Most frustrating for all salespeople are prospects who seem qualified and who have not told you to get lost, yet they don’t seem to move forward. You’ve invested time in this person and believe the relationship has potential. So you need a plan to ensure that every contact you make works productively to move the prospect closer to a decision, preferably in the direction of saying Yes to you.
What should you do with a prospect who doesn’t say Yes or No and doesn’t seem to move forward? Give up? Keep trying? How many contacts are too many?
Very often I get asked by clients and salespeople how many times one should reach out to a prospect before being viewed as a nuisance. The answer often surprises them:
Until They Respond!
In a consultative sales environment, a prospect is a prospect as long as they don’t tell you to never contact them again, which rarely happens when you adhere to certain rules.
I still do high-level prospecting for a select group of clients and have been very successful engaging C-Level and mid-management decision-makers in meaningful conversations.
The key to successful prospecting is to add value and not to sell. Nobody wants to be sold to; once people think that the purpose of an outreach is to get them to buy something, the conversation is already off to a bad start.
Prospects don’t get upset when you target them frequently. They get upset when you are irrelevant, when you don’t know their business, and when you pitch them.
Do Your Research
Being a business owner I get sales calls all the time, and nine out of 10 are not up to snuff. You can tell when someone is dialing for dollars. For example, the sales person didn’t look up my company, doesn’t know what I do, and then pitches a service that is not a good fit for my business. And in addition, sometimes they are rude or inconsiderate.
But once in a blue moon there is a sales person who actually took the time to identify what my needs might be. That, in combination with courtesy, leads to a good first conversation. Even if I am not in a position to buy immediately, I don’t mind them staying in touch with me as long as they add value.
Be Relevant and Timely
Every sensible businessperson knows that other companies that provide services will call them. Nobody in business will hold that against you. What they will hold against you is offering a service that doesn’t meet their needs and then trying to push a sale where there is no fit.
You’re busy, I’m busy – so, keep in mind that people are busy. Just because they don’t respond right away doesn’t mean that they are not interested. They might be traveling, or they might have pressing issues to deal with that are more important than responding to your outreach.
My Motto: Don’t give up, be relevant and stay on message.
Persistence Pays Off
Many, many times I have gotten replies from prospects acknowledging and thanking me for my persistence. People generally appreciate a professional outreach and salespeople who are determined. It is expected that a good salesperson will stay on course and try to engage. What is NOT expected and dreaded are messages that are about your product or service, rather than the value it could bring to their business.
For example, if somebody calls me telling me that they can provide leads for my business (which happens almost on a daily basis), I will probably not respond because the message seems very broad. If they however look at my client list and tell me that they are experts in the logistics or technology field (an industry that I target), they might get my attention.
Let Your Prospects Opt Out
Include an “opt out” message in your voice or email. Tell your prospect that you understand if they don’t have time, or if there is no interest and that they should call you back if that’s the case. You give them a graceful way out and very often (you will be surprised), the prospect will get back to you, one way or another. Many times I get a response from a prospect, almost apologizing for the lack of response.
In closing, if you are professional and you do your research, your response rate will increase. As long as you stay on message and you are courteous, your outreach will be appreciated. I share this with you based on years of experience.
In my world, the average sales cycle is at least six months, up to a couple of years. If I were to give up easily, my business wouldn’t survive.