You’ve sent 10 emails, left four voicemails, camped out in your potential customer’s reception area, and still you can’t get any love. It sure seemed like you were making progress. But now everything has gone dark. Is the sale alive? Is it dead? Has the prospect moved on?

What is happening?

Welcome to the purgatory of the stuck sale. The deal is not dead... at least, no one has told you it’s dead. But it’s not going anywhere. And like a driver sitting in gridlock, you’re not sure what to do. If you get off the road, will you find a faster route or just more traffic or a long detour? If you sit tight, will traffic ever start flowing again? 

The first thing to know is that in every sales pipeline, some deals get stuck. You are right to feel frustrated. But don't let that frustration distract you from addressing the problem. Here are three suggestions for shaking things loose. 

1. Cut Through the Silence. You can only send so many “Hey, I’m checking in again!” emails before you start sounding desperate. If they are not working, then they are not working. Instead, write to your prospect with a pen (remember those?) on paper (remember that?) saying something like: “Just thought a quick note might catch your eye. I know you are busy. I’d love to re-connect. Don’t want to pester, but I think we’ve got something here. Please let me know if you’ve got time for a quick chat. Best, Craig.” Handwritten notes are more likely to get responses because surprisingly few people write them anymore. Be one of those people.

For a large or otherwise important sale, select a book you think might help the prospect in his business and include it with the note. “Thought you should see this. It’s a great read [for the following reasons]. Hope you find it helpful. Let’s connect soon. Best." Needless to say, it’s a good idea to have actually read the book.

2. Be bold, yet humble. Boldness makes clear that you have better things to do than chase around an unresponsive prospect. Humility acknowledges your awareness that you are not everyone’s first priority.

A good bold/humble note might say, “Christine, I know you are incredibly busy. I am as well. It looks like we are stalled, and I’m sorry about that. Is there anything I can do to move this forward, or are we at an impasse?” Notice how this missive balances the bold and the humble. First you are a little bit bold: reminding the prospect that you, also, are busy and recognizing the hard truth of the situation. Then you are little bit humble: apologizing for the impasse, even though it’s not your fault. Then you are bold again: acknowledging that you may have reached the end of this deal.

If that gets no response, try this: “I’m reaching out again (bold), and I hope I’m not bothering you (humble). The purpose of my note is to acknowledge the obvious (bold). It looks like you may have moved on to other priorities, and I totally understand that (humble). Although I think we could provide significant near-term value (bold), that may not be enough to move forward at this point (humble). I understand that and greatly appreciate the time you took to get to know us (humble). I won’t pursue this any further. But if there’s ever anything I can do for you, please do reach out (humble and bold!). Thanks so much." 

The humble/bold approach will likely shake loose a response of some kind. And it leaves a good impression on the prospect, whether or not she becomes a client.

And if that doesn’t work?

3. Move on. Sometimes, the silence you hear is the silence of the tomb. That’s OK. There are many more opportunities, which is why perpetual prospecting is so important. But before you move on, make it clear to your prospect that you understand the conversation is over and you’re fine with it. And thank her (you might even add a dash of humor.... It’s just business after all). “Christine, I’m interpreting the silence as lack of interest. I understand you have other priorities, and it looks like we are not one of them! Thanks so much for the time you gave this. I hope it was valuable for you. Best of luck to you and your team as you move forward.” 

True, you may never hear from her again. But you’ll put to rest the agony of uncertainty. And you can direct your energies to deals where progress--however slow--is still progress.