As we head toward the end of 2011, I’ve been starting to review my sales results for the year, the clients that I’ve won, the ones that I’ve lost and the prospects that are in limbo. It’s this last category, “limbo,” that causes me quite a bit of angst, because I simply don’t understand why it has to be.
Let me clarify: The prospects who are in limbo (a.k.a. unresponsive) are folks who I have met with and who asked me to submit a proposal for services at the conclusion of the meeting. (Key into those all-important words please: They asked me to submit a written proposal as a follow-up to the meeting.)
Now, please understand that I am particularly rigorous in my screening and qualifying of potential clients. I want to make certain that there is a good fit between the services that I provide and their requirements. In the past, I’ve been known to turn down a proposal request. I don’t think that it is worth anyone’s time to propose something that you know you can’t do well.
And maybe that’s why I am particularly flummoxed by the prospects in my sales funnel who are MIA. Of course, I’ve attempted to follow up and have used all sorts of methods to get back in touch. My voice mail messages are compelling; my emails are well positioned. And still, nothing.
Why is that?
Are these folks feeling shy because they asked for a proposal for services but knew they didn’t have the budget? (I always inquire about budget before submitting a plan.)
Did they suddenly lose their decision-making power or did they fool me all along into thinking that they had that responsibility?
Are they particularly averse to any sort of confrontation, and do they perhaps think that by rejecting the proposal they might prompt a hostile response from me?
It seems that a bit more prospects are falling off the grid more often now, even when I pay scrupulous attention to making certain that the proposals are truly desired. And it’s not just me. I’m hearing this from more and more of my business colleagues and from my own clients as well.
Yes, there seems to be an increase in “no reply,” and all we salespeople can do is just keep trying.
Remind yourself, as I do, that you can’t lose what you don’t have. Be persistent in your follow-up and don’t automatically assume that the prospect isn’t interested.
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Adrian Miller is the founder of Adrian Miller Sales Training. To find out more or to visit her blog go to http://adrianmiller.wordpress.com.