A question I’m often asked by entrepreneurs is, what do you do when prospects go silent, when they tell you “yes we’ll go ahead, leave it with me”, but you don’t hear anything for a over ten days and they don’t respond to emails. You have no idea what’s causing the hold-up, no one to call to find out. You’re achingly close to getting a deal and you feel like shouting, “hurry up”, or something more colourful.
First off, don’t worry. This happens from time to time. If you’ve waited less than three days, keep waiting, it’s too soon to panic. If more than a week has passed, then you might want to try one of the approaches below.
When prospects go silent: why this happens
First, why does this happen? You only act and do something if it’s urgent. Humans prefer short term pleasure to long-term gain, that’s why we procrastinate. If you read the previous post about procrastination, you’ll understand humans are mostly governed by the emotional centre of the brain, the limbic system. When the rational part, the prefrontal cortex, is activated, we’re more likely to procrastinate procrastinating. So this is likely what’s going on in your prospect’s head. The problem you’re solving or their desire to buy isn’t urgent enough for them, it’s not a priority, or if your product is brand new, they’re having cold feet.
Rushing a sale
The silent treatment mostly occur due to insufficient exploration and rapport building. In other words, the earlier parts of the “sales process”. It’s happened to me in the past, where in a meeting I began by excitedly telling them about my service, with very little chatter from them. I didn’t ask many questions, or I just asked closed questions.
It’s common for entrepreneurs to want to sprint to the finishing line. Not surprising, you want to make sure you can pay yourself and invest in that new thingy to help your business grow. So you want to give your demo as soon as possible, because, without sales training, that’s what you think selling is. As a result, you haven’t established needs, understood their decision-making criteria or their buying process.
What not to do
Don’t email or call them ask, “just calling to find out if you received my proposal” or “what are your thoughts on my proposal?”. This comes across as desperate.
Desperation is a client deterrent.
Don’t email asking, “I haven’t received a response”, “called but couldn’t get through”, or “did you see my email I sent last week?”. If you received these emails, how would they make you feel? I’m guessing guilty as a dog caught defecating in your shoe.
Don’t try a different closing technique on them. If they haven’t moved forward with your previous attempt to close, then a different one won’t do the trick.
What to do
Your objective should be to re-engage them to find out what’s going on and what they’re thinking. This conversation must happen on the phone or in person, not email. Try one of these four approaches that worked for me in the past.
To avoid coming across like the message in Rihanna’s song…
Get yourself present.
Operating from a place of desperation might translate into frenetic phone calls or ego-ic emailing.
Before you act, take five conscious breaths by simply inhaling and exhaling, all the time listening to your breath.
Find something useful and insightful to go back to them, something that helps them personally or their business. If you can’t think of anything, put yourself in their shoes, what would help you do your job better. Find a way to give something of value, without giving your stuff away for free.
Random act of kindness
Performing a random act of kindness can sometimes open the door for you. Like send them a book you think they might enjoy along with a hand-written note. The kindness act must come from the intention to simply send something they might like, and then let it go. If they don’t respond, move on.
If you can’t reach them on the phone, I’ve found emailing with a dose of humour gets a response. After all, what have you got to lose?
Subject: I think Voldemort hacked your email account.
Make it easy for them
People can be lazy, and when we’re busy, we just want an easy life. Minimise effort on their side by giving them a multiple choice answers.
Just to save your time and mine and so I stop stalking you, please could you respond with a 1, 2, 3 or 4?
- I’m not interested and never ever will be 🙂
- Call me next week, been busy
- Call me back in two months, it’s not a good time
- Leave me alone you weirdo
Sometimes prospects just change their mind and don’t like saying no. Give them a out by saying something like,
Just to save your time and mine, if we don’t hear back from you by the end of the month, I’m assuming you’re not in a position to move forward. That’s okay, I know saying “no” can be awkward. I’ll be in touch from time to time if to explore if there’s anything we can do to help you.
This happened to me a few times. I sent an email giving them a get out clause. Kept sending the odd informative email. Nine months later they emailed me.
Just like all strategies, not all of these are 100% full-proof. You’re dealing with so many variables, motivations, personalities, and so on. But they do increase the likelihood of getting results.
You can learn strategies to avoid this from happening in the future on my Mindful Sales Masterclass (sign-up here if you want to be the first to hear about it).