Here's a frustrating but common situation: you're developing a relationship with a big client and you're pretty certain that the opportunity is moving forward, but then, boom! For no apparent reason the prospect suddenly won't communicate with you.
I recently got an email from a reader who encountered this very problem:
I have been working with a Fortune 20 client since October of 2012 and made it through several different channels, finally to the company's Procurement Council Officer (PCO).
The PCO and I were communicating extremely well for about 2 months, with the product making its way to the CIO's office.
They continued to show interest, and asked many questions concerning this product, and those questions were promptly answered by our manufacturer engineers.
Then all communications stopped about 2 weeks ago. I have left several emails and voicemails asking for a few minutes to get an update on the progress on the project.
The correspondence was going extremely well... until it just stopped. What is your advice on how to be persistent, yet not too aggressive?
Because it would be easy for the prospect to send you an email saying "we're no longer interested," there are four possibilities, in decreasing order of likelihood:
While it's important to find out what's really going on (I'll get to that in a second), it's more important to realize that it's the salesperson, not the customer, who has created the problem.
In the example above, the salesperson made sure that the customer's questions were answered. However, I see no sign that the salesperson was getting HIS questions answered. Specifically, he should have been asking:
In other words, the only reason that there's uncertainty is because the salesperson wasn't really developing the relationship. If he'd been more assertive in finding out what's going on, he wouldn't be wondering why the customer suddenly went incommunicado.
The long term fix, of course, is to start asking the difficult questions early in the sales cycle so that you don't get caught in this mysterious limbo. Short term, there's really only one approach, and it's a bit of a "hail Mary."
Wait about week (so that you're not being a pest), then leave the following voice mail:
Jim, this is Joe from Acme. I've left a couple of voice mail messages and emails and you haven't responded. That's fine; I know how crazy things can get.
However, I'm starting to get worried that something awful happened to you, because you don't seem like the kind of person who'd just cut somebody off.
It would be great if you could respond to this email so I don't keep worrying.
What you're doing here is appealing to the customer's sense of identity as a "good person." In most cases, you'll get a callback and find out the real situation. If not, then start contacting other people at the customer's firm.
I just got this email from the person who sent me the original problem:
Geoffrey, I wanted to get back to you after I tried your suggested tip concerning how to get a reply back from a client who just stopped communicating with you. Your suggestion is in below email. Well, I tried it yesterday on the person that I have been needing to speak to, and he answered back within an hour.
I'll give more details--and the email that got the response--in next week's newseltter.
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