8 Reasons Why Prospects Ignore (It’s Not Always You)

Two small bird statues looking away from each other

As an SDR, it hurts to be avoided, ignored, or flat out rejected by prospects.

Every day, reps spend their time constantly in search of conversations that buyers often don’t want. So much negativity exists in the role that it’s easy to get discouraged and self-conscious:

“Am I the reason these people aren’t connecting?”

The reality of sales development is an uncomfortable one: SDRs are tasked with disrupting the lives of prospects in the hope that the timing, messaging, and context is right for a conversation.

While there are infinite reasons behind why a prospect might not engage, a majority of them have nothing to do with the rep, their brand, or even their outreach.

It’s not always controllable. It’s not always predictable. It’s not always the fault of the seller.

To help give visibility into the many potential situations buyers might be facing when an SDR connects, here are 8 reasons why prospects might ignore a rep simply out of circumstance.

1) Filtering vs Engaging Conversations

To salespeople, channels like email, social, and phone are ways to connect with buyers.

To buyers, these are just methods of communication. Prospects use these tools every day for a variety of reasons that range from their professional job to personal or career development.

Prospects often review their communication channels as a habit, because they know important messages are hidden throughout the day within the piles of other outreach they receive.

However, modern professionals can receive hundreds of sales emails, calls, and direct messages every week. Buyers must decide what wastes time and what is valuable to review.

How do prospects find value in a massive haystack of outreach that spans across the communication channels they use for work?

The answer: they skim, categorize, and filter out the noise so they can stay focused on what’s most relevant to them that day.

The more outreach a prospect receives, the lower chance a sales touch has of making the cut when conversations get filtered.

However, prospects don’t act this way by default or all the time. Spaces can exist within a prospect’s day where they’ll actually evaluate outreach or be attentive to a conversation.

2) Timing Between Separate Sales Touches

No brand can control what other competitors are doing to target prospects.

Buyers often get overwhelmed by cold conversations throughout the week, all of them coming from individual sellers that each reach out to compete for the prospect’s attention.

With limited time, buyers must prioritize how much time they spend with salespeople and ultimately how many sales conversations they’re willing to accept that day.

Unfortunately, experiences with other sellers can impact how a buyer reacts to future sales outreach. In fact, a bad sales experience can ruin their perspective on sellers as a whole. 

Even if a buyer is interested or qualified, there’s a lower chance to generate a productive conversation if they’ve already recently spent energy with a different salesperson.

For example, an inexperienced rep might cold call with an irrelevant pitch that ends in an annoyed rejection by the prospect. Until the buyer recovers from that experience, they’ll be more likely to reject other sellers in the future because of one bad cold call.

3) Workplace or #WFH Distractions

Work always takes priority over interacting with sellers.

Since SDRs often disrupt buyers with their sales touches, it’s common for professionals to be pre-occupied by work-related distractions when they receive the outreach.

Whether relevant or irrelevant, events in the workplace can easily derail a prospect’s attention and reduce the likelihood that they engage in a sales conversation.

For example, simple questions from a team member or a group lunch break at the office could easily take priority over a random cold call, email, or direct message on social media.

Even in a work-from-home environment (WFH), something as small as a company Slack message, rescheduled team meeting, or out sick employee can distract buyers.

4) Afternoon Slump, Daydreaming, & Burn Out

Work isn’t easy and can often take a toll on people.

Through no fault of the seller, prospects can distract themselves based on their mental health and emotional state while working throughout the week.

Because chatting with salespeople is optional and takes up energy, buyers often reject sales conversations simply because they’re overwhelmed, drained, or not in the mood that day.

There’s nothing that can be done to control the feelings of another person, but it’s important to note that these situations are often temporary and definitely a common part of human nature.

5) Already in a Meeting or Conversation

It’s normal for business professionals to regularly attend conference calls, team standups, and one-on-one conversations as a part of their job.

In these situations, it’s usually impossible (or unwise) for a buyer to disengage their attention away from a live meeting to interact with a seller that abruptly interrupted them.

In addition, every meeting has an outcome and can affect whether a prospect is more or less excited about what’s coming next in their day.

Every calendar is different depending on the persona and industry, so some buyers might be available most days while others might have a very limited window for sales conversations.

Regardless of how active a buyer is on the calendar, it’s still the responsibility of the salesperson to acknowledge this schedule and find the best moments to connect.

6) Mental States of Concentration

Decision-makers often have a lot on their plate and more responsibilities than they can count.

While planning, meetings, and managing team members are often part of the job, buyers still have their own workload to complete that requires dedicated periods of time and focus.

Professionals commonly avoid any distractions at all while in the zone working, especially distractions from salespeople that could interrupt their state of concentration.

In fact, some professionals enter the workplace with this type of focused mindset the entire day and proactively remove any obstacles or interruptions that could potentially slow them down.

Unfortunately, salespeople must often intentionally break buyers away from these mental states of focus in order to capture attention and create a productive sales conversation.

Conflicts in priorities between buyer and seller are a normal part of cold prospecting, so don’t get discouraged when touches are ignored. In reality, prospects are often just hard at work.

7) Human Forgetfulness

In sales prospecting, it’s common for buyers to respond to an older sales touch days or weeks after the message was delivered.


Because human forgetfulness is common in the workplace, especially when it comes to remembering abrupt events like a cold sales conversation.

Even if a prospect is interested, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll follow-through and respond immediately. Even if they planned to respond as soon as possible, it’s not uncommon for a buyer to simply forget and let it slip through the cracks.

Forgetfulness is one of the reasons why sales follow-ups are so effective, because it acknowledges the fact prospects are human and might have forgotten the conversation.

8) Already Someone’s Customer

If an account is truly qualified, then it’s only a matter of time before they move in-market for a solution and start evaluating options.

But what if a buyer is already a happily-paying customer to a competing brand?

If a buyer already has a solution, there’s often no good reason for them to accept solicitations from other sellers in the space unless they decide to look for a new provider.

Some prospects will be upfront about happily using a competitor, but that’s not always the case. An easier answer for prospects is to simply ignore any other sales offers.

These situations highlight the importance of persistence in cold prospecting, because the most valuable, qualified accounts are often the ones already paying for a similar solution


Sellers: don’t get discouraged by prospects that ignore a sales touch or reject a conversation.

In the search for productive sales conversations, reps often let the constant negativity get to them personally and allow buyers to impact how they feel about themselves.

The reality? Cold sales outreach will always come with failure. However, a majority of the failures in sales is simply a product of bad timing that cannot be controlled.

An infinite number of reasons exist for why a prospect might not engage, but salespeople should never let these reasons diminish their ability to create conversations with buyers.