How to handle sales radio silence


Pay-off: handle sales radio silence, make progress, and stay sane with customers who have gone quiet

Investment: 5 minutes

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You put a lot of time and effort into being polite, professional, and helpful. You work hard to create a win:win outcome. You do your best and tick the right boxes. You submit your application, proposal, pitch, plans.

And then you wait.

And you wait…

Nothing yet.

You’d have thought they’d have got back to you by now? They seemed all warm and lovely earlier!

So you wait a bit longer. And look at your watch once again as it tells you “you’ve been stood up!”

And then, you do the worst thing possible:

You start guessing and making things up to explain the radio silence.

You climb aboard your un-useful thought roller coaster, as it twists and turns and loops around thoughts like:

How rude!

How disrespectful of my time.
Perhaps it went to their junk folder?
Maybe they’re busy, or on holiday?
They don’t like me. I knew it.
No, the sales books tell me it’s never personal.
Well, they must be just rude then…I’ll go with that.

You let the most vulnerable and least qualified part of your brain create a reason that protects your ego and makes them look like the baddie. Clever.

And then you play that same broken record again the next day when someone else goes silent on you. And the next day. And the next. That’s your life in sales. That’s your chosen career and your life. Maybe you need something to help you decrease the chances of this happening, and increase your chances of staying sane when it does?

Just about everyone I’ve coached around sales has faced this in some shape or form. And increasingly most people I know applying for new jobs have faced it too. “I did everything right! And they haven’t got back.” It’s not rejection. It’s worse. It’s silence. Silence handled really badly.

The mistakes we make

The mistakes we make cover four levels:

1 – We didn’t seek to understand fit well enough in the first place. (‘Fit’ includes their emotional drivers).

Basically, they were going from A to B all along. We just didn’t find out what A and B were, and didn’t suggest something that they believed would get them there faster, more cost effectively, more easily, reliably or enjoyably.

Instead, we suggested something that they thought would get in their way from moving from A to B. Or we treated them like a version of ourselves, which was a big mistake. Or we didn’t find out their limitations to get back to us in the next few weeks, because we didn’t explore well enough.

Solving these requires developing an exploratory conversational process that fits your buyers and how they buy, turns over all the important pieces to the jigsaw, enables you to collaboratively determine a mutually trusted workable approach, and works repeatedly. If you want help with that for your team, I’d be happy to follow my own process with you to see if we can improve sales performance in your team – contact me here.

2 – We expected them to get back by a certain time.

We did all we could. And so we expected that they’d get back to us by a certain time. We were wrong. That’s the mistake.

Strap in. Here’s a crash course on how Stoicism can help:

The only reason we get upset or frustrated (about anything in life), is that it was an unmet expectation:

1. We expected an outcome.
2. It didn’t happen.

That’s it.

I’ll go extreme to make my point:

You get upset when someone you know passes away. Why? Well, one reason is that you didn’t expect them to pass away at that time. You feel cheated, against your expectations. It wasn’t in your plans.

The problem occurs when we make it a problem by introducing our own self-made expectations.

And so it follows that one solution is to lower or simply remove the expectation (in sales at least you have space to do this rather than in the example above). How do you do it? You get on with the next sensible opportunity and throw all your intellectual and creative forces at that.

Aim high. Do your best. Plan for the worst. Hope for the best.

But expect nothing. Just busy your mind by getting stuck in to your next actions.

Expectations are for wimps!

3 – We made the above two mistakes and then guessed why they’ve been ignoring us

Do not guess why people aren’t getting back to you. Unless you have supernatural powers, you’re probably going to guess wrong. Then you’ll get upset with what you came up with. (Or puff your chest out in defiance and become a harder person taking no more nonsense from anyone anymore….because of what you came up with. We don’t half react stupidly to the things we make up ourselves you know.)

Just think this: “I’ve checked my junk folder and voicemail. It seems they haven’t got back to me, yet.” Then get on with your next actions leaving no more space for any other thought on the matter.

That’s it. So long as you have done those things, then that’s the only fact you have right now. That’s data that is. The Stoics would be proud of your approach. Your sales manager will be too. And you will be, gradually.

Now, some of you at this point will challenge, “but how do you learn from your mistakes if you do that?”

You can’t in this situation.

You don’t have the information yet to know what the mistakes are. (What, you haven’t been trying to learn from your made up guesses have you? That’s not learning, that’s just hypothesising.)

So stop guessing. Go and find out as best you can. Call their colleagues and be a detective by all means. (That’s what top sales professionals do). And, of course, make sure you’re talking to the right person anyway. (Here’s how to find the decision maker.)

4. We followed up in self-serving desperation

Emotionally charged (following the previous three mistakes) we follow up like an amateur. With no structure, the wrong mindset, and with no real plan, we email or phone, this time ready to demand that they pay us some attention!

Sometimes we manage to hide our frustration and feign politeness, telling them that we’re “just checking in..”. But it often only serves to add more pressure on them, giving them even more of a reason to push back on.

Or, we misunderstand the common advice of “always add value in every interaction” and desperately scramble for an article that we think might be useful (but actually isn’t) and tell them we’ve got something they might find interesting. They don’t. They just realise even more how little you understand them.

The solution? Click here“How to write a follow up email after getting no response from your client”.

Here’s how to handle sales radio silence:

  1. Do a pro job of conversationally exploring the A to B (and the ‘C’ – challenges or constraints) of your buyer (click here for the essential and only ABC of selling you’ll ever need)
  2. Expect nothing. Shut the expectations out by busying yourself with the next opportunity (and having faith in this system!)
  3. Never guess why. Find out why. Be the detective you failed to be in the first place. And learn from that. Or wait it out, with an occasional gentle and respectful follow-up. Just don’t guess.
  4. Keep learning and improving your approach. It’s possible your approach is flawed. But do not guess why that it is. Instead, as well as doing your job, make it your job to improve how you do it by keeping up to date with new ideas and approaches. Try new things out. Observe. But don’t guess.
  5. See my article here for more tips that work.

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