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Mastering the Art of Breaking Up with Your Leads

What do you do when your leads are playing hard to get? What they last expect. Find out why breaking up with them can raise your response rate 30%.

In life, breaking up can be hard to do. We often have a tendency for being less-than-direct, and in the end trying not to hurt the other person’s feelings can actually result in a painful, drawn-out process that really should have been cut short.

Fortunately, breaking up in sales is a bit different than breaking up in real life. But it can still be painful and drawn-out if you don’t work to eliminate the unnecessary nonsense. That’s why I suggest salespeople take the initiative in dealing with hard-to-get prospects, and actually do a preemptive break-up strike!

Flipping the Buyer / Seller Dynamic


Before you get nervous, relax. “Breaking up” with a lead doesn’t have to mean you’re completely ending the relationship. You’re simply (yet poignantly) putting the ball in their court through a direct form of communication.

So you’re saying we should tell the hot prospect we’ve been chasing we’re no longer interested?

Essentially, yes! Let’s think about it — in sales there is a very specific paradaigm that is established from the onset of the relationship. We enter into “buyer” and “seller” roles, and it quickly becomes accepted that much of the hard work is on the sales side to do the wooing.

It makes sense, but what if we shifted the paradigm by backing away all together? Well, you might be surprised to find yourself getting the type of prospect engagement that you’ve been craving all along.

Why? At the end of the day, nobody wants to be dumped. Our tendancy as humans is to reject rejection, and that’s exactly what we want our prospects to do.

Perfecting the Art of the Sales Break Up

The art of the break up can come in one of two forms — written or verbal. The elements for both are the same, but the delivery vehicle will differ based on the relationship you have with your lead. If you have been chasing them for long then, believe it or not, you have become a constant in your prospects life. Your weekly emails have provided some level of consistency, and if you have connected by phone you are even more intrenched in their world. So by pulling the “rip cord” you are jolting them out of the cadence and evoking an emotional response.

Here’s how to make sure that jolt is effective:

Your Very Own Lead Break Up Template

The subject line:

This email has to be different than other ones you have recently sent. Make it a bit quirky, provocative, and engaging.

The body:

Keep this short, sweet, and to the point. Think “mini skirt” — short enough to hold their attention, but long enough to cover the essentials. Remember, this email is not your time to pitch. It is your time to evoke that gut reaction from your prospect by giving them “just enough” information and putting the ball in their court.

The expectations:

Set the expectation that you are not going to follow up with them for the foreseeable future. If they are interested in having the next conversation it is on them to reach out to you. (Note: This is not to say you should actually never reach out to them again, and they should know that. However, if implementing your solution is a top priority then the ball is simply in their court.)

The importance:

Remember reps — your time is valuable! You should know that and your prospects should, too!

Need some inspiration? Check out this post I put together with Jeff Hoffman, about breaking up with “tire-kickers”. This email below has a response rate north of 30% and has resulted in MULTIPLE appointments:

Subject Line: Let’s go our separate ways


I’ve tried a few times to reach out with no response. I’ll take the hint: you’re either too busy or not interested.

I will reach out in the coming months hoping it’s the former. In the meantime,  please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any upcoming initiatives around disaster recovery and protecting your data.

Wishing you the best,


And they say chivalry is dead…

What do you think? Am I on to something here, or is breaking up with leads crazy? Let me know in the comments below.

CeCe is focused on developing and optimizing business development and inside sales teams at OpenView’s portfolio companies. She also supports these teams in implementing training programs, defining sales and marketing processes, and indexing data from these teams across the portfolio.

  • MaryGGwaltney

    On Gerrrit, “code reviewss” are performed per commit. Each commit is its own pull request in a way, and developers can discuss the changes made in each individually.

  • DeniseDeverelleCrown

    I like this technique if the sales cycle is mid-way or later and has gone dark, but I get a lot of these emails after I’ve explicitly told a vendor I’m not interested on the first call. Like all tactics, it has to be used at the right time, and salespeople need to learn to read prospects better. If they find themselves sending a lot of these, it’s a red flag that something else is wrong and it was probably not ever a legitimate sales opportunity.

    • CeCe

      Denise- Thanks for the note! I totally agree, there is a time and a place for a break up email. I don’t think it is something that should be part of the “touchpoint model” necessarily, but rather should be used on an “as needed” basis.

  • Thomas Martin

    CeCe, I like the approach. Of course like all things in selling you might have to adapt the wording for different kinds of buying influencers (maybe due to role, seniority level, or personality type). One variation that has worked for me is the “pest or persistence” approach… basically “there’s a fine line between persistence and being a pest. I don’t want to cross that line. I won’t reach out to you again unless you ask.”

    • CeCe

      Thanks Thomas– You’re spot on! Any type of communication that you have with a prospect should be tailored to the specific persona you are targeting. I like your honest approach to the break up– when it comes to breaking up with leads (and significant others) honesty is always the best policy!