"When Prospects Give You The "Silent Treatment"

If you’ve been the initial contact for new clients for any length of time you’ve probably had at least one experience where your prospect suddenly started giving you the “silent treatment.”
A client and friend of mine (Jason) described this very same problem when he called me just two weeks back.

“Mark, I don’t know what to do when I get hit with the ‘silent treatment’. I can’t work it out especially when I’ve worked with a prospect for quite a while, and we’ve had great conversations, and they've expressed a very keen interest in our solution but out of nowhere everything goes quiet. I try calling and sending follow-up e-mails, but nothing. I figure I’ve lost the sale, and I don’t know what to do next. This is what makes my job so painful and difficult to do.”

If this has happened to you, you may have felt anxious and confused. You may have told yourself, “It’s not as if I’m the one who did anything wrong. I put everything into the relationship. How can I rescue the sale if I can’t even get them to talk to me?”

There is a pressure-free way to re-establish communication when your prospect starts giving you the “silent treatment.” But first, it’s important to understand why the situation has happened in the first place.

The majority of us who sell are often “hoping” for the sale. But hoping can be a trap, because it's impossible for you to keep in mind your most important goal which is to learn your prospect’s truth.

What I mean by this is that when our mind is focused 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.

But if we’re in that mindset and our prospect abruptly cuts off communication, we feel lost, anxious, we may even feel frustrated, discouraged, and confused. What we then tend to do is become focused on what went wrong.

I’ve even had clients tell me they feel betrayed.

So the big question - “Is there any way to clear up the mystery?”

Yes there is…
By giving up your agenda (the sale) and learning the truth about where you stand with your prospect and being ok with whatever the truth may be.

Now you might ask… “But why is letting go of the sale ok and how can I learn the truth when they’re avoiding me?”

Attempting to approach your prospect while you still hope the sale will happen will introduce sales pressure into the relationship. This will push your prospect away from you and destroy any trust you have developed with them. In its place, you can eliminate sales pressure by telling them that you’re OK if they’ve decided not to utilise your services.

In other words, you take a step back instead of trying to chase and follow up with calls because you’re focused on getting a “yes.”

When a prospect gives you the “silent treatment,” it doesn’t mean you’ve lost the sale. It just means you don’t know the truth yet.

What you need to do is call and learn the truth.

Why is learning the truth so important?

Here are 4 important reasons:

1. First is that you will stop losing confidence in your selling ability. The “silent treatment” threatens our “hope” and we start blaming ourselves. We don’t know where we stand and end up in a painful state of limbo. Our self-talk is negative and full of self-blame, and we’re left wondering whether the sale will still come through somehow.

2. The second thing is that you increase your selling efficiency and decrease your stress level. The moment you learn the truth about your prospect’s situation, you are able to either stay involved with the prospect or move on. A good friend of mine who is a great sales person once said a “NO” is almost as valuable as a YES”… Why? Simply because it frees up your time to find prospects who are a better fit with your solution. Knowing the prospect’s truth lets you walk away and move on freely.

3. You may not realise it but sales pressure pushes prospects away.  When you react to the “silent treatment” with phone calls and e-mails, what you’re really saying to them is that you’re unwavering and you are going to move the sales process forward regardless which means you’re looking out for your needs, not theirs.

4. The “silent treatment” is how prospects protect themselves from any sales pressure when they don’t feel comfortable telling us their truth. Typically the more we push, the more they run.

However the opposite is also true… The more we relax and invite the truth, the more up-front they’ll be with us. You will find that prospects will feel okay sharing what’s going on when they know we’re okay with hearing it.

OK, So How Do You Reopen Communication

It’s a lot easier than you might think.

* 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.)

* Second, take responsibility and apologise for having caused the “silent treatment”. Here’s some language that will make prospects feel safe enough to open up and tell you the truth about their situation:

“Hi, Sandra, it’s Jason. I just wanted, first of all, to call and apologise that we ended up not being able to connect. I feel like somewhere along the way maybe I dropped the ball, or I didn’t give you the information you needed. I’m not calling to move things forward because I’m assuming you’ve probably gone ahead with someone else, and that’s perfectly OK. I’m just checking to see if you may have some feedback as to where I can improve for next time.”

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.

You’ll also find yourself more productive and less frustrated. It’ll make a world of difference in your productivity level, your stress level, your income, and how much you enjoy what you’re doing.

And remember this… You’ve not lost the sale. You just don’t know the truth yet.

By Mark Anthony