How to Handle the Silent Treatment?

How to handle a prospect when they've gone quite

The Silent Treatment

Now, a familiar story from the trenches, one I’m sure we’ve all come across before and will do again – The Silent Treatment. A situation when a sale has been going so well and then all of a sudden – Nothing. All quite on the Western Front, they won’t answer my emails or return my phone calls. A situation when you get that sinking feeling in the pit of you stomach, oh no they’ve changed their mind, they’ve bought from someone else, where did I go wrong?

Then you start going over it, step by step in your mind; I asked all the right questions, understood their issues, linked my solution to their problems, built the value, involved all the stake holders, address all the technical issues and so on.

Now most people’s reaction is to ‘over react’, ring them twice a day, email them every morning, even ‘doorstep’ them.

The pressure builds within us or we get the pressure from our superior and we rush to try to close the sale – Well before the prospect is ready.

If this sound familiar to you, you’re not alone. It happens to the best of us.

One irrefutable fact; We don’t know what the situation actually is? So how do we find out the truth? One thing NOT to do is to put pressure on your prospect – Don’t transfer your pressure to the sale. If you put pressure on the person you’re dealing with they’ll either avoid you or worse again start ‘plotting against you’ and you don’t need that, for sure. What you need to do is (1) Put them at ease (2) Make it easy for them to start communicating with you again, or better again, by thinking about “what’s in it for them to call me?” (not so easy). The higher the ticket price or the more the complex the sale the truer the statement is.

At this point a phone call is best, a voice mail, or if all else fails an email. Say something like “I haven’t heard anything back since we last spoke and I’m wondering has <our company name> dropped the ball somewhere?” then “I understand that plans change so please feel free to let me know the situation and don’t feel under pressure in any way” You’ll need to modify this depending on your geographic location, culture or proposition. If you can introduce some type of incentive for them to ring you,all the better.

Just remember ‘The Silent Treatment’ is how a prospect protects themselves from pressure by the sales person. Time is one of the salesman’s most important assets, so don’t waste it, get to the truth quickly and if you can’t get the truth, move on, or set it aside temporarily and put your effort into the next opportunity and if you haven’t got another opportunity work as hard as you can to find one.

It’s important to remember you haven’t necessarily lost the sale, you just don’t know the truth yet. If it’s lost, it’s better to find out without losing the co-operation from your prospect. Co-operation you’ll need if you want to find how to make it better the next time or sell them something else again in the future.

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David Doyle

David has spent 30 years in sales successfully building business from zero to acquisition. Having studied Electronics and Computer Science at DIT and Enterprise Ireland's Export Sales Development Programme, he has spent most of his time in selling technology. He is founder and Managing Director of B2B Sell and leads a small team of experienced business and technology trained sales professionals.

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