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Article 12 min read

What is a tire kicker? 8 types and tips to identify and convert them

Time is money—don’t let tire kickers take either from your sales team. Here’s how to spot the trickiest prospects in the industry and turn them into paying customers.

โดย Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

อัปเดตล่าสุด January 11, 2023

Q: What’s worse than a prospect who says no to a sale?

A: A prospect who wastes your time.

This type of consumer is known as a tire kicker, and unfortunately, you’ll encounter a few during your journey as a salesperson. Many of these prospects have good intentions and may not realize they’re dragging their feet on a sale that will never come—but some do.

Understanding how to identify and manage tire kickers can help you know when to step away from a sale while setting them up for future conversion. Follow along to learn what defines a tire kicker, their behaviors, and how to position your team for success so they don’t hurt your bottom line.

What is a tire kicker?

In sales, a tire kicker is a prospect who appears interested in buying a product or service but never actually commits. They often prolong the sales process by asking questions and raising objections until the sale sputters out.

Every salesperson encounters their fair share of rejection, but most prospects say no and move on. A tire kicker is a “no” with a headache attached, and you need to understand how to handle them before they can waste your time.

Tire kickers are not only frustrating for sales reps—they are also detrimental to your sales team. A single tire kicker can:

Luckily, there are a few ways to spot tire kickers and tell them apart from true prospects.

What’s the difference between tire kickers and potential customers?

When it comes to potential customers vs. tire kickers, here’s what to look for.

Potential customers:Tire kickers:
  • Meet your target customer persona

  • Are clear about their pain points

  • Have an idea about the product or service they want

  • Know their budget

  • Define a timeline

  • Consult with other decision-makers

  • Differ from your typical customer

  • Are vague about their pain points

  • Haven’t done their research on your product or service

  • Don’t have a budget

  • Won’t define a timeline

  • Gatekeep conversations around decision-making

Most salespeople enter an initial sales meeting assuming they are speaking with a genuine prospect. Some prospects may take longer to evaluate your product before making a decision, and nurturing them builds trust that can result in a meaningful relationship and customer loyalty.

More likely than not, they are a true prospect rather than a tire kicker, especially if your product or service is a heavy investment or has the potential to make a big impact on their business.

But if red flags start popping up, take note—they might be trending into tire-kicking territory, and recognizing it sooner rather than later can save you time and energy.

Types of tire kickers and how to identify them

Tire kickers often exhibit the same behaviors. So if a prospect shows more than a few red flags, you might want to pivot your sales strategy before you lose time you’ll never get back. Here are the different types of tire kickers and how to differentiate them from serious prospects.

The frugal shopperThe researcherThe spyThe leisurely shopperThe shop-talkerThe assertive shopper

The uninformed buyer

Genuine prospects spend about half their time in the sales funnel independently researching potential products. They study the products online, read customer reviews, speak with past or current customers, compare prices, and more. They actually spend less than a quarter of their time meeting with a potential vendor.

Simply put—they should already know their stuff long before your initial greeting.

How to spot them: If you’re speaking with a prospect who knows very little about your product or its value, you’re unlikely to get very far. They might ask a few good questions, but they’re usually high-level rather than anything specific.

How to handle them: Try sending them resources ahead of your next meeting so they come more informed.

The frugal shopper

You should expect some haggling in a sales discussion, but if you have a prospect who can’t stop talking about price points, it’s likely they can’t afford your product or service. It’s also possible that they don’t have the authority to make the purchase. Even if they do end up buying your product, they’ll probably bounce to a competitor if they find a cheaper alternative.

How to spot them: They only talk about lowering the price or keep asking for free stuff. There’s nothing wrong with offering a free demo or trial, but watch out for prospects who keep asking to extend their demos or requesting a full version for free. They probably don’t want to pay for your products.

How to handle them: Focus on the value of your product and the total cost of ownership as it relates to their business. Demonstrating the offset in cost with ROI can help them see the price in a different light.

The shop-talker

While questions about your product and company are the focus, chit-chatting about family and hobbies is normal during sales calls. However, if you’re with a prospect who just wants to talk about their life instead of getting down to brass tacks, you’re likely dealing with a tire kicker.

How to spot them: The shop-talker will talk about anything other than the product or service. Whenever you try to steer the conversation back to business, they’ll always find a way to change the subject.

How to handle them: Listen to what the shop-talker has to say, then position your response in a way that relates back to your product or service.

The leisurely shopper

Promising prospects have an idea of when they want or need to buy. They might be trying to meet a deadline or fix a time-sensitive issue, and they don’t want to waste their time with months of negotiation. The leisurely shopper tire kicker doesn’t have a timeline because they’re not ready to make a purchase. They may not even be in the market for a solution and may just be shopping around ahead of time.

How to spot them: They won’t define a timeline and have no sense of urgency. If you sense they might not intend to buy your product or service, ask them about their timeline directly.

How to handle them: Stay in control of the conversation by asking questions about their pain points, your solution, and the value of tackling their issue early with help from your product.

The backup planner

This tire kicker is already locked into a long-term commitment with another vendor and has no real plans to switch to another solution any time soon. They’re meeting with you—and probably many others—to scope out potential options in the distant future or if something changes with their current plan.

The backup planner has some potential for conversion, though it may be a while. Be mindful of how much time you invest with them but keep in contact and nurture the relationship.

How to spot them: Ask them about their timeline, their current solution, and the details of their current plan.

How to handle them: Consider ways you could get them to commit now, such as offering deals or perks that will mature when their contract ends with their current solution and begin with yours.

The overly assertive shopper

While certain types of tire kickers can potentially turn into promising leads, others you may want to avoid. The overly assertive shopper can be pushy, manipulative, and—in the worst cases—aggressive.

How to spot them: This type of tire kicker might threaten you with negative reviews, call you a scammer, or display intimidating or abusive behavior if they aren’t getting the deal they want from you.

How to handle them: Rather than continuing to invest resources in an overly assertive shopper, it’s best to cut ties with them. No sale is worth enduring insulting or offensive behavior.

The researcher

If a company isn’t getting the price they want for a product or service, they might send someone to you to compile information and get a quote to use as leverage. Instead of assigning a buyer or decision-maker, they’ll task a lower-level employee to do the leg work. This person is known as the researcher.

The researcher may reach out to you, posing as a potential customer—though they have no authority to make a purchase. They’re following a process and collecting information to report to their decision-making team.

How to spot them: They compare your product or service to that of specific competitors, push for lower quotes, or mention they aren’t the decision-maker.

How to handle them: Ask them questions targeted at genuine buyers, and directly ask if they are the decision-maker. If they aren’t the decision-maker or provide vague answers, ask them to loop the decision-maker into the conversation.

The spy

Less flashy than James Bond but just as smooth, this type of tire kicker is often sent by a competitor to infiltrate your company and gather valuable information about your product or service.

The spy pretends to be a legitimate prospect and possesses curiosity beyond that of the average lead. They also may demonstrate a deep understanding and knowledge of your product or service and the industry.

How to spot them: They ask suspicious questions and probe a bit deeper than the typical prospect. They may be curious about upcoming products, unreleased features, and intimate details about your company.

How to handle them: If you identify the tire kicker as an employee of a competitor, kindly advise them that you may not be the solution they’re looking for and part ways.

Boost sales with a well-built buyer persona

Want to know your customers better? Improve outreach and take sales to the next level with tips and templates that help you create an actionable buyer persona.

What to do with a tire kicker

What to do with a tire kicker, person on the phone

So, you’ve identified a tire kicker in your sales pipeline. Now what?

You have three choices:

  1. Disengage with them.
  2. Follow up with them in the future.
  3. Stick with them.

The first two options are the most beneficial for saving time and resources for you and your team. But if you want to try converting tire kickers, you’ll need solid strategies, a bit of sales motivation, and a lot of patience.

Spot tire kickers right away with the help of a CRM

Spot tire kickers right away with the help of a CRM, people at a desk

The most effective way to protect your valuable time is to identify tire kickers as soon as possible. The best way to do that is with a powerful sales CRM like Zendesk Sell.

With Zendesk Sell, you can customize lead capture forms that ask a few qualifying questions, which can weed out tire kickers before they can even reach your sales pipeline. From there, you can track prospect actions—like click rates and engagements—to further gauge interest.

You can also send automated communications via email or power dialer at any time, lessening your team’s workload by relieving the pressure of managing individual follow-ups.

Request a demo of Zendesk Sell today and kick your tire kickers to the curb before they can bottleneck your business.

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