What to Do When a Sales Prospect Goes Dark

What to Do When a Sales Prospect Goes Dark
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The Bad News
No responses to your calls and no replies to your emails — your sales prospect has gone dark! This can be frustrating – especially after good initial sales calls and a seemingly interested new client.  The question is, has the sun set on your deal, or can you reignite the sales opportunity with your target client?

Do you despair and simply give up, flood the client with more calls and emails, or craft an approach to figure out what caused the client to go dark?

The Research – How Much Should You Follow Up?
When a sales prospect goes dark, our microlearning experts first point to research by Velocify of 3.5 million leads across 400 companies that found six sales calls are optimal. Six follow-up sales calls reached 93 percent of eventual buyers. But the majority of sales reps give up after one or two attempts and 13 percent of buyers never hear from sellers. The research also found that:

  • Same-day follow-up produced the best results
  • If not the same day, the next best time periods were 5, 14, and 15 days later
  • Follow-up emails helped, but more than 5 made clients less likely to buy

So the first rule of thumb is to follow-up at least five times.

The Good News
In the sales process, it’s not over until it’s over. Your job now is to create a sales strategy that will give you the information you need to make a sound decision about working (or not) with this prospect.

The Steps to Take When Prospects Go Dark
Here’s what you need to do to figure out how to handle this qualified sales opportunity going forward:

  1. Reevaluate Your Performance
    Being as objective as possible, review your side of the sales opportunity.

    You know what you should have done based upon consultative selling best practices: create value each time you interacted with your customer, respect their time and point of view, help guide their buying process, respond appropriately whenever there was an objection to overcome, and clarify action steps toward the final agreement.

    Did you miss any important steps in the sales process? Were there warning signs that you ignored?
  2. Review Client Stakeholders
    Think through all the stakeholders you originally identified who would be involved in the buying process. Are you clear on their motivations? Did you adequately address them in your sales call plan? Did you overlook an influential buyer?

    Check back with your inside advocate to find out if someone new entered the buying decision-making process and how you might motivate them to reengage with you.
  3. Reassess the Sales Opportunity
    With a fresh look at each interaction along the way, check to see what may have changed since you originally crafted your sales plan for this customer. You’ll need to look for factors that we elaborate in our sales management training such as changes in leadership, unanticipated competition, or a shift in business priorities.

    How might these changes affect the viability of your proposed solution?
  4. Reach Out Persuasively
    After all the time you spent nurturing the opportunity, you should have a pretty good understanding of what information might now be of value. Review the sales situation with your team and ask for their advice and insights. Chances are that the team will come up with something new and valuable to offer your prospect.

    Don’t push the sale; instead, provide value that shows you have your prospect’s best interests at heart – not yours.
  5. Request a Decision
    If the opportunity continues to be stalled, you have the right to ask about your prospect’s intentions – work toward a “go” or “no go” decision. If, by mutual agreement, the sale is very unlikely, use your valuable time elsewhere on opportunities with a higher degree of closing and cut your losses.

The Bottom Line
Almost every sale has its stops, starts, bumps, and smooth patches. The best salespeople persevere through the challenging times by reviewing the opportunity and adjusting their approach. Are you keeping apprised of changing events in your prospect’s organization so you’re ready to adapt to their current situation?

To learn more about what sales reps should do when a sales prospect goes dark, download 3 Critical Sales Warning Signs at Your Strategic Accounts

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