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Sometimes you can get lucky with prospects. Every time you send an email, a response follows within the hour. When you call, the prospect picks up and makes time to talk. No matter when or how you reach out, the prospect returns a prompt reply.

But, to be honest this is a rarity

It’s far more common for a prospect to go quiet after being responsive for a while. When this happens, we have to come up with creative ways to rekindle the conversation before the deal dies. In these types of situations, it’s important to realise that a prospect’s silence doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on how you’ve handled the sales process so far.

It’s not you, it’s them.

For whatever reason, their interest in the sales process has waned temporarily, and nine times out of ten, it’s due to something internal at their organisation. But if you notice this happening more frequently than you’d like, take some time to brush up on your questioning and closing skills. If a prospect becomes unresponsive, don’t waste time beating yourself up or trying to uncover the reason — here’s how to follow up with a prospect to re-engage them and get the deal rolling once more.

1. Don’t refer to the past.

Although you should continue to pursue prospects who’ve gone quiet, it’s important that you don’t call attention to the buyer’s silence. By starting an email with “I sent a message on Tuesday, but haven’t heard back from you, or “I called but have not received a return call, you’re not prompting them into action, you’re just making them feel guilty. And what do people do when they feel guilty? Avoid the situation.

If you want to hear back from your buyer, don’t mention the fact that they haven’t got back to you in a while. Start every sales follow up as if from scratch, and they’ll be more inclined to reengage.

2. Change your closes.

Closing is simply asking a prospect to commit to something, however large or small. You might ask them to read a white paper, schedule a call, make an introduction, or provide information. Consistently asking for closes throughout the sales process is a crucial factor in sales success.

When a prospect goes quiet, you might be tempted to just rehash the last close over and over again. However, I wouldn’t recommend this approach. Obviously, there’s something about the request that’s not inciting the prospect to respond, so it’s time to pull out a plan B.

Make your closes specific, and change them. Rather than asking for another meeting or call, ask for general information instead. For example, you could ask, “I’m trying to get a better understanding of your organisation. Where can I learn more about [X project, team, announcement]?”

The different requests explain why a salesperson is calling a prospect several times despite the lack of response. In addition, if a prospect was shying away from a particular close, they might be more inclined to reengage on a different one.

3. Vary your contact attempts.

This sounds so obvious, but I’ve found most salespeople don’t do it: Call and email your prospect at different times of day. Sales people are creatures of habit, so after they finish, say, leaving a voicemail for their prospect, they’ll put a reminder in their CRM to call that person again in three days or a week. And they’ll typically choose the same time. That means they’ll unsuccessfully call the buyer at 2:30 PM on a Tuesday — and then they’ll do the exact same thing at 2:30 PM next week. Maybe your prospect has a regular meeting at that time, or maybe they’re much less responsive in the afternoon. Whatever the case, there’s no reason to keep trying when something hasn’t worked the first time. I recommend switching both the day of the week and the relative time. If you were unsuccessful on Tuesday afternoon, try Thursday morning or early Monday evening.

4. Take a risk.

When a prospect who seemed interested goes quiet and hasn’t responded to your repeated attempts to contact them, try a more risky approach and leave them this voicemail:

“Hi [prospect name]. It’s Phil from [company] — I have a question that has nothing to do with our meeting last month. It’s important. This is my mobile number; please call me back as soon as you can.”

When they call you back, they’ll ask, “What’s this about?” I’ll reply, “I lied. This has to do with our meeting last month. I couldn’t get you on the phone.”

They’ll have one of two reactions: Either they’ll be angry with you, or they’ll laugh. If they’re annoyed, they weren’t going to buy from you anyway. And if they laugh, you’ve successfully restarted the conversation. It’s important to note you should have something valuable to say during this call, otherwise, they’ll never respond to you again.

5. Soften the break-up email.

I’m a firm believer in never sending absolute break-up emails. Your prospect did or said something at some point in the buyer’s journey that made them a qualified lead. Don’t throw that away with a glib break-up email. I’ve seen sales people try to use this type of last-ditch effort to push the prospect into moving forward. But what really happens is you give them an easy way out. You’re doing the breaking up, so they don’t have to.

Rather than saying, “It seems you’re not interested in what I have to offer. If that’s the case, this will be my last attempt at reaching you.” Try saying, “It seems like this isn’t a good fit for your company right now. I don’t want to bother you unnecessarily, so I’ll follow up in a few months to see if the timing is better.”

Instead of slamming the door on yourself, you’ve left it open and full of promise. You’ve been considerate of your prospect’s time while staying assertive and action-oriented.

If you’re struggling to find effective ways to get prospects to respond, and would like a copy of the “last attempt email” that qite often triggers a response from prospects who’ve gone quiet then get in touch.

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