7 Reasons Why Leads Fall Out of Your Sales Pipeline

12 min read
May 15, 2022

Do you ever kick off your sales cycle with tons of leads in your sales pipeline only to make it to the end of the cycle, look at your pipeline and wonder, “Where did all those leads go?”

Most sales teams kick off their selling cycle with a full pipeline only to lose the leads shortly after crossing the starting line.

Where do the leads go after they fall out of the pipeline? Who knows, but regardless of where they go, you’re left with fewer opportunities to close deals with new customers.

To help you reach the end of your sales pipeline with the same amount of leads as you started with, if not more, I’m sharing the 7 reasons why leads fall out of your pipeline.

Additionally, I’m sharing simple techniques to turn these mistakes around so that leads stop falling out of your pipeline once and for all.

You can’t close deals if you can’t hold leads in your pipeline! Therefore, retaining sales in your pipeline is a more significant matter of sales success.


Who Should Be In a Sales Pipeline?


Who should be in your sales pipeline?

Your pipeline should be filled with qualified leads. The leads initially enter the pipeline as prospects within your target market, then after the qualifying stage of the pipeline, they’ll either stay as qualified leads or exit the pipeline as you realize that they’re not qualified.

It’s an easy question with an even easier answer, yet most salespeople do anything but fill their pipeline with leads who are qualified.

Instead, they siphon any lead into their pipeline, regardless of how qualified they are or how likely they are to make a purchasing decision.

As a result, sales and marketing teams often end up with some qualified leads and a handful of totally unqualified ones. All this ends up doing is breaking down the pipeline.

That said, if you want to have a healthy sales pipeline to keep the sales process flowing smoothly, only fill it with qualified leads.


Who Are Qualified Sales Leads?


Qualified sales leads are leads who fit your:

  1. Ideal customer profile; and
  2. Ideal buyer persona.

Moreover, qualified sales leads are most likely to make purchasing decisions at the end of the pipeline.

As I said above, sales teams initially target prospects who they believe are potentially qualified during sales prospecting. After lead gen, teams do an extra layer of qualification to make sure that the lead is in fact qualified.


How to Target Qualified Leads During Sales Lead Generation


Targeting qualified leads during sales lead generation is more straightforward than most sales teams make it out to be.

In fact, most sales teams say that generating leads is the most challenging sales pipeline stage and entire stage of the selling process altogether.

However, the truth is that targeting qualified leads is simple, as long as you don’t turn lead gen into a complex process.

Thankfully, I’ve already put together a straightforward 3-step process to help you target qualified leads, but a few of the keys to targeting lead success include:

  1. Strictly sticking to your outlined ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona when selecting new opportunities
  2. Putting together an organized list of prospects who appear to fit your target customer outlines
  3. Assertively cold calling potential leads on your prospect list and doing follow-up until they respond

Rather than approaching targeting leads as if it’s complex, keep it simple as it’s supposed to be. When you really think about it, all it comes down to is identifying who is most likely to purchase your product or service and then pulling them into the pipeline.


Sales pipeline example


Prospect Ghosting: Leads Falling Off the Face of the Earth


So what do I really mean when I say that leads ‘fall out’ of the pipeline?

I mean three things, including:

  1. You realize that a lead is actually unqualified, so they end their buyer’s journey
  2. A qualified lead hits you with a “thanks but no thanks.”
  3. A qualified lead ghosts you

If B2B sales were a hospital, getting ghosted by a lead would be the most painful injury being treated.

Seriously, any sales leader who has ever been ghosted by a lead who they thought they had in the bag knows just how terrible of a feeling it is, especially after they’ve already made it through the first couple stages of your pipeline.

If you’ve been lucky enough never to get ghosted, ghosting is when a lead enters the pipeline and moves through the different stages, but then one day, they just stop responding to your calls and emails. It’s as if they’ve fallen off the face of the earth or they’ve turned into a ghost. After putting in so much work to retain them, losing a lead this way is nothing short of painful.

Thankfully, you can prevent getting ghosted by a lead or having a lead fall out of the pipeline in another way almost 100% of the time!


7 Reasons Why Qualified Sales Leads Fall Out of Your Sales Pipeline


Here are 7 of the most common reasons why leads consistently fall out of your sales pipeline. Whether they’re ghosting you or don’t think that they need your solution, you end up left in the dust without any deals.

Understanding why leads diss you is the first step to not just retaining them through the entire pipeline, but to securing deals altogether.


1. You Didn’t Qualify the Lead In the First Place


To begin with, whenever a lead falls out of your pipeline, the first thing you need to ask yourself is whether or not that lead was qualified to be there in the first place.

Ask yourself if:

  1. The lead initially fit your ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona during the lead generation phase; and
  2. You did a thorough additional layer of lead qualification during the qualifying stage of the process.

Like I said before, many salespeople will bypass qualifying prospects to fill their pipeline with as many leads as possible. They do this because they incorrectly believe that leads are scarce, so they should take whatever they can.

While it’s nice to look at your pipeline and see tons of leads inside of it, it isn’t worth it if those leads aren’t qualified.


Unqualified Leads Don’t Need or Want You

Do you know why even the most professional salespeople often have a bad reputation?

It’s because so many prospects are used to being bombarded by salespeople who target them despite the fact that they genuinely don’t want or need their product or service.

Moreover, salespeople often get a bad rep because they’ll target anyone who will listen to them, regardless of how much they actually need the deliverable. They really just want to hit sales goals, and could care less about their prospects.

Sound familiar?

The hard truth is that unqualified leads don’t want or need you, and targeting them will only:

  1. Waste everybody’s time
  2. Give you a bad rep

If you want respect, then don’t be that salesperson who tries to sell bicycles to fish! To put it simply, don’t target unqualified leads who truly don’t need whatever it is you’re selling.


Focusing on Unqualified Leads Means Less Time for Qualified Leads

There are significantly high opportunity costs to filling your pipeline with unqualified leads.

Perhaps the highest opportunity cost is not having enough time, energy, and resources to invest in leads who are actually qualified.

When qualified leads aren’t getting the attention they need, they’ll feel as if they’re not getting enough attention from you and will either ghost or go to your competition.

Furthermore, don’t sacrifice unqualified leads for qualified leads!  Not every lead is a great sales opportunity.


What is in a sales pipeline?


2. The Lead Controls the Sales Process Instead of You


I will say it here and I will say it many times over again: Leads don’t understand what their pain points are or how to solve them. Because if they did, then they would have solved them already!

Despite this fact, most sales team members act as if their leads enter the pipeline knowing exactly what their pain point is and how to solve it. As a result, they let leads control the selling process! Then before they know it, the lead virtually vanishes into thin air.

Letting a lead control the selling process is the equivalent of putting a baby in the driver’s seat of a car: They don’t know what they’re doing, so putting them in control won’t get anybody anywhere! Instead, the baby will just cry.

Another one of the most common reasons why leads leave the pipeline is because the salesperson didn’t control the process. When the salesperson doesn’t own the process, the lead doesn’t get the guidance they need to overcome their problem. Eventually, they ditch the pipeline once they realize that they’re not getting the help they need.


Prospects Don’t Know What They Need, so You Must Have Control

From now on, I suggest practicing what I like to call the expert doctor sales strategy. This strategy will help you stay in control of the selling process just about every time.

Imagine that you’re a patient being referred to a surgeon for back pain. When you meet with the surgeon for the first time, they ask you in-depth questions, do some analysis, and then diagnose while presenting potential solutions. The surgeon never once asks, “so what do you think the problem is?” because that would mean that the surgeon isn’t the expert in control of the situation.

Moreover, the key to staying in control like an expert surgeon is:

  1. Asking leads in-depth questions regarding symptoms of their pain point (talking less)
  2. Suggest running analyses and diving deeper into the pain point
  3. Telling them what their problem is and what it’ll take to solve it

If you approach each sales encounter like an expert surgeon, then you’ll stay in control of the process AND leads won’t even consider ditching you because they see you as somebody who they can’t afford to live without.


3. You Make Selling All About You Instead of the Prospect


How would you feel if you walked into an appliance store, asked a sales rep to walk you through the options for refrigerators, and then all the salesperson did from there on out was talk about their own kitchen renovation instead of asking you what you’re looking for and why?

As ridiculous of a situation as it sounds, many B2B sales pros do this all the time: Instead of making sales about what the potential customers want, they make it all about themselves!

Don’t believe it?

Consider this: How often do you send out proposals to customers before ever even sitting down and asking them what their pain points are? If you’re like most salespeople, then this is, unfortunately, common practice.

What about this strategy makes you think that somebody would want to buy from you?

In short: Nobody will want to buy from you if you make sales about you before ever even considering what the prospect might think! Before you know it, the lead will vanish into thin air.


Prospects Care About Their Needs, Not Yours

The hard truth is that prospects don’t enter the pipeline thinking about your problems. Rather, they’re focused on overcoming their own problems!

Therefore, if you make selling about you, you, you, you, you, then they have little to no reason to stay in the pipeline.

This isn’t to say that your concerns aren’t important; at the end of the day, a sales deal is a two-way street, but you can’t expect to entice a prospect into the pipeline and keep them there if all you do is talk about closing the deal to hit revenue goals.


4. Prospects See You as Just Another Vendor


Have you ever felt like you’ve been window-shopped before? By that, I mean that you had a lead enter the pipeline, you met with them on a few occasions, but they really didn’t seem to be all that serious about making a purchasing decision? In the end, they hit you with a super hard, “Thanks but no thanks.”

If you’ve experienced that before, you certainly know what it feels like to be window-shopped!

It’s that experience when a new lead is just browsing instead of seriously intending to make a purchasing decision. Meanwhile, you’re totally serious about closing the deal!

Usually whenever a lead starts window shopping, it’s because they see you as more of a vendor and less of an expert. Unlike experts who are totally irreplaceable, vendors are a dime a dozen. Therefore, the lead has no problem ditching you because they see you as replaceable.

Unless you want prospects to fall out of the pipeline, you must make them perceive you as the expert you are.


Prospects Don’t Take Vendors Seriously

To make leads start seeing you as the expert you are, I suggest the following techniques:

  1. Asking more questions than talking
  2. Connecting with leads on social media, particularly LinkedIn, where you share expert-level content
  3. Connecting with the top decision-makers at your targeted companies right at the start of the selling process

Don’t sink to the level of a window shop-worthy vendor! Change the way that prospects perceive you to keep them in the pipeline while increasing the number of deals you close in less time.


5. Wasting the Lead’s Time & Confusing Them


Do you like having your time wasted? Of course not!

On top of that, do you enjoy being confused? Definitely not.

While basically nobody likes being confused or having their time wasted, sales leaders regularly put their leads through exceedingly long and complex sales cycles that only waste time and create confusion.

Once they realize that they’re confused and their time is being wasted, the lead refuses to enter the next stage of the pipeline.

From now on, instead of wasting everybody’s life worse than it needs to be, increase sales velocity so that your process is as short and straightforward as possible.


The Longer the Sales Cycle Is, the Worse it Is

Instead of putting your leads through an unnecessarily long cycle, jump right to the point by addressing their pain point.

Once the lead realizes the toll their pain point is taking, they’ll want to get to solutions ASAP! This, unfortunately, doesn’t happen when your cycle is super long.

Additionally, the longer a sales cycle is, the more complex it gets, and complexity never helps any lead’s decision-making process!

Moreover, the longer and more complex the cycle is, the longer leads will have to wait to actually solve their pain point. As a result, they’ll look for somebody else who can help them sooner.


What are sales leads?


6. Not Understanding the Prospect’s Ultimate Business Vision


Leads don’t solve pain points for the sake of solving pain points. Rather, they solve pain points because solving them helps them get closer to manifesting their business vision. By business vision, I’m talking about the ultimate destination they’re trying to take their business toward.

Unfortunately, many salespeople never dig below the surface. Instead of uncovering their lead’s final destination, all they do is stay on the surface.

This ends up making the lead feel like they’re not being understood. When they don’t feel understood, they abandon ship. Why would they invest in somebody who isn’t working to understand them?

Take your sales efforts a level higher by uncovering your lead’s desired end destination.


What Does Solving a Pain Point Mean for the Prospect?

When you go to the doctor for knee pain, they don’t just ask you questions about the pain. Rather, they ask you questions about the impact of solving that pain. For example, perhaps the impact of getting your knee pain solved means that you can get back to exercising normally or chase your kids around again.

Similarly, uncover what it would mean for your prospects' pain to disappear.

Not only will that make them feel more understood, but it’ll also help you improve the application of your solution to fix their problem.


7. Failing to Put Your Personality on the Line


Believe it or not, leads want to work with real people, not robots!

In spite of this, many sales representatives reduce themselves to robots during the selling cycle. By that, I mean that they don’t put any personality out on the line.

Instead of being true to their unique personality, they conform to the kind of person they think they need to be to close deals. If only they knew that they just need to be genuine to close deals!

Whenever you reduce yourself to a robot, prospects don’t see you as the kind of person they want to form a solid relationship with. Ultimately, this forces them to abandon ship.

Simply put, you just need to be yourself if you want to keep leads in your pipeline!


Prospects Buy From People, Not Companies

There is a natural human element to selling that can’t be ignored.

When you think about it, even people who purchase items online without ever interacting with a sales rep go straight to the customer reviews before even reading the product overview.

Moreover, people buy from other people, not from companies! Acting as if they don’t buy from people will only result in a low pipeline conversion rate.

To increase that human element of selling, take advantage of your personal LinkedIn account to show off a bit. Interject humor and fun to reveal your genuine side.

Sometimes something as small as putting your personality out there just a little more can be the difference between a lead staying in or abandoning the pipeline.


Final Thoughts on Reasons Why Leads Fall Out of Your Sales Pipeline


No more going through the sales process only for leads to fall out of the pipeline at one point or another. Instead of letting all that hard work go to waste, secure leads and retain them through the entirety of the sales pipeline until they close the deal with you.

Whether or not leads fall out of the pipeline is 100% within your power! How much longer will you allow leads to continuously diss you until you finally make changes?

Win more deals. Grow your business.

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