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What to Do When Sales Calls Stall

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What to Do When Sales Calls Stall

Written by: Paul Cherry

Have you ever had a client who was sincerely interested in your solution to her problem–and needed your proposal by a certain date?
 

You jumped through hoops and presented a very competitive offer. She seemed pleased with your proposal, assuring you she’d take it to committee and get back to you in about a week.  A week came and went with no response, so you diligently tried to reach her by e-mail, voicemail, and letters. You even convinced her assistant to try and help out. But still, no direct response from your client.

How do you get her to spring into action?

Use Intrigue to Connect

Try a voice mail that appeals to your client’s curiosity. If you dangle the idea that you have good news she’ll want to hear, so much the better:

“Hi, Susan, it’s (you) from (your company). Sounds like you’ve been incredibly busy. I’m calling for two reasons: one, to follow up where we had left off, and two, I have information that I think will be of real value to you. Please call me at _____.”

Like a good Girl or Boy Scout, Be Prepared

Now that you’ve insinuated to your client that there’s good news on the horizon, there’s a better chance that she’ll call back. When she does, be prepared with something of real value or benefit that you’d like to pass along to her.

It can be an incentive that’ll prompt her to take action sooner, an article you found that would be useful in her career, or a recent success story about a client facing similar challenges who’s now reaping the benefits of your solution. But make sure you have a genuine purpose to your follow-up calls–just “checking in” or “touching base” with nothing significant to say only annoys busy, time-crunched clients.

Appeal to a Higher Authority

You haven’t heard from that contact who promised to respond four weeks ago, and you’ve made repeated attempts to connect with her. Is it time to call her boss? If you do, will she be angry because you went over her head? Will she retaliate by making sure you never get to do business with her company? Appealing to a higher authority takes the pressure off you by making it seem to be coming from another source, in this case your boss:

“Hi, Susan… Maybe you can help me. My boss asked me this morning about the proposal we submitted to you last month. I was caught off guard and I didn’t have an answer for him. As you can imagine, we’ve invested considerable time and resources to put together this solution for you, and you indicated that it was a pressing matter for you. I realize how busy you are, and I’m in a situation where I owe my boss an answer. He told me that if I don’t get back to him by this Friday, he wants to get involved and call _____ (her boss) directly to arrange a meeting to review our proposed solution.”

This tactic allows you to have your authority reach out to her authority as an equal, and keep the lines of communication open.

Assume Away

Although the common wisdom is to “never assume,” sometimes assuming can help galvanize your client into responding:

“…I’ve been trying to reach you, but it sounds like you’ve been incredibly busy, since I haven’t yet heard from you. Please do me a favor and give me a heads-up as to whether yes, you’re still interested, or no, you’re not. Otherwise, if I don’t hear from you within the next _____ days, I’ll assume your priorities have shifted. Knowing that the issues we’ve discussed concern others within your organization, I’ll contact _____ (the client’s boss, peers, other decision-makers) so that we can continue to look at ways to (fix…change…reduce…increase…) your organization. I certainly value the time and input you’ve shared with me. Hopefully, you and I can continue where we left off. You can reach me at _____.”

If your contact doesn’t respond in the timeline you’ve stated, consider it permission to reach out to other contacts within the organization. Then again, there’s a good chance your contact will answer you within your time frame. After all, she doesn’t want to look foolish or feel left out of the loop once you start talking with others.

Pinning Down Follow-Up Calls

A great sales call where your prospect is interested or open to the next step, or wants to get others involved to hear your solution, can change from jubilation to frustration if she wraps up the meeting with vague statements like, “Give me a call the end of next week. My boss will be back in the office, and I’ll see when he’s available to sit down with you.”  You keep following up, only to play voicemail tag. But if you lay the proper groundwork, you can sidestep this scenario. Next time a prospect asks you to get back to her with ambiguous time frames, get her to commit to a specific date and time:

You: “When can I follow up with you?”

Prospect: “Call me at the end of next week.”

You: “Sounds good. What day should I call?”

Prospect: “Call me on Friday.”

You: “What time will work for you?”

Prospect: “Call me in the morning.”

You: “I know your schedule gets hectic, so why don’t we pick a time now and avoid playing phone tag? Will 9 A.M. work for you?”

Prospect: “Yes, that’s fine.”

You: “Great! I’ll call you on Friday morning at 9. Here’s my phone number and e-mail address just in case something comes up, so you can reach me beforehand to reschedule.”  (In fact, make your prospect write it on her calendar.)

Related: Power Pricing in a Global-Digital Marketplace

Treat a telephone follow-up the same as a face-to-face follow-up: make an appointment. When contacts ask you to follow up with them, hold them accountable. You’re not only helping them manage their time, you’re saving your own precious time, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

If your business relationship seems to be stalling, and you’re not getting any response from your contacts when you try to connect with them, here are three questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. “How solid is this so-called relationship?”
  2. “What amount of business, if any, are you currently getting from your contact?”
  3. “Can this person make all the decisions regarding your solution? If not, who should you really be talking with?”
     

Sometimes we have to get a “no” to free ourselves from a relationship wallowing in limbo. Every “no” frees up your time to focus on opportunities with prospects who want to say “yes.”  Once you honestly assess the risks, four out of five times–that’s 80% of the time–it’s to everyone’s advantage for you to be proactive.

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