Does this sound familiar?
You both agreed that it made sense to draft a proposal, which you wrote and sent to your new client. (Which by the way you shouldn’t do by email)
Then nothing happens.
You don’t get any response. After a couple of days, you’re wondering what’s up.
The disappearing client syndrome happens all too often, and it remains an unfortunate reality of our business.
When a client goes silent, maybe it’s because your proposal went missing. Or it could be that the person is too busy, away on vacation, dealing with a personal issue, too chicken to say no to you—or just a time-waster.
Whatever the reason for the lack of response, forget trying to speculate why it’s happening. Chances are you’ll be wrong.
Instead, try a different set of questions. Do you want to work with someone who won’t make time to acknowledge your proposal? And how would you manage if, at some point during the project, your client gave you the silent treatment again?
I’m not suggesting that you walk away from an unresponsive client without attempting to reconnect. But put a limit on how far you’ll go to get a response.
Your Follow-Up Strategy
Most business people average between 80 and 90 emails a day and spend up to half their time in meetings, so your proposal could be buried in your client’s email box.
At this point, make contact with your prospective client by email, phone, or whatever way makes sense to you.
In this communication, give the client the benefit of the doubt about what happened when you sent your proposal. Politely ask if your proposal was received, and attach another copy for your client’s convenience.
Use this opportunity to summarize what you agreed to and suggest the next steps. In some cases, a friendly reminder is all it takes to get a proposal back on track.
If that follow-up doesn’t get a response after a few days, don’t give up yet. Give it another shot.
By the time you’re ready to make contact again, accept that you may never get a response. Still, your communication should re-emphasize your interest in working together, refer to previously discussed next steps, and suggest a subsequent meeting to discuss the project.
For clients who are serious about working with you, this second follow-up usually gets a reaction. If, once again, you get no response after a few days, assume the deal is off the table.
After you’ve expended the energy to draft a proposal and follow-ups, it’s hard to let go of an opportunity. But that’s exactly what you should prepare to do.
For one last time, try to make contact.
Let your client know you’re still interested in the project, but you’ll stop sending follow-up messages. You could say, “I’m assuming that you’ve gone in a different direction than we discussed. Given that, I’ll stop emailing you about this project.”
Be sure to let the client know you’re available to talk further. At this point, though, don’t spend any more time chasing this opportunity unless the client contacts you.
Some people say you should do something gimmicky with the final follow-up, such as leaving an incomplete voice mail to encourage a call back or calling the client during off-hours, hoping to get lucky. Others advise you to send an email that gently pokes fun at the person who’s not responding.
That sales advice looks good on paper, but it fails in practice. Such manipulative sales techniques aim to force the buyer into a conversation that the seller hopes to use to persuade the client to sign on the dotted line.
This approach represents everything that most services sellers (and clients) loathe about selling. If you haven’t gotten the client’s attention with your ideas, qualifications, relationship, and value, a gimmicky voice mail isn’t going to help.
Besides, in the scenario above, you’ve attempted multiple contacts and waited long enough for a response. You have your answer. The project isn’t going anywhere right now.
The opportunity cost of chasing a reluctant client rarely makes sense. So don’t squander your time and mental bandwidth pursuing people who probably aren’t going to engage you. Instead, do your follow-up, learn from the encounter, and turn your attention elsewhere.
I help sales people find order in this caotic life of sales.
With a sales career spanning over 25 years, focused on high-end customers and corporate sales, I coach, train, and drive performance that helps leading organisations improve sales. Except for my own successes in various markets, I’ve studied the top sales "Rainmakers" and organisations from around the globe for the past 20 years, and helped sales executives in many countries increase their overall abilities significantly.
Riaan Pietersen - Mobile: +27 (0) 73-686-3480