What is Tire Kicker: definition and how to deal with them

Since marketing and sales activities cost a pretty penny, businesses strive to get the most out of their lead gen campaigns. But the truth is  half of all prospects a company targets turn out to be unpromising from a selling perspective. Ultimately, the closing ratio for most industries reaches around a 20% digit at maximum. 

One of the ROI-killing factors is poor lead qualification, in particular when too many tire kickers proceed to the MOFU stage of a sales funnel.

What is a tire kicker?

A tire kicker is a person who will never buy what you offer. Such people can’t be considered prospects and should be taken off the prospect list after you determine they don’t match your buyer persona or ideal customer profile (ICP).

Tire kickers may seem to be promising leads, showing interest in your product or service and even hinting about an intention to make a purchase. They might follow up on previous dialogues with more questions and ask about the price. 

Tire kicker

But there are some motivational and monetary factors that won’t allow a tire kicker to proceed with buying:

There’s no need for the solution you offer

When buyers are looking for something to solve a problem, they do a lot of research, have an idea of how to implement your product in their organization, and have purchasing deadlines.

But if your leads are not confident about how your offer could potentially benefit them or don’t know what solution they need at all, working it out from scratch will be tough and not always worth the effort. Tire kickers would just waste your time.

They can’t afford the level of service you offer

Too high or low prices may be substantial obstacles to purchasing. In some cases, the buyer’s perception of a fair price may be altered by adding extra value components to the brand. 

But if a person just can’t afford your solution, or if their budget is never approved and they keep you waiting, you most likely deal with a tire kicker.

They are indecisive

Some B2B clients, e.g., multinational or state-owned enterprises, are quite traditional when choosing vendors. Their decisions aren’t always dictated by the best market offers, so it may be difficult to lead them to closing a deal.

And most importantly, they don’t fit your profile

Ideal customer profile and buyer persona are key to successful lead qualification. The better ICP you develop, the better results you will reap.  

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Why do I need to weed out tire kickers?

Since they are difficult to recognize on the spot, your sales team may spend as many resources on nurturing tire kickers as they do on nurturing promising leads. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the overall lead capturing costs because if, say, 50% of resources were wasted, then the price you pay to attract a client would increase 1.5 times.

Aside from affecting your lead gen expenses, tire kickers clutter sales managers’ focus and prevent them from paying more attention to qualified leads. They also worsen the team’s KPIs, in particular, the number of successfully closed deals.

How to notice a tire kicker early enough?

The table below shows key differences between leads and tire kickers.

A leadA tire kicker
Fits your buyer persona profile by most characteristicsStands out from your company’s existing clients and doesn’t fit your ICP
Comes to you with a specific requestSeeks for broad general information and presentations
May describe the vision of a perfect deal — desirable product or service’s features, price, delivery time, etc.Has no idea what product or features will meet their need the best way
Seeks to agree on deadlines, as time is important to themDoesn’t mention urgency at all
Has collected at least some information independently, e.g., learned about offers on the market or skimmed through your site and read about other projectsComes to you as a blank slate: asks general broad questions, doesn’t ask clarifying questions, doesn’t have objections, or, vice versa, denies everything you say
Is ready to announce the budget and asks about pricing optionsDoesn’t have a budget approved, isn’t interested in the price, doesn’t share concerns
Outlines their place in the decision-making process and introduces you to stakeholders, e.g., product managersDoesn’t specify further steps and postpones their discussion
Can clarify what kind of input information they lack or explains they have to discuss it with colleaguesAlways says, “I will come back to you later,” gives ambiguous answers to your offer, and asks for more general descriptive information.

Distinguishing tire kickers is more about seeing the big picture than analyzing prospects point-by-point. You shouldn’t skip leads if they ask for more information, take time to consult with colleagues, or don’t respond to emails immediately. 

To spot tire kickers and invest your time better, make it a rule to ask clarifying questions before scheduling a sales meeting or giving a sales presentation:

  • Who participates in the purchasing decision in the client’s company?
  • Who makes the purchasing decision?
  • Can all relevant stakeholders be present at the meeting or added to the email dialogue?
  • Will you be able to agree on further steps right after the meeting/call/presentation?

Still, receiving a negative answer doesn’t necessarily mean a lead turned out to be a tire kicker. Maybe, your efforts were not good enough, or the deal has dropped off due to a force majeure. In case of objections, always follow up to politely clarify the reason and draw conclusions for the future.

How to deal with tire kickers?

Despite preventive actions, a certain number of people not interested in buying will still end up in your sales pipeline. So, as soon as you notice them, end the cooperation quickly, yet without damaging your company’s reputation. 

You can:

  • Smoothly shift the initiative to the client — “It seems we can’t agree on a win-win option as of now, so there is no way we can proceed with cooperation.”
  • Stress that you care about tire kicker’s time — “As long as we can’t manage to agree on further steps, it seems we won’t be able to help you at the moment, and I don’t want to waste your precious time anymore.”
  • Refer to previous statements — “Based on what you’ve told me about […], I believe we can’t provide you with the fitting offer, unfortunately.”

Your experience, intuition, and ICP will help you spot tire kickers. And if you learn how to anticipate leads’ behavioral patterns precisely, you will dramatically increase the efficiency of a sales process.

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