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VOL. 41 | NO. 28 | Friday, July 14, 2017

Shedding light on prospects who go dark

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If you’ve been in sales, you’ve found yourself wondering about a prospect who was highly interested in your offering – and for whom you invested significant time – only to find them suddenly incommunicado.

While it can be frustrating, don’t give up. It’s worth some creativity to either revive the relationship or garner a “no,” allowing you to move on with certainty.

Start by putting yourself in the prospect’s shoes. The reason for their silence is usually one of the following, according to Mike Schultz and Jason Murray with RAIN Group.

Their situation has simply changed. There may be layoffs, budget cuts or an imminent acquisition, making an external expense inappropriate. The prospect could also be taking care of a sick family member. Accept that it could have nothing to do with you.

Another possibility is that you haven’t provided enough value, causing your initiative to be lowered in priority. Or perhaps they weren’t well-qualified in the first place or were never serious.

Your prospect could also be facing internal resistance and may not want to tell you about additional decision makers. Or, they could be overwhelmed in their role, with too many emergencies to make you a priority.

Ideally, you’re able to narrow the causes to a couple, based on your knowledge of the prospect, so you can customize your follow-up accordingly.

After at least five follow-up attempts with no response through multiple channels (not just email), then it’s time to consider a flurry of concentrated activity designed to either advance or bring the relationship to a close.

A flurry is a bundled set of communications that occur through multiple channels at once. They almost always include voicemail and email, but can also include text messaging or direct social media messaging.

After the initial five unanswered outreaches, plan for three flurries. In your first two, appeal to them both emotionally and rationally.

By the third flurry, let them know, respectfully, that this will be your last follow-up.

One of those flurries could feature a restatement of the value proposition – a case study from customers in a similar industry, a customized ROI analysis, or an offer to connect the prospect with some of your other customers for direct testimonials.

In your last flurry, be unexpectedly direct.

Explain in voicemail and email that you’re unsure what’s changed. After weeks/months of high-energy, back-and-forth communication, it’s such a change not to hear back. Ask what happened, point blank.

While it can be disheartening to have a prospect go dark, don’t take it personally.

Consider it a puzzle you’re tapped to solve.

Execute your follow-up approach with discipline every time, and you will revive a surprising number of these stalled relationships.

Lori Turner-Wilson, CEO and founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at redrovercompany.com.