Oct 18, 2019 • Podcast

How do I deal with unresponsive customers and prospects?

Have you ever been ghosted by a customer or prospect?

Sure you have! Every salesperson has dealt with an unresponsive customer or prospect. In this episode, Paul offers some practical advice to overcome this challenge.

How do I deal with unresponsive customers or prospects?

(Transcribed from podcast)

We’re going to cover a very common question that we get in our training seminars, “How do you deal with an unresponsive customer or prospect?” We’ve all been there where we’ve left countless messages. We just sit around waiting and hoping that the customer’s going to call back. It is one of the most frustrating aspects of sales, because you’re in that middle ground where you know you can help them, but, they’re not calling you back. Maybe they’re just not interested, or, maybe they’re just too busy. Either way, it can be a frustrating part of sales, but it is a reality that we need to get over. So, whether you have a customer that you work with now that is just not returning your calls, or it’s a brand new prospect you know you can make a real difference in their business, we’ve got to figure out a way to send a message that is compelling—that will stand out—but most importantly, that will prompt a response from the customer.

A few things to remember as we begin this segment are just some of the realities that we’re dealing with. Number one, your customers and prospects are busy people. They have a bunch of people competing for their time; they have a bunch of different priorities. And, sometimes, those priorities are going to take precedent over whatever it is that you are offering. We have to get that buyer on board. That’s why our message has to stand out and be compelling.We have to take all the other priorities that they have going on in their business and in their life and convince them that whatever we’re going to offer is going to make a difference in their business, and a difference that is so compelling that it’s worth taking the time to meet with us.

Let’s look at a few tips. The first thing we’re going to look at is how we structure our message. There’s an acronym I want you to remember: GET the appointment. GET is an acronym that stands for GRAB their attention, ESTABLISH the need, and TEASE them with a benefit. This is simple three-step process, or a three-part framework to deliver a message. Whether it’s via email, voicemail, or a letter that you’re sending them, use this framework.

Let’s break it down. The first part is grabbing their attention. This is the one part of your message that has to stand out enough for them to continue reading. Think about this, when you receive a voicemail or an email, you’re reading that first sentence and judging whether you need to continue to read it. You might delete it; you might file it away for later. The first sentence is critical. There are a few things you can do to grab their attention. You can reference a trigger event. A trigger event is any event that would cause that decision maker to be more open to your solution. For example, maybe they just were awarded a new project. In the opening line, reference that project. That’s a way to use a trigger event.

You could also reference a business problem that they could be experiencing. Our internal research at Tom Reilly Training shows that owners and C-level executives—high-level decision makers—are more likely to meet with the salesperson if that person appears to be able to solve a problem that they’re currently having. If you can reference a business problem that they’re having in that opening line, you’re grabbing their attention. Another thing you can mention—a compelling statistic you know about the industry. For example, 80 percent of businesses are under-insured relative to their actual needs. That would be a compelling statistic. That’s made up, by the way, so don’t use that one, especially if you’re in the insurance industry. But, you can find some compelling stats out there to use.

By far, the most powerful is using a referral. A referral is critical because, with a referral, the name you mention is a name they know, that they trust, that they put more stock in than you. They don’t know you yet. You’ve yet to meet with them. So, if you can reference a referral, that is very powerful. For example, “Jim, in the maintenance department, suggested that I reach out to you.” He knows Jim; he trusts Jim. Jim obviously made a recommendation, so you can leverage the trust in the relationship that those two have. First step—we’ve got to grab their attention and we’ve got to do it in one sentence.

Once we grab their attention, the next step is to establish the need. We’ve got to answer the question, “Why is there a need for what we offer and why is there a need right now?” What is the pain of the problem that their experiencing. What is it costing them on an annual, daily, weekly, or even an hourly basis? Establishing the need is about revealing that pain and answering the question, “Why is there a need right now?”

The final thing we want to do is tease them with a benefit. The term, “teaser,” is an advertising term—“a teaser campaign.” The whole idea is to whet the beak just a little, generate or stimulate some demand for whatever you are offering. It would make sense to try to tease the decision maker into at least meeting with you. And you do that by answering the question, “What could they potentially gain by either meeting with you or eventually adopting your solution?” I’ll give you a sample statement that really summarizes all of these elements together. This is a message that we’d leave using a referral to grab the attention:

“Jim Doe, at XYZ Corporation, suggested that I reach out to you. Our research shows that 80 percent of manufacturers don’t have a back-up supplier for their core products. This is one of the greatest supply-chain challenges facing today’s manufacturers. At ABC Supply, we help organizations like XYZ solve this common manufacturing problem. There’s never a good time for production to go down. How does your schedule look next Wednesday at 11:00 AM for a meeting?”

You can see that the message is very simple. It has all three of those components, it establishes the need, and teases them with the potential benefit. Remember that framework when you are leaving a message, sending an email, writing a letter, whatever it might be.

Another tip is to have a call to action at the end of the message. You’ll notice that I gave a specific day and time as a call to action. I mentioned their availability at 11:00 AM on Wednesday. Giving something specific makes it easier for them to say yes.  We don’t want to leave it open-ended and say, “Let me know how your schedule looks next week.” That’s too broad. Give them a few options if you’d like, and that way, it’s easier for them to choose.

The next thing we’ll look at when you’re following up with an unresponsive customer…Be creative in your follow-up. Too often, salespeople leave the same message over and over again and expect to get a response. Instead, be a little creative. There was one great example in a recent training seminar. We had a salesperson, in the fluid power industry, who had a great opportunity that he had been working on. He got to see the key decision maker, had a great meeting, discussed their needs, and it seemed like a really good fit. However, after the meeting, that decision maker went completely silent on him. He continued to follow up to no avail. So, he came up with a clever idea. He bought a pair of shoes and took a shoe out of the box. He put a note in that shoebox and he sent it to the key decision maker. When the decision maker got the box, and looked at it, there was one shoe, with a note attached, and it said, “Now that my foot is in the door, can I have a meeting?” Think about that. How clever. We want to make sure that we’re being clever with our follow-up.

Another tip, don’t become a prisoner of hope. We’ve all been there where we’ve continuously called on an account that’s been unresponsive. Maybe they even told us, “I don’t think it’s a good fit. I don’t think we’re going to do business.” We’ve all been there where we’ve reached that point when it’s no longer a good use of our time. One suggestion—before you begin a follow-up campaign with an existing customer or prospect, determine how many unsuccessful callbacks you’re going to give yourself before you call it quits and you move on to the next one. However, what if it’s an existing customer or a prospect that you’ve met with before and seemed excited to work with you? It seemed like it was a good fit, but they just went completely silent on you. Here’s what I’d recommend. In your final attempt to meet with them, send them a message that doesn’t really give them an ultimatum, but it lays it all out there on the line. For example, you might send an email or leave a voicemail that says, “Mr. Customer/Mr. Prospect. It was great meeting with you a few weeks ago. We had a great conversation about your needs and I really feel like our organization can help you compete more profitably. However, I have not heard from you after multiple messages. If you don’t feel like it’s going to be a good fit, please let me know and I’ll quit bothering you. However, if you do feel like it’s still a good fit, let’s figure out a time where we can meet. Either way, just let me know.”

Sending a message like that should prompt one of two responses. Either they’re going to say, “We’re just not interested,” and now you know; now you can move on. Or, maybe they’ll respond and say, “This is a priority but the timing is really bad. Let’s get together in a couple of months.” Whatever it is, it’s going to prompt a response. And it lets them know that you’re serious, not only about helping them, but also, that you respect their time and your own time.

One final thought. When you’re trying to get a response from a customer, remember your attitude. If you’re getting ready to follow up with a customer and you’re mentally telling yourself, “They’re never going to return this call. Why am I even leaving this message? Man, I feel like I’m bugging this guy.” If that’s your attitude going into a follow-up campaign, it’s going to come off in your message. We behave as we believe, so make sure you get your attitude right with some positive self-talk before you begin a follow-up campaign. Let yourself know, “I can create some value for this prospect. I’ve really helped customers like this in the past. I know that I can make a meaningful difference in their business.” Use that as a positive way to set the tone for your interaction.

Subscribe to our podcast. Also, submit your question. If you have a burning sales question that you need answered, let us know. We’ll do the research and provide some answers.

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