This week’s Idea: Sick of being dumped by prospects who don’t return your calls?

with Neil Godin 

I wrote recently about ways to make contact with prospects who don’t respond to your emails. This is a huge problem. In fact, if you haven’t been dumped by prospects who get you to do a lot of work and then stop responding to your emails or returning your calls, then you’re an exception (and good for you). You may recall that my response to a client who said he was “ready to scream,” was to empathize with prospects. Instead of assuming that they’re jerks, assume that they’re crazy busy, and perhaps even totally distracted by something that’s going on with their family. Who knows – so why not make a positive assumption?

The Scream

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch – Part Two

One comment I received came from my Great Friend and former partner, Bill Gibson, from his home in sunny South Africa (hey, when it’s winter here, it’s summer there). Bill shared a different approach. Here is his email message:

“Neil, an email can be skipped over very easily. If no response, try sending a Fax…it’s a letter size paper…tough to ignore or miss. And try humor. Send either a fax or an email that looks a little like a quiz, like this:

Dear Prospect

When we spoke last, you asked me to email (or phone)…I’ve sent you two emails since and haven’t heard back from you. I assume that you’re really busy or have had an emergency…so to save you time, please just tick the appropriate box and return this to me. Okay?” 

Here are Bill’s choices for the prospect to tick:

  1. 1.    I will phone you or email you tomorrow.
  2. 2.    I am snowed under…it will be a few more days.
  3. 3.    I have informed so and so that you will call…they can handle it.
  4. 4.    Please give me a call tomorrow at 10. I’ll watch for your call.
  5. 5.    Bill, please stop harassing me.  And please, lose my phone number and email address, okay. 

I can hear Bill’s infectious laughter as I read that last choice. Here is his comment: “Neil, this is the one they usually tick, and then wait for me to read, and then call me laughing. It works like a charm.”

Thank you Bill.

Your call to action

On a serious note, the key idea is to remain calm and avoid the blame game, which gets you nowhere. Instead, empathize with your prospect; get creative; use humor the way Bill does; drop by unannounced to deliver something really valuable – whatever it takes. Otherwise, you may well spend hours (or more) in meetings with a prospect, then more hours working up a quote or proposal, only to be stood up after you’ve delivered it, which can be truly heart breaking.

Here are the two words I use to advise my coaching clients on what to do in order to prevent being stood up in the first place: ‘Take Responsibility.’ If your calls or emails aren’t being returned, take a hard look at their content. For example, ‘never’ make sales follow up calls. Instead make telephone ‘appointments.’ When you make an unplanned follow-up call, you may think it’s just a routine, normal call. But to your prospect, your follow up call could be a nuisance call – a call from someone anxious to close a sale, not someone who is calling, as planned, to provide additional information after quoting or proposing. Here are my mantra(s) on this topic: Never exit one sales call without setting up the next – including the agenda, and what both of you will do to prepare. Never send quotes or proposals electronically, without setting up a live or telephone meeting so you can discuss the quote or proposal (this way you learn, right now, if there are problems you hadn’t anticipated). Eliminate sticker shock by doing the rough numbers ‘with’ your prospect ‘before’ you write a quote or proposal.

However, even when you take these painstaking steps, you can still expect to lose touch with prospects. When you do, take Bill’s advice, and go to humor. The alternative (once again) is a real scream.

See you next week.


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