or service. Tire-kickers should back off once told of a cheap and easy path to what they want. Also, tire-kickers will reveal themselves by their vague and evasive answers to your questions.

3. When?

“What’s your timeline?”

Assess the urgency. Is there a deadline for completing the project or making the purchase? If things are open-ended, then you could be speaking with a tire-kicker. The low-cost alternative that you recommended earlier can probably function as a short-term “place-holder” that will satisfy a tire-kicker and allow you to ease him/her out the door.

4. Where?

“Do you have a budget, have you started accepting bids or proposals?”

Where in the buying process is the potential prospect’s organization—early stage vendor list making, soliciting proposals, or close to finalizing the decision? Is s/he the decision-maker and who else may need to weigh in? What is the budget?

If a budget and deadline have been established, then you probably have a prospective customer. If the budget is below your minimum, then refer back to the alternative solution. Increase the possibility of making a sale by restating what the product or service could mean to the prospect’s business. If something important is on the line, help your prospective customer, whom you’ve now qualified, to recall the “pain” point that your questions have expertly revealed and allow that prospect to sell him/herself on the value of your product or service and if necessary, advocate for the required funding.

Thanks for reading,


Kim-L.-Clark_609073Kim L. Clark is an external consultant who provides strategy and marketing solutions to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Kim is the founder and principal of Polished Professionals Boston and she teaches business plan writing to aspiring entrepreneurs. Visit for more information.

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