One of the biggest challenges facing sellers today is when their prospects disappear into the proverbial black hole. Where did they go? And, how do you get them out again?
If you're looking for answers to those questions, you'll like the insights that sales expert Eric Slife shares today.
Getting prospects to return your calls is one of the most frustrating problems you experience.
You can be 90% sure a deal will close in the next week and suddenly, silence. If you keep calling, you appear desperate and annoying, so what do you do?Before you drive yourself completely crazy, take solace in the fact your competition faces the same problem. However, that alone won't pay the bills. Before exploring some tactics that will help you get your calls returned, first ask yourself, “Why don't prospects return my calls?”
Here are some of the more common reasons prospects don't return calls:
- Fear - Most people don't like confrontation. They would rather completely avoid you, than deliver you bad news.
- Too Busy - Prospects are bombarded by calls every day. Even though returning your call may only take 5 minutes, the thought of having to talk with a sales person when they have nothing new for you and a pile of work on their desk can seem like an hour. In addition, if they have 10 similar calls that day, it will take an hour.
- Lack Urgency - If their problem hasn't reached their pain threshold, they will lack a sense of urgency to fix it. Without pain, their problem isn't a high priority.
- No Value - If you are leaving messages that don't provide additional value or specific reason for them to call you back, there is no point for them to call you. “I'm just calling to see if you got my brochure (or made a decision),” won't stimulate someone to return your call.
- Using You - If a company is just fishing for information, they will lose all interest once they receive what they want. Don't give up information without getting something in return. If they want a price quote over the phone or a brochure, make them first agree to an appointment.
"Ms. Prospect I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. At the end of today's meeting, my goal is for us to establish if my product or service is a good fit for you and your company. In order to do this, I'd like to ask you some questions, so I better understand your business. Are you okay with this?
If at any time during our conversation today or future conversations it becomes clear to you that we aren't a good fit, or you decide to go in a different direction, are you comfortable with telling me, 'No'? In addition, if at sometime I need you to return a call or reply to an email for additional information or to determine what you want next, what method do you prefer? Great, let's get started.”
By doing this, you are laying the ground rules.
If they don't return your calls, politely remind them of this conversation. This doesn't mean you email or call them every other day. Give them an opportunity to respond. I suggest at least 4 business days between contacts.Let's say, you've laid the ground work, and your calls still aren't returned, here are some specific techniques you can do to reach your prospect.
- Disengage Caller ID: Contact your phone company and ask them how to temporarily disengage your caller id. Let's face it, we all screen our calls. If they still don't pick up, don't leave a message, but call back at a different time using the same technique.
- Use Email: Many times if a prospect can't be reached over the phone, an email is your best alternative. I'll often include the following in the Subject Line: John, regarding your request about…
- Fall on Your Sword: Don't come across as upset or demanding. Take the opposite approach:
“Mr. or Ms. Prospect, unfortunately we've been unable to connect, and I'm starting to feel like I'm becoming an annoyance. I certainly don't want to be a pain in your side, but I'm feeling like your situation has changed. Please let me know what's changed, and how I should best follow up with you. This politely let's them know they haven't returned your calls, and they appreciate your graciousness.
- Contact The Receptionist: That's right, call the receptionist. Let them know you have had trouble connecting. See if your prospect has been out of town. They may even have information that sheds light on the situation. You may uncover some important internal politics or changes that are happening.
- Go Over Their Head: Sometimes, you may need to make an end run. One catch. Have your manager make the call to the person over your contact. This way you still may be able to save face with your prospect.
- Call at Higher Levels: Most sales people think they are speaking with the decision maker, when in reality they aren't. Many times sales people will ask, “Are you the decision maker?” Unfortunately, too many people don't want to admit they aren't the decision maker. To get a more accurate answer, ask them, “Who else besides yourself will be involved in the decision making process?”
“Mr. or Ms. Prospect I know you are busy. However, I promised _________ (their boss) I would provide them periodic updates, or information by this date. Unfortunately, I can't provide them with this until I speak with you concerning…”Finally, you might want to "fire your contact." If everything else has failed, it's time to fish or cut bait. Reach out one last time, to inform them you are throwing away their file. Believe it or not, this will get some people to realize it's time to make a decision. If it doesn't work, walk away knowing you're better off spending time with real prospects.
One final thought. Sometimes deals fall through. In this case, the best thing you can do is to build top of mind awareness. Create your own drip marketing campaign, so when a company is prepared to purchase, you are at the top of their list, or at least number two. In addition, this is a great way to obtain referrals!
Eric Slife, is president of Slife Sales Training, Inc. He provides companies a comprehensive sales and sales management training program called Team Training. Team Training gives companies unlimited, on demand access to North America's premier sales and sales management trainers.Visit www.salestrainingcentral.com and receive a complimentary MP3 download of Top 10 Voicemail Blunders