When Prospects Give You The “Silent Treatment
If youíve been selling for a while, youíve probably had at least one experience in which your prospect suddenly started giving you the “silent treatment.”
<p>Anthony described this dilemma very poignantly when he called me a few weeks ago:</p>
“Ari, I donít know what to do when I get hit with the ësilent treatmentí — you know, when Iíve worked with a prospect for quite a while, and weíve had great conversations, and they’ve expressed interest in our solution — and then all of a sudden everything stops.
I try calling them back once or twice. I even send a follow-up e-mail, but nothing. They just disappear. And I figure Iíve lost the sale, and I donít know what I did wrong, or what to do next. It makes selling feel like such a painful and arduous process.”
If this has happened to you, you may have felt anxious and confused. You may have told yourself, “Itís not as if Iím the one who did anything wrong. I put everything into the relationship. How can I rescue the sale if I canít even get them to talk to me?”
The “Hopeium” Trap
There is a pressure-free way to reestablish communication when your prospect starts giving you the “silent treatment.” But first, itís important to understand why the situation has happened in the first place.
Most of us who sell get caught up in “hopeium,” a comical term that means we focus our hopes and desires on making the sale. But hopeium can be a trap, because it’s impossible for you to keep in mind your most important goal: to learn your prospectís truth.
<p>When we fix our minds on the outcome — making the sale — we automatically begin anticipating how the process will go, and we also begin expecting that things will happen as we hope they will.</p>
But if weíre in that mindset and our prospect suddenly breaks off communication, we feel lost, anxious, frustrated, discouraged, and confused. We become preoccupied with what went wrong.
<p>We may even feel betrayed.</p>
<p>Is there any way to clear up the mystery?</p>
Yes, by giving up your agenda and learning the truth about where you stand with your prospect –and being ok with whatever the truth may be. “But how can I learn the truth when theyíre avoiding me?” you may ask. “And why do I need to let go of the sale?”
Letís take the second question first.
If you approach your prospect while you still hope the sale will happen, youíll introduce sales pressure into the relationship. This will push your prospect away from you and destroy any trust you have developed with them. Instead, you can eliminate sales pressure by telling them that youíre okay with their decision if theyíve decided not to move forward.
In other words, you take a step back instead of trying to chase and follow up with calls because youíre focused on getting a “yes.”
<p>The bottom line is:</p>
When a prospect gives you the “silent treatment,” it doesnít mean youíve lost the sale. It just means you donít know the truth yet.
<p>What you need to do is call and learn the truth.</p>
<p>Why is learning the truth so important?</p>
<p>Here are 4 important reasons:</p>
1. You stop losing confidence in your selling ability. The “silent treatment” threatens our “hopeium.” We start blaming ourselves. We donít know where we stand — a painful state of limbo. Our self-talk is negative and full of self-blame, and weíre on pins and needles wondering whether the sale will still come through somehow.
2. You increase your selling efficiency and decrease your stress level. Once you learn the truth about your prospectís situation, you can either stay involved with the prospect or move on. I often say, “A ënoí is almost as valuable as a ëyes.í” Why? Because it frees up your time to find prospects who are a better fit with your solution. This lets you work much more efficiently because you can quickly weed out prospects who arenít going to buy. Knowing the prospectís truth lets you walk away without that guilt-laden voice whispering, “If you give up, you don’t have what it takes.”
Learning your prospectís truth translates into tangible results that equal real dollars. Youíll also put an end to the self-sabotaging stress that comes from living in “silent treatment” limbo.
3. Sales pressure pushes prospects away. When you respond to the “silent treatment” with calls and e-mails, youíre really telling them that youíre determined to move the sales process forward — which means youíre looking out for your needs, not theirs. This makes them mistrust you and run the other way.
4. The “silent treatment” — totally breaking off communication — is how prospects protect themselves from sales pressure when they donít feel comfortable telling us their truth. The more we press, the more they run.
But the opposite is true, too. The more we relax and invite the truth, the more straightforward theyíll be with us. Prospects feel okay sharing whatís going on with them when they know weíre okay with hearing it.
<p>How to Reopen Communication</p>
After Anthony and I had talked about some of these issues, he said, “This all makes a lot of sense, Ari, but Iím still not sure what to say when I make that call.”
Itís simpler than you might think.
<p>* First, simply give your prospect a call. (E-mail and voicemail are very impersonal, so use them only as last resorts if you can’t reach your prospect after several phone calls.)</p>
<p>* Second, take responsibility and apologize for having caused the “silent treatment”.</p>
Hereís some language I suggested to Anthony that will make prospects feel safe enough to open up and tell you the truth about their situation:
“Hi, Jim, itís Anthony. I just wanted, first of all, to call and apologize that we ended up not being able to connect. I feel like somewhere along the way maybe I dropped the ball, or I didnít give you the information you needed. Iím not calling to move things forward because Iím assuming youíve probably gone ahead with someone else, and thatís perfectly okay. Iím just checking to see if you may have some feedback as to where I can improve for next time.”
<p>When you respond to the “silent treatment” this way, the results will probably surprise you. You may even learn that the prospect has legitimate reasons for not having gotten back to you.</p>
Youíll also find yourself more productive and less frustrated. Itíll make a world of difference in your productivity level, your stress level, your income, and how much you enjoy what youíre doing.
You havenít lost the sale. You just donít know the truth yet.