How to lose a prospect in five easy lessons


The story you’re about to read is true. Only the names have been omitted because it’s never my goal in writing Dealer Outlook to embarrass anyone – unless it’s some bureaucrat handing down a policy that has less to justify its existence than an 8-track tape player.

This story begins with a prospect looking to buy a boat. For budget reasons, he’s decided to go used. So, like so many prospects these days, he hits the Internet, Googles “boats for sale,” and is led to sites like YachtWorld, BoatTrader and others.

He’s got a good idea of what he wants so when he sees a boat that might do it, he reacts. Here are five great ways to lose a prospect without trying:

Lesson 1: Don’t promptly return phone calls: It’s a pretty good way to get rid of the prospect. In this case, the prospect called the cell listed for the salesman or broker. He gets his voicemail so he explained what boat he was interested in and asked for a return call. Nothing. The following day he called the number again and left another message. Later that day he got a call back and the salesman promptly told the prospect: “Sorry I didn’t get back to you because we already sold that boat.” The prospect, now having negative feelings about the salesman chose not to explore anything more, said thanks and hangs up.

Lesson 2: Use a voicemail greeting that misses the mark: It’s not all about you, but making it appear so can get rid of the prospect. In this instance, the prospect got the voicemail on the salesman’s cell and this greeting: “I’m not available so leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you at my convenience.” Yes, waiting for the convenience of the salesman to call back doesn’t make the customer feel important. Prospect shakes head, wonders about who he’s called and likely has negative feelings about a future relationship. Prospect is now checked out.

Lesson 3: Never update your website: Not keeping your website or any listings on a fresh and up-to-date site can turn off a prospect faster than chocolates coming down the production line at Lucille Ball. In calling several dealers and brokers, this prospect learned some boats listed had been sold weeks earlier. Result: prospect goes away angry at the waste of his time and any chance for a future sale is likely gone.

Lesson 4: Don’t know your product: When a broker meets a prospect at a boat and demonstrates a clear lack of knowledge about the vessel, it’s guaranteed to get rid of the prospect. In this instance, not only wasn’t there good information, but an under V-berth storage compartment had smelly water in it. Broker just shook his head. Prospect did the same, eliminating the broker and the boat.

Lesson 5: Don’t have a Plan B: Failing to offer immediate assistance and open a dialogue about how to help the prospect reach his goal is a surefire way to end any relationship before it starts. In two instances, this prospect was just told a boat was sold and no alternative suggestions were offered. You can be absolutely certain the prospect will be gone if you’re not on the ball enough to throw out some Plan B idea.

There’s something to reflect upon in each of these true-to-life incidents. If you’re in sales, ask yourself whether you’re a race car driver or a freeway driver? In a race car, the driver is constantly in touch with what’s happening through the sensitivity of the four tires touching the pavement. But in a road vehicle, the freeway driver’s vehicle is insulated from bumps in the road and the driver is comfortable, but desensitized from the bumps.

Most people can easily fall into and prefer the comfort level. But those who want to be high achievers always stay in the performance level.


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