Knowing when to divest from a sales prospect is probably one of the most important (and ongoing) things I continue to learn in business.  Whether you’re selling complex technology or a simple product, you’re eventually going to run across that would-be client who makes you wonder, “Is this a person I really want as a customer?”

This week, I ran across that very person – again.  Someone who I’d spent all week going back and forth with on the phone, emailing, etc. Then, after all the time I put in, I ultimately concluded that no, this isn’t a person I want to do business with.

I don’t take any high moral ground with clients. I can’t recall backing away from a sale because I had a personal issue with someone or because I didn’t like their business. I’ve created products in markets ranging from marijuana to life settlements.  Along the way, I’ve been confronted with questions from friends and family about how I could cater to people who sell pot for a living (which I did when I published The Marijuana Business Report) or how I could track different ways to bet on someone’s life expectancy (which I did when I published The Life Settlements Report). My attitude has always been that if people find value in the products I create and if my client’s activities don’t interfere with the legalities of how I run my own business, I shouldn’t make judgments.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve spent time thinking about these issues.  I don’t lack a conscience. But I also know that if you dig into someone’s personal politics or business practices, at some point you’re going to find something you don’t like.

As a sales guy, aside from navigating the niceties of getting to know prospective clients while maintaining my moral distance, I’m constantly assessing how I should spend my time. And that means more than anything else, determining when I should divest from a prospect who gives me a queasy feeling.

This week, I had that queasy feeling once again. But, this time it was a little different.  (Maybe it’s got something to do with age.)  Paired with that queasy feeling, I had a “lightbulb moment” where it all came together. I finally figured out how to identify the exact point in time when to divest.  And it boils down to answering just one question:  Is this person a piker?

What’s a piker, you ask?

Depending on the dictionary you reference, definitions range from “a person who withdraws from a commitment” to “a person that’s not to be trusted.” (You can do your own homework on this… you get the idea.)

I thought this was an important enough realization that I scrapped the blog I was writing about online chatbots to cover something that might be useful for anyone in sales who reads this blog. So, you’ll excuse the fact there’s absolutely zero tie-in to online deal marketing and such.

Going forward, when I get that queasy feeling about a sales prospect, regardless of the size or profit potential of the sale, I’m going to ask myself if the person I’m dealing with is a total piker. For those of you working in sales, I hope you’ll appreciate this bit of insight.

Over and out,