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When Unqualified Leads Attack: How to Let Them Down Gently

May 7, 2020 2 min read

Have you ever gotten halfway through a sales call, only to realize that the prospect you’re speaking to is entirely unqualified for your business? Like a bad breakup, your heart pounds as you try to find the right moment to end things. Palms sweaty, you choose your words carefully, and the resulting breakaway is either clean and professional or awkward and mildly insulting.

Whether it’s a misalignment with the person you’re speaking to or their company at large, sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and break up with a prospect. But like any relationship, it requires a degree of sensitivity. Here are some ways to let them down gently without burning any bridges or damaging your brand’s reputation.

Stay Positive & Engaged

The first rule of thumb when breaking up with a prospect is to avoid sounding like you’re breaking up with them. If you are on the phone…keep your tone and voice positive, and continue to engage with them. The last thing you want to do is sharply end things down mid-conversation the minute you decide they aren’t worth your time. The same can be said for email... keep your messaging friendly, and always provide a considerate response. Don’t just ignore an email from a prospect because it’s no longer of value to you.

Be Honest

Your prospect doesn't want to squander their own time just as much as you don’t want to waste yours. Always thank them for their time and don’t be afraid to be politely honest with them.

Say something like:

Thank you for taking time to talk with me today, but I’m getting the sense that what my company has to offer might not be what you need.”


“I really enjoyed talking with you today, thank you for sharing some insight with me. Since it doesn't sound like you are ready to make any decisions, I need to focus my attention on other opportunities, but I'd be happy to send you additional information if it’s helpful to you.”


“In my experience, I don’t believe I will be able to help you. But I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about you and your company.”

Let Them Know You Genuinely Wish You Could Help

Restate their pain point to show that you have been actively listening. Then, explain to them that you wish you could help resolve this issue, but unfortunately — your product or service might not be the best fit.

  • Pro Tip: If you really want to leave a good impression, remember that you should always add value, even if it’s not directly benefitting you. If you can, offer a referral, advice, or a resource that will help the prospect determine their next move. This is a great way to prove that your organization isn’t just out to make a buck and that you genuinely care about improving an aspect of your prospect’s life or business. It may even result in referral business.

Properly Prospect Before Outreach

The best case scenario? Do your research and qualify a prospect before you even reach out. You may still run into a situation where they aren’t ready to make a decision, but at least the conversation can be re-focused on what you can do to help educate them so they can make a decision instead of figuring out how to end the conversation altogether.

Breaking up with a prospect is mostly about using common sense and kindness. You always want to maintain the appearance of being understanding and genuine because those are qualities of a respectable sales rep. The next time you find yourself in the middle of a sales conversation that isn’t going anywhere, try not to think about your next move. Instead, listen until the prospect is done talking and then gently explain that you aren’t the best fit for them. Always try to offer some form of value and thank them for the opportunity, even if it doesn’t pan out for you.

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This post was originally published August 19, 2016