There are lots of signs that a B2B prospect isn’t the best one for you or for anyone. The biggest one in my experience has been the refusal to talk numbers. Here are some stories of how that’s gone down and why your danger feelers should be doing jazz hands at you to run far away.
The B2B That Doesn’t Know Its Numbers
I have had many occasions to meet B2B prospects who refused to talk about their financial targets because they simply didn’t have them or know them. Incredibly, one such prospect was a giant accounting firm who prided themselves on never setting fiscal targets because they didn’t have a ‘sales’ culture. Other prospects are so disorganized or lacking any type of strategic leadership that they simply don’t know where they stand at any given moment. If this is happens in a sales conversation you’re having with a prospect, it’s bad news. You can’t track what you don’t know and you can’t grow what you can’t see. Unless of course, you’re a financial consultant and will be helping them with getting their act together. No-scratch that. I changed my mind as I wrote this because if a company leader doesn’t know how much they’re selling and how much they’re making, that speaks to a whole lack of strategy and leadership so-just take my advice and don’t go there.
The B2B That Doesn’t Have Good Numbers
The other cases where I’ve run into B2B prospects refusing to divulge their financials is because they’re embarrassed of their results and feel like they’re to blame for it. Now, this is like a patient who has a tooth ache refusing to tell the dentist which tooth hurts because how is anyone supposed to help them if they won’t even talk about the problem? Run far and fast if a prospect is refusing to talk numbers, no matter why.
The B2B That’s Paranoid
Whether I have been asked to sign a Non-Disclosure-Agreement or not, what’s said in a sales conversation is sacrosanct. Like in Vegas, if it’s said in that meeting room, it stays in that meeting room. As a vendor, my reputation depends on my ability to keep a prospects’ secrets. Especially around something so critical as financials. Even if a prospect is secretive and paranoid (of God-knows-what), I usually ask about a range of % of growth or decline that they’re experiencing. That usually tells me if there’s a problem and how big the problem is. Here’s the warning though: if a prospect is paranoid or secretive in the first conversation, mostly likely they will be that way when you work together. That’s just been my experience but of course, I can always be wrong…
So if you are looking for red flags when you’re talking to B2B prospects, listen carefully to what happens when you ask the magic “what’s your financial goal?” question. No matter what you sell, it will be in service of that number. Then you’ll know if you should get your runners out or not.