Blog Cover Image 1

What do you do when your buyers go dark?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 9/20/16 7:00 AM

What do you do when your buyers stop responding to you? This is one of the most common situations we encounter in coaching and it is always interesting to see how different salespeople and leaders react to it.

Some ignore it, they simply give it no thought and move on to find new people to talk to. They fall into a large percentage of salespeople who try once, maybe twice, to reach a buyer and then give up. They spend a lot of time on hamster wheels of their own creation chasing after the latest person to download anything.

Then there are those who are very diligent about “following up”, “checking in”, “closing the loop”, or “making sure we are on the same page”. They send their templated emails at the regularly scheduled times and maybe even throw in a phone call or two to “see if they got the emails sent”. I’m not sure which of these two scenarios is worse. The first seems like you don’t care, the second like you are desperate.

The last group I will mention are the hopers, wishers, and dreamers. They did say that they were on vacation sometime this month, that must be why they haven’t returned your emails or calls? Or you recall that they said they liked what they saw, maybe they just have to get internal buy-in, they are busy after all. Or you worry that they found a lower price, maybe you should try to create some urgency and offer a limited time discount?

However you react to this common sales scenario, or what you believe about why it is happening- these are some of the ways we typically tell coaching clients to deal with it.

First- do you even know how you got into this situation? Or why it seems to happen to you a lot? Where in the process did you miss something? Did you assume their sense of urgency and not push back on their timeline? Did you take what they said was a priority at face value and not ask why it was a priority and what would happen if it didn’t get taken care of? Did you ask what the cost impact of that eventuality was? Did you ask when that would happen by? Did you get them to articulate when they wanted the problem solved by, or the opportunity realized? Or did you focus on when their budget cycle is closing and when they plan to make a decision by- and never bother to dig deeper because that is the field you need to fill out in the CRM for your manager?

Why are you surprised when you buyers are going dark on you when you don’t know these things?

Maybe you haven’t been able to get all those things done on the call because you ran out of time. So why not make those things the next steps? “Sounds like we are going to have some things to discuss. How about if we agree to exchange some emails and information this week and set up a time to talk early the week after?” Together with your buyer setup the expectation of what the future communication will look like.

Now, what does that email communication look like between calls or meetings? How do you avoid the “just checking in” rabbit hole of sales follow up that makes you seem like every other eager and polite salesperson out there?

Several clients remark to us that we seem to have a blog post, eGuide, or some other piece of content to answer questions or raise key points worth considering. And not all that is something that we have written. We call it the content toolbox. Rather than telling your buyers what to think- be a source of relevant information that helps them to make good buying decisions. This is just one way to add real value.

Ok, so that is how you prevent the dark silence from happening. But once you are stuck there, how do you get yourself out?

Don’t assume you know why a buyer stops responding. Ask them. So simple right? Here’s what that might sound like in an email: (disclosure: how each of these ‘sales tactics’ will work depends on what your exchange has been, who your buyer is, etc):

  • First, rule out any personal reasons for them not to respond. Call their office to talk to their manager, peer, or front desk, “Is <insert name> out of the office? We’ve been exchanging some emails and I haven’t heard from them in a while. Are they ok?”
  • Forward the last email sent and reply with one of these: “No reply?”, “Did you decide to go in a different direction?”, “Did your boss say no?” or “Should I have heard from you by now?”
  • Forward the last email exchange and write: “Did I drop the ball here? Was I supposed to do something?” or “Looks like we had an exchange, but then it stopped- do you know what happened?”

Some of you might notice that these tactics go “negative”. Why assume the no and push them to say no? Think about it- if you were to assume the yes, wouldn’t they have told you so? There’s no reason for them to hide if it’s a yes. Also notice that none of these replies assume anything about why they went dark. And if the lack of response is due to an issue, they’ll either confirm it or explain it.

Then of course, there are those that just will not reply. This is why it is important not to have all your hopes for a deal in the hands of one contact. Find other people in the organization to talk to. Let’s say you find the VP, manager, or peer that is impacted by the problem or opportunity, you could email them “I have been talking with <insert name> about <problem/opportunity> recently and came across this <article/study> and wondered if they had shared it with you?”

How have you gotten buyers to re-engage with you? Or do you believe that there really isn’t anything you can do about it?

Is there a deal in your pipeline where this is happening right now? Get on our calendar for up to 30 minutes of free coaching to get some perspective on your situation and see if you can re-engage your buyer and move it forward, or out, in the pipeline.

Topics: sales tactics, buying process