Article | 7 min read

Tire kicker meaning in sales | Spot and convert tire kickers

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

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published February 16, 2022
Last updated March 8, 2022

The worst thing a prospect can do isn’t to say no.

The worst thing a prospect can do is waste your time.

Unfortunately, there are consumers out there who specialize in doing just that. They have many names: entitlement clients, clueless shoppers, confusion clients, and price hunters. All of them are tire kickers, and they’re dangerous to your sales productivity and success.

Whether you’re in inside sales or outside sales, you need to know how to manage tire kickers and support your team when they encounter these frustrating prospects. In this article, we’ll explain how to identify and handle tire kickers before they hurt your bottom line.

What is a tire kicker?

A tire kicker is a prospect who appears interested in buying a product or service but never actually makes a commitment. They often prolong the sales process by asking questions and raising objections.

Tire kickers are the bane of sales reps. Any salesperson is going to encounter their fair share of rejection, but most prospects simply say no and move on. A tire kicker is a ‘no’ with a headache attached, and you need to get rid of them as soon as you spot them.

Not only are tire kickers exasperating—they’re also detrimental to your sales team. A single tire kicker can:

Despite the damage they cause, tire kickers usually aren’t coming from a place of ill will. With the exception of a few radically bad prospects, most tire kickers are simply looking out for their best interests. That’s what makes it so hard to get rid of them.

Luckily, there are a few ways to spot tire kickers and prevent them from wasting your time and energy.

Tire kicker tells: How to identify tire kickers

Tire kickers often exhibit the same behaviors. So if a prospect shows more than two or three of the following red flags, you’ll want to end the conversation before you lose time you’ll never get back.

1. They don’t do their research

Serious prospects spend about half their time in the sales funnel researching potential products. If you’re talking to a prospect who knows absolutely nothing about your product or the value it provides, you’re unlikely to get very far.

2. They’re always trying to lower the price

Some haggling is expected 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. It’s also possible that they don’t have the authority to make the purchase. Either way, you’ll want to get out of the situation ASAP.

3. They can’t stop talking

Questions about the product are fantastic, but tire kickers aren’t here to talk shop. If you’re with a prospect who just wants to talk about their lives, you’re likely dealing with a tire kicker. It’s not uncommon for lonely individuals to try and use salespeople as a form of human contact. It’s sad, but it’s also not beneficial to your bottom line. End the conversation gently yet firmly.

4. They don’t have a timeline

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 own time in months of negotiation. Tire kickers don’t have deadlines because they’re not ready to make a purchase.

5. They want the product for free

There’s nothing wrong with offering a free demo or trial, but watch out for the prospects who keep wanting to extend their demos or repeatedly request a free full version. They don’t want to pay for your products.

6. They don’t fit your buyer personas

You know who’s a good fit for your product or service. If a prospect isn’t matching up with any of your buyer personas, they’re probably not a great prospect to pursue. If you’re a sales manager, make a list of ideal customer traits and ensure your sales team is evaluating prospects through that lens.

7. They’re aggressive

It’s one thing for a prospect to push for the best possible deal for their company—it’s quite another for them to be mean. If a prospect is threatening you with negative reviews, calling you a scammer, being manipulative, or displaying abusive behavior, let them go. No one who behaves that way is worth your team’s time or energy.

What to do with a tire kicker

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

We highly recommend one of the first two options for the sake of your sales reps (and your sanity!). But if you want to try converting tire kickers, we suggest providing your team with strategies and a bit of motivation.

How to disengage with a tire kicker

If you know in your heart of hearts that a prospect is never going to make a purchase, it’s best to disengage politely and cease contact with them. Make it about you, not about them.

The motherlode of sales email templates

We’ve compiled 24 email templates that cover every sales pipeline stage, from prospecting to closing.

Some suggested lines:

  • “Now isn’t the right time for us to work together.”
  • “I don’t want to waste any more of your time.”
  • “I don’t think our products are the right solution for your company, and you deserve the best possible solution.”

Never end on a negative note if you can help it. You’ll always want to take the high road in the name of brand credibility.

How to prep a tire kicker for future conversion

If you know a tire kicker isn’t going to buy now but there’s a real chance they’ll buy a few years down the line, make sure they know you aren’t pushing them away. You don’t have time for them right now, but when they have the money and intent to make a purchase, you absolutely will.

Try one of these lines:

  • “It doesn’t look like we’re a perfect fit for your current budget, but why don’t I reach out at the end of the year to see how things stand?”
  • “I think this product is a great fit for you and your company, but I want you to be sure. Why don’t you reach out when you’re ready?”
  • “It sounds like you need a bit more time to think. Why don’t I set up a demo for your company, and the head of your department can send us their feedback?”

Always include a call to action at the end of your message so the ball lands in the prospect’s court.

How to stick with a tire kicker

If you still want to try and get something out of the relationship, there are two potential ways to do this:

  1. Appeal to them for possible referrals
  2. Up the ante for a fear-based hard sell

There are some tire kickers who specifically act as gatekeepers to protect the time and resources of those above them. If you’ve developed rapport with the tire kicker, it can be worth it to continue the pursuit in order to get access to a higher-level decision-maker or to gain a referral. This will only work with certain tire kickers, though. Don’t try it with prospects who aren’t focused on the product or who are unlikely to do you a favor.

Another option is to hone in on their fear of missing out. Sometimes, a wary tire kicker can be pushed over the edge with the right type of shove. Hard sales are out of fashion nowadays, but if you have a prospect who might cave to a bit of tough love, tell them the consequences of missing out on your product. Nothing cures indecision like the fear of immediate failure.

Use a CRM to spot tire kickers at the start

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

With Zendesk Sell, you can track prospect actions (like click rates and engagements) to gauge interest. You can also send automated communications via email or power dialer at any time, relieving your team of 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.

The motherlode of sales email templates

We’ve compiled 24 email templates that cover every sales pipeline stage, from prospecting to closing.

The motherlode of sales email templates

We’ve compiled 24 email templates that cover every sales pipeline stage, from prospecting to closing.

View free templates now