The best reps burn leads and have a clean sales pipeline

The best reps burn leads and have a clean sales pipeline

We can learn how to get better at sales by watching what the best salespeople do. The best salespeople consistently have a clean sales pipeline with no flaky opportunities. They take control of the sales process by getting prospects that are not going to buy out of their pipeline as soon as possible.

This idea seems counterintuitive to most salespeople. They hold on to the hope that their long lost prospects will emerge from the shadows to make a surprise purchase that vaults them over quota.

Sometimes they send 5+ unanswered emails, or will call 10, 15, even 20+ times without a response hoping that the prospect has been “busy”. They refuse to acknowledge the lack of response as a sign that the prospect isn’t into their service.

burning leads helps salespeople have a clean sales pipeline

The best salespeople don’t tolerate this kind of behaviour. They force prospects to be honest about purchasing intentions so nobody wastes time.

Some prospects get terrified that we won’t take no for an answer. The best salespeople give prospects an opportunity to say no, and it pays off for them more often than not.

I’ve written about how to burn a lead before when outlining my sales closing process but wanted to go into a bit more detail. It’s important to understand how, when, and why to burn sales leads. It all comes down to having a clean sales pipeline.

Make sure you have a clean sales pipeline

salespeople should have a clean sales pipelineYou should have a clean sales pipeline with opportunities that have a real chance of closing. It sounds obvious, but we’re all guilty of keeping a potential deal around just in case, even when we know it will never close.

Every salesperson has had a just in case opportunity in their pipeline at one point or another. We know they won’t buy, but still fantasize about getting a magical-out-of-nowhere-gift-opportunity from the sales gods.

The best salespeople don’t expect their garbage to turn into gold some day. They keep a clean sales pipeline stocked only with high-quality opportunities.

Sales forecasting is difficult if you don’t have a clean sales pipeline

this is what leads look like if you don't have a clean sales pipelineYour sales pipeline is not as clean as it should be if you have opportunities with prospects that won’t return your calls and emails.

These opps are already dead, you just haven’t killed them yet. They have a tombstone and everything but you won’t put them in the ground.

This bad practice gives us false confidence about our sales pipeline.

It lets us think we have more in our pipeline than we do. This can make us think less prospecting is needed to get the pipeline to the appropriate size. You won’t be able to forecast expected sales as effectively if your total pipeline includes 0-0.1% chance of closing leads.

Burning leads saves you time and allows you to close deals elsewhere

Salespeople think they have time to follow up with one or two leads a day that might be dead.

Each phone call and each minute matters. Operate as efficiently as possible, and never waste movements. Working smart not hard means that you only spend time on activities that have a good chance of leading to business.

Change your game-plan if you have a stalled deal.

Don’t give up on the opportunity entirely. Put the ball in their court so you’re not wasting time constantly following up. Force them to make a decision so you can move on.

Knowing where all of your opportunities stand is crucial.

Sales reps that know what the next steps are on all of their opportunities are in a position to succeed. Get as much information from your prospects throughout the sales process as possible.

When should you burn a sales lead?

I usually give my prospects a few calls and a few emails over a period of 2-3 weeks before burning them. If there is no response in that time, I probably have a dead opp.

It’s possible that the prospect is travelling or slammed with another project if they don’t get back to you within 2 weeks. At 3+ weeks they have had the time but chose not to respond. The prospect wasn’t “busy”, and it’s time to stop chasing them.

Following up 5-10 times unanswered makes you look like you don’t get any business. Salespeople that reek of desperation don’t inspire confidence.

Let the people you work with know you’re a self-respecting salesperson that doesn’t waste time on weak opps.

The best way to burn a lead

The best way to burn a sales lead that isn’t responding is by email. Dropping in on them might be aggressive, and we’re assuming they aren’t picking up the phone at this point.

Your email should convey 3 messages:

a) You know they’ve been ignoring you

b) You’re not going to waste any more time pursuing them because the opportunity seems dead

c) If they want to keep evaluating your product they will need to take the next step and reach out to you

Here’s an example of what the email looks like:

Hi Mr. Prospect,

I’ve been trying to reach you for some time now, and haven’t been able to connect. I’m sure you’ve been busy, but I was trying to see where you stand re: SuperProduct™.

It seems like this isn’t a solution you’re interested in pursuing at the moment.

I appreciate you taking the time to look at SuperProduct™. If you need any more information I’d be happy to send over some resources.

I’m going to leave the ball in your court for now, and you can get back to me when you want to pick the project back up again.


This is a simple way to end the conversation professionally, without the prospect thinking they’re going to have to flee the country to avoid you!

Prospects don’t like getting constant ‘just checking in’ emails. They’ll be happy you gave them an opportunity to end the discussion clean, and will be more likely to get in touch if they want to buy down the line.

Your burn email will have one of three outcomes:

1: You will get a response right away from the prospect apologizing for not responding, and a suggested date/time to speak

2: A response explaining that you’re right, and your solution is not in the cards for now. They will tell you they will keep you in mind

3: No response at all

All of these scenarios are more desirable than checking in constantly, because now you know where you stand. You get closure, and can spend your time on more effective tasks. That’s more valuable than hoping the prospect decides the 7th email is the right time to get back in touch with you.

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One Reply to “The best reps burn leads and have a clean sales pipeline”

  1. Pingback: Melanie Glastrong

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