When customers are ready to talk to you.

Selling is tough. We receive a referral introduction, respond to a request from our website, meet a sales prospect at a trade show, or answer a phone call from an interested and qualified prospect.

We qualify, ensure our solution is a match, perhaps conduct a demo, get the right people involved, and then they go dark. If you’re like me, you wonder, “what happened?” You run a bunch of ridiculous (in hindsight scenarios) in your head and try every sales tool you can think of to get a response. Silence.

I was in this twisted state recently when I read “Rainmaking Conversations” by Mike Schultz and John E. Doerr. One segment in particular, “Employ Indifference by Reversing Directions” caught my attention (page 131).

The Indifference Strategy

We’ve all encountered the client or prospect who’s gone off the radar, leaving your voicemails and emails unanswered. This is entirely frustrating, especially when the behavior isn’t reflective of your client-centric focus or your relationship. So how to re-engage your target?

The Rainmaking authors suggest you write an email, summarize your discussions, and say something to the effect that their project may not be on your radar screen anymore and that you’ve moved on. You say that if you don’t hear back, you’ll assume that’s the case. If this is not the case, you would enjoy continuing the conversation.

I bet you’ll get a response (and quickly): Either case closed, or an apology for not responding sooner and wanting to continue. (Read my take on why I’d “rather get a yes or no than a maybe. Hint: Definitive information lets me decide how and where to spend my business development time.)

One of my prospects never showed up for a phone call (Yes, it was on his Outlook Calendar) and never responded to my email that I was sorry I had missed him. This is very unusual, as referred prospects are typically overly respectful and courteous.

I used the “Indifference” approach, and the prospect wrote back immediately. He was apologetic, said he was hiring new people, and he was still interested in pursuing a referral-selling initiative. I wrote back and invited him to reach out to me when he was ready. I was relieved, because he wasn’t ignoring me.

Act on Your Connection Opportunities

The opposite is also true. You suddenly hear from people after months or years. You receive an email or a phone call from people interested in working with you. They’re ready.

Three of these situations happened to me in the last month.

  1. Judy emailed and said her company was branching out from technical training to sales and service training. She wanted to talk with me out my offerings and ways we could work together. Serious discussions are in process.
  2. One of my colleagues connected me with Robert three years ago when he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from the East Coast. Robert wanted to change careers. We met in person and spoke on the phone. I shared referral tips for guiding his career path. Last month he sent an email saying he has a new job in my field and knows we will work together. He also offered to refer me to his previous company. He said, “Joanne, they really need help with referrals.”
  3. I have a cousin, Gary, on the East Coast who is a prominent and highly successful businessman. I’ve always admired his beliefs, integrity, and passion for his family and his work. He wrote that he was moving to a new venture and wanted to meet with me. Turns out this new partner company (with a brand-new product) told him that they plan to attract new clients by cold calling. Gary immediately knew there was a better way and wanted quick schooling on referral selling.

Some of these new opportunities may turn into business, and some may not. But you hear from your past connections because you’ve stayed in touch. (Read, “The Fortune Is In the Follow-Up.”)

Stay Engaged

Yes, you never know. You might just get that bluebird. Stay in touch, reach out, share your ideas, and continue to expand your connections through referrals. Work hard, have a good time and know and believe that you will be ready long before your customers decide to give you those big bucks.

Join the Conversation

Connection begins with you. With me. With us all. Connect here and let me know your thoughts on tracking down that contact, verified lead, referred prospect. What works for you? What are your challenges? Together, the referral-sales community succeeds!