A sales manager recently brought a problem to my attention. One of his customers had called and asked why he hadn’t been by to see him. The frustrated sales manager explained that the prospect had plenty of quotes from him but never purchased. He believed making further calls was a waste of his time. He asked for my advice. My response — look for the reason why your customer is unresponsive.

Build a relationship

I suggested he call the prospect and make an appointment to see him.  During the meeting, he should allow 20 minutes of continued focused attention to build a relationship.  Let the customer talk 80% of the time. Then ask the prospect why he hadn’t followed up on previous quotes. 

Don’t assume

Too often we make assumptions about our clients. Instead of guessing, ask your customers about their actions, or lack thereof. Don’t assume that when an order isn’t placed, it’s because a final decision has been made not to purchase.

As a sales manager, I once instructed a rep to ask his customer why he hadn’t made the move to our company. The customer smiled, laughed, and said that he didn’t really have a good reason. This response indicates the relationship between the rep and the customer was weak. If the rep had invested time in building a relationship with the prospect a sale would have been more likely.

In another instance I learned a prospect was stalling on a sales decision because he did not have the time to spend with his purchasing department. When the sales rep offered to help with that transition, the business was secured.

Be proactive

Too often our assumptions about why customers hesitate are negative. Such thoughts are counterproductive and a drag on your daily activity. Successful business people are positive thinkers. Don’t let “head trash” prevent you from closing new business. Be proactive. Build relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask your unresponsive customers why they are not acting on your proposals. Be creative in leading them toward the deal.

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