Selling is tough. We receive a referral introduction, respond to a request from our website, meet a sales prospect at a trade show or answer a phone call from an interested prospect.

We qualify, ensure our solution is a match, perhaps conduct a demo, get the right people involved and then they go dark. If you’re like me, you wonder what happened. You run a bunch of ridiculous (in hindsight) scenarios in your head and try every sales tool you can think of to get a response. Silence.

I was in this twisted state recently when I read “Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation” by Mike Schultz and John E. Doerr. One section in particular, “Employ Indifference by Reversing Directions,” caught my attention.

The Indifference Strategy. We’ve all encountered the client or prospect who has gone off the radar, leaving your voicemails and emails unanswered. This is entirely frustrating, especially when the behavior isn’t reflective of your client-centric focus or your relationship. So how to reengage your target?

The “Rainmaking” authors suggest you write an email, summarize your discussions and say something to the effect that their project may not be on your radar screen anymore and that you’ve moved on. You say that if you don’t hear back, you’ll assume that’s the case. If that is not the case, you would enjoy continuing the conversation.

I bet you’ll get a response (and quickly), either that their case is closed or that they are sorry for not responding sooner and want to continue. Personally, I’d rather get a yes or no than a maybe. Definitive information lets me decide how and where to spend my business development time.

One of my prospects never showed up for a phone call (yes, it was on his Outlook calendar) and never responded to my email wherein I said that I was sorry I had missed him. This was very unusual, as referred prospects are typically overly respectful and courteous.

I used the indifference approach, and the prospect wrote back immediately. He was apologetic, said he was hiring new people, and he was still interested in pursuing a business relationship. I wrote back and invited him to reach out to me when he was ready. I was relieved, because he was no longer ignoring me.

Stay Engaged. The opposite is also true. You suddenly hear from people after months or years. Out of the blue, you receive an email or a phone call saying they are interested in working with you. They’re finally ready. But you will hear from your past connections only if you’ve stayed in touch.

You never know. You might just get that bluebird. Stay in touch, reach out, share your ideas and continue to expand your connections through referrals. Work hard, have a good time and know and believe that you will be ready long before your customers decide to give you those big bucks.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com. (C) Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.