Beware the Tire Kicker

Alex Greenwood
5 min readSep 21

Navigating the treacherous waters of client acquisition in the PR and marketing world often feels like a game of Minesweeper: One wrong move, and you’ve sunk a bunch of time, effort, and resources into a client that was never really a prospect. The infamous “tire kickers” are your worst nightmare in this scenario. They feign interest, ask endless questions, and yet never commit. Identifying them early on can save you a world of hurt.

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

I’ve been in business for nearly fourteen years, and I’ve learned a few things about avoiding these types of window shoppers. That doesn’t mean I always trust my instincts, though. Just this month, a tire kicker snuck up on me and I spent hours on travel, meetings, and crafting a proposal, all for naught. I know it’s part of the game, but man, it is a gut punch when you see all the time you wasted.

However, it’s crucial to remember that not every prospect who decides not to hire you falls into this category. Multiple variables could be in play: timing, budget constraints, or even a change in organizational priorities. Moreover, initial conversations with these prospects can provide invaluable market insights and may even pave the way for future collaborations when circumstances align.

Neglecting these relationships because they didn’t immediately convert is a missed opportunity. They may not be the right fit for your service offerings today, but who’s to say what tomorrow holds? Keeping the door open for future discussions and maintaining a professional rapport can often lead to fruitful engagements down the line. In other words, today’s “no” might be tomorrow’s enthusiastic “yes,” provided the relationship is nurtured and not dismissed.

Eyes Wide Open

That said, be sure you go in with your eyes open. Let’s take a look at how to spot — and deal with — someone who is ultimately not serious about hiring you or making a purchase. And let’s hope I can remember this next time I get that sinking feeling I have a tire kicker on my hands.

The Inquiry Mirage

The first red flag often manifests in initial conversations. Tire kickers love to dangle the proverbial carrot, presenting what seems like a juicy project. However, upon digging deeper, you’ll find a lack of specificity or a reluctance…

Alex Greenwood

PR Consultant, Speaker, Podcast Producer/Host, Editor, and Award-Winning Writer of the John Pilate Mystery Series. Accomplished belly laugher.