We’ve all had it happen to us, and it’s one of the most frustrating experiences in business.
You met with your prospective client, and it was an exciting and productive meeting. You established good rapport, you listened well and learned their major issues, you talked about your unique value propositions, and you felt confident that this sale would move forward to signature. You followed up with a thank-you note, and you proceeded to the next step in your sales process.
And then the prospect went “dark” on you. Several days of emails, voicemails and calls not returned, and you are now tearing your hair out in frustration. What happened? Why aren’t they returning your calls? What did you do wrong? How can you recover the sale? Why did they go silent?
Don’t assume anything
If our calls are not being returned, we automatically assume the worst, and when there is no logical explanation, we begin to invent one.
What does it mean when the prospect is not returning your calls or emails? Most often, nothing.
I can report that hundreds of times clients called me back out of the blue — after several days or weeks of no communication — and told me how excited they were to be working with me. I was worrying about it, thinking I had done something wrong, counting on the worst-case scenario when in actuality the customer was: on vacation, consumed with more important business issues, tied up in out-of-town meetings, death or marriage in the family, divorce, and a whole host of other rational reasons someone might not return calls.
In my experience, about 40% of these “gone silent” cases are nothing to worry about. A little patience is required. Better yet, spend the time prospecting to 10 new clients and stop worrying about the one that may be slipping away. Focus on creating positive forward motion!
Carefully review your sales process
Almost every modern sales organization has a documented sales process which should be based on a set of “best practices” that are followed by their highest performing professionals. This should be your first step. Find out what your very best reps are actually doing to close so many deals, and get it documented and disseminated to the rest of your team. Just doing this simple step can lead to a 10% increase in sales results — immediately!
Next, review the steps you took in your sales process with the “gone dark” client and find out what vital action was either missing, skipped, or not completed thoroughly. Human nature ensures that, in most cases, we will justify our behavior to ourselves, and we’ll make excuses for any shortcomings, so it helps to discuss this with another person to get an objective viewpoint of the situation.
The reasons why the prospect or current client doesn’t return your call almost always come back to value — or the lack thereof. You didn’t establish enough value in the previous meeting, and there’s no compelling reason for them to take your call or pick up the phone and contact you. The fact they don’t call back indicates it’s simply not a high priority for them, as not enough value was established in the previous meeting.
Here’s a workable approach to creating value and helping to ensure your call will be returned. In your earliest meeting, you must:
- Establish trust and rapport.
- Ask questions and listen carefully, taking notes.
- Find out what is their real problem/issue/need.
- Briefly discuss the value of what you do (services, product).
- Connect the value you deliver to their core issue.
- Indicate you may have some ideas to help resolve their problem, creating a storm of interest and demand.
- Schedule the next meeting to present these ideas.
- Confirm the next meeting with them on the spot.
Try this on your next call, and you’ll see some great results!
Patrick McClure is the founder of the Connexia Group, a consulting firm specializing in accelerating performance in sales, management and presentation skills. He has personally sold more than $100 million in products and services for companies such as IBM, Digital Equipment, EDS and Hitachi Data Systems over a 30-year career in sales and management, training and speaking. His industry experience includes manufacturing, wholesale distribution, high technology, small business and Internet-based startups.