We’ve all been there. The meeting’s gone well, your prospect seems enthusiastic and you’re confident that within a week, a significant sale will be made. Like any pro, you closed the conversation with a follow-up phone call scheduled in and have even sent a friendly email thanking them for their time. Great!
Then, unexpectedly, they go quiet. The day of the follow up comes and goes, there’s no response on email and the prospect’s office repeat the tired old phrase: “I’ll pass on your message”.
It’s only natural that you’re keen, but if a promising prospect has fallen off radar following a meeting, there’s wisdom in handling the situation with carefulness and calm – after all, there’s nothing more off-putting in sales than bombardment.
So, what causes a prospect to fall out of contact? The answer can depend on where you are in the process with them, and can include:
• The prospect’s needs have changed, or they feel you can no longer meet them
• They’ve changed their mind or have gone with a competitor
• They’re busy
• There’s a lack of urgency at their end
• They’re away from the office unexpectedly
It’s important to note that there is a good indication following a successful meeting that their silence has nothing to do with you or your business. But even if this is the case, finding out what’s happening at their end will equip you to drive the process forward.
If you’ve already established an open stream of emails with this prospect, your first action might be to simply ‘reply all’ to the last email you sent, and use the ‘buried email’ technique. This is where you simply say “Hi [name], I’m just checking my last email didn’t get buried in your inbox”. This is a commonly used technique, probably because it’s so effective at achieving a response. If the prospect really has been too busy to speak, or had merely forgotten, the chances are he or she will be prompted by this exchange.
In instances where a phone call appointment has been missed, or if you turned up at their premises for a meeting and they were absent without prior notice, getting visibly frustrated won’t do you any favours. A simple ‘Sorry I missed you’ email or voicemail will be sufficient in acknowledging an appointment was missed, which should also include a specific question for the prospect to answer such as “Does Friday at 1pm work for you?” This gives the prospect time to work out if they want another meeting, and respond accordingly.
Identifying Any Changes
In some instances, a prospect will avoid you because their circumstances have changed. The first step in handling this is to keep communication open and to take responsibility for their silence. You might send a friendly email saying “I apologise if I misconstrued the outcome from our last meeting. Can we talk so that I can find out where the proposal didn’t quite fit the bill?” This gives your prospect an opportunity to tell you what’s happened. Perhaps their budget has changed, or they require less/more input than originally thought. Or perhaps there’s an internal issue surrounding objection from another authority in the business. Whatever it is, the first step is to identify the barrier. Then, you can choose to propose a new solution. This might mean delaying what you once thought was a smooth process, but if it gets the job done then it’s a win win scenario.
Don’t give up too quickly
Can you believe that 44% of salespeople give up after one unsuccessful follow-up? And yet, 80% of successful sales require between five and twelve follow ups. For this reason, it’s important to persevere without seeming pushy. To alleviate any sense of bombardment and to maximise the chances of a response, use a mix of communication mediums. If in the past this prospect has been receptive over email, focus on email but don’t make it your sole strategy. You may even want to consider sending a token of goodwill to their office.
Know when to call it a day
After six weeks of no contact, you might want to consider sending a final friendly email apologising that you misjudged their interest, while briefly reiterating why the relationship would have been beneficial. It’s important that these emails are light and to-the-point, so that a busy prospect can see it even when scanning emails at pace. It could be that they respond and revive communication, but even if they don’t, they still know that the possibility of future deals is on the table, and that their lack of response hasn’t burnt any bridges.
It’s clear that whatever the reason a prospect has gone quiet, open communication is the crux of the solution. While many other salespeople will give up quickly, your perseverance and professionalism will be the key to reviving prospects and making a sale that matters.