If you’ve been promoting your services for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced at least one time when your prospect seemed to drop off the face of the planet. You thought things were going well. You were in talks and coming close to closing the deal when suddenly, your prospect stops taking your calls or responding to email.
The worst part about this failure to communicate is not knowing what happened. Did you do something wrong? Is the sale lost? And what is the best course of action since you don’t want to be perceived as a pushy salesperson who never knows when to give up. Here are a few small business sales tips for handling prospects who stop communicating.
Let Go Of Expectations
If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, take heart that there is a pressure-free way to re-establish communication with your prospect. But to do so, you must switch your focus from making the sale to learning what went wrong.
When you are focused on making a sale, it’s easy to fall into the trap of anticipating how your prospect should act and expecting things to go as you hope. In that sense, it’s a lot like the early stages of dating. You might have a few dates with someone and then suddenly, they no longer seem interested. You can feel mislead, frustrated, or confused and can become preoccupied with where you might have gone wrong.
Just like with dating, your prospects may not want to reveal the truth about why they stopped contacting you – but with a business relationship, it’s easier to gain feedback than with a non-committal guy or girl.
The trick to uncovering the mystery is to take a laid back approach to contacting them. If they are avoiding you, it may be because they aren’t yet ready to move forward, they’ve had internal issues that have halted the project, a key decision maker is on vacation, or they have decided not to go with your services. Or it may be something else.
If you really are interested in learning why your prospect is no longer interested, your first step is to let go of the idea that you will get the sale. By approaching your prospect as if a sale might still happen, you unconsciously add sales pressure to your relationship and can destroy any rapport you’ve build so far. Instead, accept that you are ok with their decision not to move forward before you contact them. The truth is, you don’t yet know what the situation is.
The next step is to call your prospect with the agenda of learning the truth, not pressuring them to move forward with you. While there is no guarantee that they will talk with you, you are much more likely to learn what happened if you are upfront and honest. No one likes rejection, yet gaining constructive criticism will help you better sell your services in the future.
One way to do this is to call up your prospect and apologize. Try to get them on the phone if you can, as email and voicemail can be impersonal. When you do have the opportunity to speak with them, say something like “I just wanted to call and apologize for us not being able to connect over the last few days/weeks. I feel like somewhere along the way, I may have dropped the ball or not provided you with the right information. Since I haven’t heard from you, I can only assume you’ve gone with someone else, so I’m not calling to pick up where we left off. I just wanted to see if you had any feedback for where I can improve for next time.”
The Benefits of Feedback
If you are genuine and honest, you may be surprised by what your prospect tells you, and perhaps even learn that he has a good reason for not being in touch. While learning the truth can seem frightening at first, you’ll find you are far less frustrated because you now know why things didn’t work out the way you hoped. Asking for constructive feedback has a number of benefits such as:
- Regaining Confidence – When prospects disappear, it’s easy to blame ourselves. Often, our inner critic gets the better of us and berates us for doing something wrong while holding on to the hope that somehow, this sale might work out.
- Getting Closure – By learning the truth about your prospect’s situation, you can make a more informed decision about whether to continue your relationship or move on. Even if your prospect tells you they’ve gone with someone else, you no longer have to devote your time, attention, and worry to what will happen in the future.
- Improving Sales Skills – When you don’t know if you did something wrong or what it might be, your inner critic is often quick to blame and belittle you for losing the sale. You may have done everything right, yet still lost the sale. By gaining constructive feedback, you will learn what you can improve or if the decision was something completely out of your control (such as the competitor they went with was the boss’ son).
- Build Client Rapport – While your prospect might not have hired you this time, that doesn’t mean they won’t have future projects. By showing them you are willing to accept feedback and are genuinely interested in their opinion, you demonstrate that this process was more than you making the sale. You wanted to build a relationship with them. When you relax and ask for the truth without sales pressure, your prospects will be more straightforward and honest with you.
As with any relationship, don’t jump to conclusions until you have the full story. The truth is often easier to deal with than the endless stream of possibilities your mind can come up with. By following these small business sales tips, you can learn from your mistakes and build confidence for your next prospecting interactions.