Silence. It’s a seller’s worst nightmare, but it’s something that we must all learn to face. Whether it’s the initial silence on the call after you tell them the price—which, by the way, you should never try to fill with pointless defenses of why your product is worth what you charge—or the various days, weeks, or months that can go by during a sales cycle between interactions, it’s essential to learn how to creatively re-engage your prospects.

Our Emissaries have been on the buying side before, and some have even been guilty of ghosting themselves. Here are some of the most common times a prospect goes silent, an insider look into why, and what you can do to get them re-engaged.

After the first meeting

You did it! You finally made it through to your top prospect and got them on the phone—or, better yet, in person. You thought it went well: You hit it off right away, spoke briefly about their challenges, and explained how your offering would be a great fit for them… and they agreed! You followed up quickly, shared more information about what you had covered, and asked for another meeting in a few weeks to go more in-depth, which is exactly what they said they wanted.

**Crickets**

Why’d they go silent?

In most cases, a successful first call or meeting won’t move as fast as you would expect. Unless you’re meeting during their planning cycle, it’s likely that you caught them in the middle of some key projects, and they may even have already committed their budget for the year. There may be a fit and legitimate interest, but you should lay low after three follow-up attempts.

What you should do

Continue to nurture this relationship by reaching out every three months or so with something valuable like a recent article or white paper that relates to their challenges. Skip the sales language at this point, and focus on delivering content that adds value. This will keep you top of mind and ensure that when they’re ready to meet again, you’ll get your chance to rekindle the spark. Plus, most prospects appreciate persistence, as long as you don’t cross over into pushy.

After the team meeting

After your first interaction, in which everything went exactly to plan, you managed to get a follow-up meeting with your prospect’s team, including their boss. You brought along another person or two from your side to provide a broader perspective, and you had another excellent meeting. Everyone was engaged, your presentation validated your product as a solution to their problem, and they told you they wanted to get a proposal to better understand the pricing and commitment involved to move forward.

And then… nothing.

Why’d they go silent?

As a follow-up to the meeting, and before you sent a proposal, you probably reached out to clarify a few facts:

  • How many users/seats will you need?
  • Who should be involved in the decision-making process?
  • Are there other dependent projects or systems that need to be completed or implemented before starting with us?
  • What time commitment best fits your needs?
  • When would you be looking to get started?

While these are all the right questions—and the right time to ask them—they may show the prospect that they aren’t as close to being ready to buy as they might have thought.

What you should do

Share success stories from similar clients who were also overwhelmed when thinking about a change in process or migrating to a new solution. Showing your prospect that their peers and competitors have been in the same spot can help take the pressure off and allow them to move forward. If you can provide examples of answers to each of the questions you asked, especially how similar clients started with your product, you can empower and equip them to communicate things to their own team internally and move the process forward.

After the proposal

You assessed their challenges and carefully crafted a proposal that best fits their needs. Conversations have seemed like smooth sailing, so you didn’t hesitate to send the proposal through. You may even be preparing a contract based on those specifications. Heck, you probably even told your boss that you think you can squeeze this one in before the end of the quarter.
You guessed it. Nada.

Why’d they go silent?

At this stage, silence likely means one of two things is happening:

  • they weren’t as qualified as you had initially thought and are now in sticker shock
  • they’re weighing purchasing your solution against the other initiatives for which they’ve already budgeted

Assuming you and your team feel like you understand your target buyer and this is a qualified prospect, it’s most likely the latter situation. No matter how big or small the expense, a buyer needs to weigh the opportunity cost associated with building vs. buying, as well as when they can afford the internal resources. Onboarding, training, adoption, change management, and other “soft” costs are more likely the reason that conversations have paused.

What you should do

Give them a few weeks to fully review the proposal, and offer a meeting in which they can hash out their concerns about their “soft” costs. Better yet, invite key members of your customer success team to join the meeting, and focus on what happens next. This is a great opportunity to “wow” the customer before a final purchasing decision is made and can instill confidence in the decision-maker that some of the internal costs might be buoyed by a buttoned-up, high-quality relationship manager who will ensure things go smoothly.

During contract negotiations

A few iterations of your proposal later, you send through your standard contract with a completed SOW and prepare for the back and forth between legal, compliance, finance, and/or information security. You know things sometimes take longer at this stage, but you’re hopeful nonetheless. Your contact has asked you to open the line of communication between your people and theirs, you send an introductory email, and your team offers a few times to speak with theirs.
You have the deal down to the one-yard line—and that’s where it stays.

Why’d they go silent?

At many companies, navigating the internal procurement process can be just as challenging as what you went through to bring it to this point. In all likelihood, they’re fighting for the attention of the right people on their side with all of the other internal stakeholders looking to bring on various third-party solutions. Add in any potential calendar issues, like the end of a quarter or fiscal year, and it may take another six to 12 weeks to move through the red lines and get to a signature.

What you should do

Leverage an Emissary from that company to better understand the process. Is it typical for things to drastically slow down at this stage? What levers can be pulled to make things go faster? Are they looking for a final discount or better payment terms, or are they more concerned about having the contract on their standard services agreement? Gaining perspective from a former employee will help you prepare your team for what will happen next.
In the meantime, continue to foster the relationship with your prospect. While you likely can’t control the speed at which their teams move, you can maintain your prospect’s excitement by helping them to better prepare for Day One post-contract. Customer success stories and a clear onboarding plan are appreciated. And, why not set a date for a celebratory wine-and-dine to start the relationship on the right foot—while subtly setting a target date for things to be signed, sealed, and delivered.

Executive Insights

While you may not always know why a prospect has stopped responding to your emails and calls, you can always get creative to kickstart the conversation. With a strategic plan in place at each stage of the sales process, you can overcome the silence and bring your prospects back into the loop. It’s not easy, but it does work.