How to Know When a Sales Lead is Dead

How to Know When a Sales Lead is Dead

How to know when a sales lead is dead will depend on each individual case.

There will be different courses of action depending on each stage of your prospect pipeline.

There will be:-

  • Prospects that you never get to meet
  • Prospects that you had your first meeting with but never had a second one.
  • Prospects that you had a second meeting with and even presented a proposal, but no one made a decision and the situation was left to drift.

How to Qualify When a Lead is Dead

So to know when a lead is dead will depend on what stage we have reached with the prospect. My general rule of thumb, and there are always exceptions to this, is that if they have failed to come back to you on three occasions, you should consider the lead finished.

Adopt a three strike rule.

You should consider a lead dead at this point because you do not want to be chasing. You are far too expensive and far too valuable to be chasing after people who do not want to talk.

It is their problem if they do not have the decency or courtesy to return your calls or emails, for whatever reason.

However, if they are legitimately waylaid and cannot come back to you at that time, they will in time because their interest is still there. So we have to leave it to them to come back to us.

Keeping Control

First of all, we do not want to lose control.

We always want there to be a next meeting with the prospect. If we are unable to get to that stage because it is simply an inquiry at this point and the prospect is not yet ready for a meeting, then use the three strike approach.

Your three strikes are:

  • Three phone calls
  • Three emails
  • Three meetings or
  • A mix of all of these.

If your prospect has not come back to you after three attempts to contact them over a legitimate period of a month or more, I would call the lead dead.


An important caveat is that we must also be careful here because there can be legitimate reasons why a prospect does not get in touch.

We must ensure that we do not kill off opportunities sooner than they really should be because we could be saying goodbye to some hard earned leads on that basis.

How to Test the Water Again

If you consider a lead dead, put a backstop in place and make a final point of contact after three or six months just to test the water again and see whether there is any response.

The way in which you can do this is to write to them by email or letter and say something along the lines of the following:-

“…..there was no response to my earlier communication with you regarding ________ and ___________. I do not wish to take up any more of your time than is necessary. So if I do not hear back from you after this communication, I will assume that you do not wish to speak to us any further and I will close the file on your enquiry.”

If we receive no response, then we can be confident that their level of interest has died for whatever reason and close the file.


If you follow the steps above, you will be able to deal with a lead and the followup in an efficient way.

It also gives you the flexibility to make sure the lead is dead and not kill it prematurely.

Make sure a good amount of time has passed before you do so, and then do a final check in three to six months after the initial lead to be sure. At that point, the lead can be closed and filed.


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Author: Martin Bissett

Martin Bissett is a premiere level consultant, author, and keynote speaker for the accounting profession worldwide. He founded the Upward Spiral Partnership Ltd., a UK-based consulting firm that specializes in implementation of business development and leadership skills for superior quality accounting professionals. Browse Martin's courses OR