The term "tire kicker" rings a bell with every seasoned sales professional. This word combination denotes a person who slows down the sales process and is unlikely to bring any profit to the company.
It's a person who has no intention of buying your product. Yet they might genuinely like it and they might keep checking it regularly. Imagine that you're a car dealer. Some person comes to you every few weeks, examines the vehicles, kicks their tires — but never purchases anything. A "tire kicker" is a vivid metaphor that is widely used in many other industries as well.
When a sales representative starts to interact with a tire kicker, the latter might behave like a client who seriously wants to buy something. But after a while, the salesperson realizes that the client is just trying to prolong the sales process unnecessarily.
Professionals shouldn't waste their time on tire kickers because they will prevent them from achieving the desired KPIs. They will take advantage of the salesperson's professional knowledge but give nothing in exchange. Instead of dealing with such people, it would be wiser to concentrate on more profitable individuals and activities.
Novice sales managers might think "Shouldn't I use every single opportunity? Why should I let a customer go without even trying to convince them to buy the product?". Alas, with tire kickers, you would just waste your time and nerves. After you invest too much energy in such a person, you might feel emotionally drained and demotivated to carry on. For this reason, you should spot and flag tire kickers at the earliest possible stage.
When talking to a sales representative, a tire kicker typically focuses on three types of activity:
Disagrees with what the rep says
Tries to get a bargain
Even though the dialog that they conduct might seem logical and informative, it doesn't move the deal forward. The salesperson might offer a discount to the customer — yet this measure won't convince the tire kicker to buy the product. Here are the most obvious sign that should help you to detect this type of customer.
The person fails to fit the company's ideal customer profile. They have different demographics, tastes and habits. If an individual fits this profile, it might make sense to coax him or her. But if the chances are slim from the onset, the sales professional might want to spend their energy on something else.
Tire kickers talk too much. They ask endless questions not only about the product but also about the sales rep's private life and other irrelevant topics. Sometimes, when sales professionals switch to private topics, it might help them to build friendly relationships with customers. But tire kickers have their opinions on every subject and can keep you tied up in conversation for hours. Meanwhile, you could spend this time talking with other people who have serious buying intentions.
Tire kickers hardly do any research into the product. This means they don't need this item — or at least don't need it urgently. According to statistics, serious B2B buyers spend approximately half of their purchasing time doing independent research. They find the characteristics of the product on the Internet, watch tutorials, read customer reviews, compare prices in different stores and so on. Then, they devote only less than 20% of their purchasing time to communicate with the potential supplier.
Most customers with serious intentions come to a shop because their problem is urgent. For instance, their head hurts, or a pipe leaks, or their car won't start, or they have run out of salt. A tire kicker has no problem that deteriorates their quality of life to such an extent that they can't tolerate it. These kinds of clients might fail to describe their problems. You might want to ask them the same questions several times: "What do you need this product for?" and "What do you expect from this product?". During the conversation, they might change their mind numerous times. Their answers might be too vague or irrelevant to the product that you're trying to sell.
The second parameter that you should pay attention to is authority. Sometimes, the person who you're talking to has no authority to decide on the purchase. This might be typical of B2B clients. 75% of B2B buyers admit that to make a purchase, they need to get approvals from their colleagues and supervisors. In most cases, more than two people make the final decision. A B2B customer with serious buying intentions might need some time to get approval.
A tire kicker might say that they have no authority for the purchase — but in fact, it's their fear that stops them from making the decision. In this case, the client might keep asking questions about the highly specific capabilities of the product. Otherwise, they might keep sharing their unrealistic expectations with you. Plus, they might fail to define a realistic timeline and budget for the purchase. They might say that it goes beyond their responsibilities and they might need to wait for confirmation from their supervisors. When seasoned sales reps hear such statements, they become slightly suspicious. Clients with serious intentions usually know at least the approximate scopes of their budgets and timelines.
Now you should know how to spot a tire kicker. But you won't be able to get rid of this type of client completely. They will keep taking your time, bringing you no profit. So how could you maximize your income?
The answer is very simple: try to quickly eliminate tire kickers from your pipeline and concentrate on that 20% of customers that bring you 80% of revenues. This rule is also known as the Pareto principle. Around ⅕ of your top clients have the biggest budgets and understand very clearly what they want. They do thorough independent research in advance and they will be likely to make repeat purchases in the future. Keep a detailed database of such clients and perceive them as your highest priority. These clients should make up for the potential earnings that you lose because of tire kickers.
Scenario 1: The tire kicker tries to control every phrase of your sales conversation.
How to reply: "It seems that we aren't making any progress in resolving your problem. It's probably not the best time for us to work together."
How to react: Prepare an agenda for each upcoming interaction with the client. Inform them firmly that next time you speak, you would like to see some progress from them. If possible, define that progress: for instance, you might arrange a product presentation or the client might transfer you a deposit for the purchase.
If the tire kicker makes no progress, tell them politely that you're not ready to carry on with the dialogue right now — but you'll be glad to hear from them when they will make some decisions.
Scenario 2: You're getting nowhere with the client.
How to reply: "I'm afraid I can't be of any help to you. I won't be wasting your valuable time anymore".
How to react: Ask the client to fill in a form to specify their purchasing needs: their budget, the problems that they want to fix thanks to this product, their experience with other suppliers and so on.
Tire kickers might not want to complete this task. Serious customers, on the contrary, would do it because it would bring them one step closer to finding a solution to their problems.
Scenario 3: The person can't afford the product.
How to reply: "It seems that our product is not the right fit for your needs. I came to this conclusion based on what you've told me about your budget".
How to react: Try to offer the tire kicker a more cost-efficient alternative or a product with a free trial. Don't go too deep in explaining their benefits and peculiarities to the customer — just briefly mention the names of such solutions and maybe give hints on where to find them.
If the client genuinely has a pain point but it isn't urgent, they might come back to you later, when their budget permits. If you get too confused about the person's intentions, you might try to ask them whether they're indeed planning to buy your product. Avoid repeating such straightforward questions too often — asking them just once should be enough.
The answer to this question depends on the tire kicker's motives. Even the most genius sales rep would hardly be able to do anything if the consumer can't afford their product financially. Alternatively, a sales rep might need to deal with a toxic individual who just enjoys getting on someone's nerves. In this case, the most sensible way out would be to completely stop communicating with this client.
Fortunately, some tire kickers hesitate to purchase the good or service simply because the timing feels "off". Or they might be afraid to make the wrong choice. Such people might change their minds if the salesperson knows how to talk to them. However, professionals should keep in mind that their odds of converting a tire kicker into a prospect won't be too high.
The optimal way out would be to explain the advantages of the product to its potential buyers. Such an approach should work if the consumer indeed has a pain that particular good or service can fix. To make the most of this method, the salesperson should stick to the following scheme.
The essence of this approach boils down to highlighting the scarcity of the product and the urgency of the purchase. If this scheme fails to save the person from decision paralysis, the sales rep might want to politely stop the conversation with the tire kicker.
Hopefully, this article came in handy and now you better understand who a tire kicker is. Don't waste too much time and effort on such a person if you spot them in your store. If you realize that a client has no serious buying intentions, use one of the scripts that were given in this article — and focus on more prospective consumers. Mind that not every hesitant customer is a tire kicker. To make the most of your sales strategy, you should learn how to differentiate these two types of clients and prepare different communication scripts for them.