When Prospects Pull the Vanishing Act

What do you do when you can’t reach your prospect …ever? How do you draw the line between optimistic persistence and wishful thinking?

Let’s look at a scenario that someone recently described to me. A few months before, he received a call from a prospect who was very enthusiastic about his product, asked a lot of questions, requested more information and set up a date for a follow-up phone call. My friend sent the information and called at the requested time. No answer, so he left a message and made a note to call again in a week if he had no response; still no answer. He was confused. His prospect had called him! Why was he suddenly getting no response? He continued calling every week or so for several weeks before asking me for advice.

In business, especially in sales, the thing we dislike most is silence – we want feedback, even a “No” is better than no answer because no means we can move on to the next prospect. Silence keeps us hanging on, hoping to hear something. So let’s look at the best ways to get a response – even if it is a no, from our prospects.

Initial Follow-up. At the end of the first phone conversation with a prospect, no matter who initiates it, make sure you ask, “If I don’t hear from you, when should I follow up next?” Then, make sure that you follow up when you say you will. Have an email template ready to use so that you can quickly and easily personalize it by adding a name, a few specifics and the time of your next scheduled phone call or meeting. Following up quickly after the initial phone call is one of the best ways to impress on your prospect that you are serious about earning their business and that your company has great customer service.

Create Alternatives. Not everyone likes to communicate in the same way. Make sure your prospects have several ways that they can reach you, and learn how they prefer to be contacted. Telephone and email work for most people, but there are still people who prefer a fax or want to receive materials through the mail. Respect the way in which your prospects want to be reached, and how often.

Send a Thank You. Don’t forget good, old-fashioned courtesy. Sending a thank you by mail or email after each contact is one of the best things anyone can do. For some MarketReach clients, we send “Thank you for your time cards” prior to the initial appointment. What an impression that makes!

Show You’re Thinking of Them. Doing business is about building relationships. As you talk with your prospects, find out about them. Are they golf fans? Do they love to cook? Or travel? What are their business concerns? Then, look for an article or some other piece of information you can send them that says, “When I saw this I thought about you.” It can be an article related to either their business or a hobby. Holidays and birthdays are also an excellent time to remember prospects. Send a card or a token, under $10. Halloween is coming up, how about some candy? Want to stand out from the crowd? Send your holiday gift for Thanksgiving instead of late December.

As you work with your prospects, keep a record of your contacts and review it monthly. If you have diligently attempted to contact someone for several months without result, move them to the automated marketing list. You don’t want to scratch them from your call list totally, but pursuing a prospect who isn’t interested takes time and effort away from reaching out to prospects who are. Instead of calling once a month, wait three months before another call. If you still don’t get a response move the person to the holiday card list and newsletter mailer, and move on.

Sometimes you just have to say “Next” to the vanishing prospect, and find new, more viable opportunities.