Nov 16, 2020 • Podcast

How do I handle a prospect or customer that goes silent?

Paul shares his thoughts on dealing with a customer or prospect that has shut down communication.

Show Notes

“…whatever you are selling, it might be a priority to you, but chances are, it’s not a priority to your customer or prospect.”

Your customer or prospect has other things on their plate.

“Does this message align with how the customer defines value?”

Something’s changed. Find out what that is.

“Every touch point that we have with our prospective customer is an opportunity to differentiate ourselves and promote our ….”

Follow up when it’s convenient—for the customer.

“We’ve all been strung out on a long maybe.”

Don’t be a prisoner of hope.

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How do I handle a prospect or customer that goes silent?

(Transcribed from podcast)

I guarantee you that you have experienced the challenge that we are going to talk about today. Let me know if this sounds familiar. You’re working on an opportunity. You meet with some of the key decision makers. They sound interested, maybe even excited. They ask questions; they’re engaged. They agree to follow up, and it sounds like everything’s moving in the right direction. Then, all of a sudden, they go silent on you. They completely ghost you. They won’t return your calls. They won’t return emails. How do you handle this? So, that’s what we’re going to talk about on today’s episode: How do you handle a prospect or a customer that goes silent on you?

Before we get into that, a quick shout-out to Andrea, over at The Creative Impostor Studios. We are closely approaching our 100th episode of the podcast, and it continues to grow. Andrea continues to be such a supportive member of the Q and A Sales Podcast team. And that’s because her company, The Creative Impostor Studios, is there to help you. So if you are interested in starting a podcast, reach out to her. If it’s something you’ve been thinking about, I guarantee you, there’s a podcast that is there for you. And she’s going to help you launch it, edit it, produce it. You name it, she is there to help you. So, reach out to Andrea and her team and she is there to take care of you.

Also, pick up your latest edition of Value-Added Selling. It’s available on Amazon. This is your go-to book. If you’re early on in your career, if you’re a seasoned veteran, whatever it might be, this book can help you sell more profitably. Now, I’m the first one to tell you that what we cover in the book, it doesn’t work all the time, but it does work some of the time. And it’s going to make you better. It’s going to make you a more productive salesperson. So pick up your copy. It’s available wherever you get books. Probably the easiest is on Amazon.

All right, folks. Let’s get back to that question. I’ve got the question right here: How do you handle a prospect that goes silent? Let’s look at the realities. First of all, the one thing you need to remember, as the salesperson, is that whatever you are selling, it might be a priority to you, but chances are it’s not a priority to your customer or your prospect. I know that that can be a tough pill to swallow, especially since we think our solutions are great; that we can help the customer. We can have such a dramatic impact on their business. We get so excited about it. But, we have to remember that your customer, your prospect, they have other priorities that they are dealing with. There are other things on their plate. And once you realize that, it kind of helps take the sting out of them going silent. Especially if you had a great couple of first meetings and all of a sudden they’re not contacting you. You might take it personal, but just remember that it’s not personal. They just have other priorities going on.

With that being said, I’m going to share a couple of thoughts to help you prompt a response from your customer. First thing I would do, I would review my messaging. Think about the theme of your presentation. Think about the theme of your previous meeting, how you were communicating your message of value, and I want you to ask yourself, ‘Does this message of value align with how the customer defines value?’ Does my message align with how the customer defines value? Remember that your emails, your voicemails, your face-to-face sales presentation, your zoom calls, your product demonstrations, every communication that you have with your customer should align with how they define value, not how we define value. Remember, it’s how they define value that really matters. So go back and review some of your messages, review your proposals, review your notes from your previous meetings and ask yourself, ‘Am I communicating our message of value in a compelling way that aligns with how our customer defines value?’ What you might realize is there are other things going on. Maybe we missed a couple of things. Maybe there’s something else going on that we need to be aware of. That’s why we go back and we review our messaging. Review the story that you’re telling and make sure that it aligns.

Next thing you want to do is ask yourself what has changed since your previous meeting. If the customer expressed some interest: they are looking forward to a product demo; they’re looking forward to more information; they’re going to share some information with you. Whatever it is, if they seem engaged and they seem interested, ask yourself what has changed since the previous meeting. Maybe they’ve had different priorities. Maybe there’s been a changeover in management. I remember one salesperson I was working with, they were selling software packages. And, one of the packages they were working on, it was for a large Fortune 500 company. Well, their customer went silent on them, and I remember asking that salesperson, I said, “What do you think has changed in the previous two to three weeks, the month, since you’ve interacted?” So, we went online. We looked at their, you know, at the newsreel from their company website. We also looked on LinkedIn and looked at some of their contacts. And, it turns out that all the key decision makers now have a new vice president for their division.

As we’re talking about this, I said, “Okay, let’s step back for a moment and put ourselves in the position of all those key decision makers that were involved before. They now have a new boss that’s coming in. That means everything has changed for them. They got used to that previous VP that they were working with, that they were interacting with. Now they have someone new coming in that it’s going to have a new set of priorities, that wants to set a new direction for their division. They had to be aware of that. And the good news there is that it’s not like the deal was dead, it was just paused for a moment. And during times of change like that, it’s actually an opportunity for you to go out there and build a deeper rapport with your key decision-makers. So, keep that in mind. When things change, we have to be aware of that change, whether it’s a change in management, change in any sort of industry trend that impacts the business, or even a pandemic like we’re going through right now. Change happens, and we have to realize that change will impact our customer’s decision.

Next thing we want to do is also look for other decision makers that could potentially be involved. You know, when we interact with a couple of decision makers for a first meeting, a discovery meeting, where we’re talking about their needs, their wants their concerns, we have to realize there could be other people that are involved in the decision that maybe they didn’t mention before—maybe they didn’t acknowledge. And so, we have to figure out who those individuals are. We have to reach out to those individuals as well. Or, perhaps we can reach out to our existing contacts and ask them, “Hey, who else is going to be involved?” Or, “Who else should we incorporate into this decision?” And, what you’re realizing, there are going to be more people involved, and by bringing them into the process, that can also prompt a response from your customer.

Next thing, use multiple channels when you’re following up with your main contact. Our research shows that the different decision makers, they want to be contacted in different ways. Some prefer a phone call, some prefer leaving them a voicemail, some prefer going through their administrative assistant or executive assistant. Others prefer a letter even. So you have to be aware that different customers want different communication channels. The best thing we can do is spread out our campaign. Leave him a voicemail, follow up with an email, send them a written note or a typed up letter. Whatever it might be, we want to surround them with our message of value.

Each touch point, each correspondence, is going to be an opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves. And also, every touch point that we have with our prospective customer is an opportunity to promote our value-added solution. We want to make sure we’re using multiple channels of influence when we’re following up with those customers.

In addition to using multiple channels, we also want to use multiple timeframes. We’ve got to remember, we have to follow up with the customer when it is convenient for them. I know that many sellers, they will schedule blocks of follow-up time. And I understand this, wanting to block and chunk the same work at the same time. That helps with efficiency and all that. But, we’ve got to remember that our customers, they have a particular time where they’re checking their emails throughout the day, when they’re willing to respond to an email. So we have to follow up when it’s convenient for them. So switch up your time. If you’re following up with the same customer every single Monday morning, and you don’t get a response, switch it up. Try a Tuesday afternoon, try a Thursday morning, whatever it might be. Just switch up your time when you’re following up.

I remember one salesperson in one of our training seminars mentioned that he had a lot of trouble getting a business owner to respond to his emails during the week, but he noticed something. He noticed, over the weekend, that sometimes his customers would respond. And so, he started setting up automated emails for follow-up on Saturday mornings. And what he soon found out is that he got a better response rate. So, you’ve got to follow up when it’s convenient for that customer.

Finally, don’t become a prisoner of hope. Don’t become a prisoner of hope. I know in sales that sometimes our persistence will blind us to the fact that the opportunity just “ain’t gonna happen.” We call those prisoner-of-hope accounts. We think, by sheer will and sheer persistence, that eventually we’re going to woo over that customer. We’re going to say something so compelling that will cause them to change. You’re not going to win every deal. And the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can move on to more viable opportunities.

So here’s what I would do. Decide how many unsuccessful contacts you are going to make. And, when I say an unsuccessful contact, that could be unsuccessful emails, voicemails, cold calls, face-to-face visits, whatever it is. Once you reach that point, send them a final note. This kind of sounds like an ultimatum, but it’s at least going to prompt a response. Play with the wording a little bit, but here’s how it will sound. And you can do it in an email, voicemail, however you’d like.

Dear, Mr. Customer,

I wanted to thank you for meeting with me several weeks ago. I feel that our company and your company are well aligned, and I believe that we can create a lot of value for your company and impact on this project. However, I’ve reached out to you several times and I have had no response. Please let me know if you’re still interested in moving forward. And also, please let me know if you are not. If you are not interested in moving forward, just let me know and I will quit bothering you.

What we’re doing here, we are just sending them a message. We’re letting them know, “Hey, I’ve reached out to you. I’m trying to create value, but if you’re not interested, let me know.” I mean, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been strung out on a long “maybe.” I would much rather hear a quick, NO, than a long MAYBE any day of the week. Because, once we hear that, NO, we can move on. So, don’t become a prisoner of hope. Establish how many unsuccessful callbacks you will accept before you send that last note. And, I think what you’ll see is that, when you send that final note—Hey, let me know if you’re interested or if you’re not—you’re going to get a response. And, most of the time, that response will be positive. They’ll say things like this, “We are still interested. The timing is tough.” “We are still interested, but we have other priorities right now. Contact me in a couple months.” Whatever it might be, you, then, follow up impeccably.

That’s the goal. That’s how we handle a prospect that goes silent on us.

Make it a big day.

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