Anybody whose job involves selling knows how to handle a hot opportunity: stay in contact, work the issues, and drive towards a decision. But what do you do when an opportunity has grown cold?

Perhaps the prospect was supposed to get back to you and didn't. Or maybe a decision was about to be made, but it's been sitting around for a long time. Or, even worse, suppose that you dropped the ball because you were too busy.

In cases like this, it's wishful thinking to believe that you can simply pick up where you left off. The situation has changed and whatever progress you made on the opportunity may no longer be valid.

Your best approach in this case is to think of the opportunity as being back in the "initial contact" phase. Send an e-mail reintroducing yourself. Mention the prior situation, but in terms of an "opportunity missed" for both you and the prospect.

Ask whether it makes sense to reopen the discussion and, if appropriate, mention anything that's changed in your situation or your firm's offerings that might be of additional value to the prospect.

When I say "anything that's changed," I do NOT mean launch into a sales pitch or list out a bunch of features. I mean something like "Since our last conversation, we've started offering discounts to first-time buyers."

As with any sales e-mail, make it easy for the recipient to respond. Rather than "please contact me if you have any questions," simply ask a question that the prospect can easily answered by clicking on "reply."

Ideally you'll be able to open a dialog again, find out more specifics about the prospect's needs and restart your sales effort. Here are three examples:

1. WRONG (Too aggressive.)

What is the status of the gizmo order that we discussed three months ago? We put a lot of time into that proposal and, if you remember, we were going to save $1m in your gizmo return needs. I'm ready to move your account into the inactive file. If you still need gizmos, please contact me.

2. WRONG (Too salesy.)

I hope that all is well.
As you know, our new product line already featured the best potrezebies and veeblefetzers in the gizmo industry. If you are still in the market for the highest-quality gizmos, Acme is the still right supplier for you! I've attached a new spec sheet and a PDF of our latest brochure. Please feel free to contact me if you require more information.
Take care.

3. RIGHT (Simple and Conversational)

A while back we discussed your gizmo needs. I wanted to let you know that Acme has recently upgraded our product line. If you're still thinking about a change in your gizmo supply, I may be able to help. Does it make sense for us to reopen the discussion?

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