10 Golden Rules for Dealing with The Prospect Who’s Gone to Ground

We’ve all had them, the dream sales prospect with the fantastic rapport, the perfect needs and pains and the budget to make it happen and just when you believe you’ve got them hooked they go quiet. How do you get them back into your pipeline or find out what’s really gone on without being an overzealous nuisance? And how can you skilfully catch their attention and finally get that outcome you definitely deserve?

Read on for our golden rules to help you get back in control of the sale.



1. First of all, ask yourself how this happened
What stopped you getting commitment to a further appointment – a time and date to meet or at least speak – when you last connected? If you didn’t ask for this commitment, why not? If you asked and the prospect declined, did you explore why? If not, why not? Without really exploring motivation and commitment levels, you can only expect a high number of prospects to fall away. With thorough exploration of both, you’ll have a much better understanding of which prospects are the strongest, and will find far fewer of them going to ground. That said, there will be many occasions when even the most committed of buyers doesn’t live up to expectations and suddenly seems to have stopped progressing the deal and even stopped returning your calls. In that case, read on.

2. Don’t give up – although you might want to think about holding off pursuit for a month or so
Maintain non-intrusive contact even when there’s radio silence – let them know you’re waiting in the wings for when the matter once again reaches the top of their agenda. On the other hand, don’t become a nuisance, or create more pressure when the most likely explanation for their unexpected unresponsiveness is that they’re already under pressure.

3. Use your imagination – is the only interpretation really that he/she is avoiding your calls?
There could be many other rational explanations for the delay in reply to your messages. We’ll give you a head start: sick leave, secondment, fired or early retired, dealing with layoffs, relocation, maternity, paternity, holiday, urgent bid, special project, customer problem, staff shortage…..

4. Double check the prospect’s email address format and spelling with reception
User finger trouble, auto-prediction and simply confusing “f” with “s” will mean your email never reached their inbox

5. Oh, and double check that the phone details haven’t changed
Yes, they do change sometimes. Hot desking means voicemails fail to reach the right ears and water damage is only one reason why we periodically have to switch mobiles and may reluctantly switch numbers

6. Consider texting the prospect’s mobile
Many people will respond to a text even if they ignore voicemail and email. Although not if the mobile is drying out in a packet of rice…J

7. Connect with the broader hierarchy in the business
If it was a hot topic for him, somebody else will be across it – just track them down. And peers, the boss’s PA, the boss and the receptionist may just know what is behind the hold-up.

8. Remind yourself what you know (and don’t know) about the timelines
Were you being overly optimistic or inadvertently pushy? Did they volunteer their own specific deadline and milestones, or did you lead them towards the date you had/have in mind?

9. Consider external factors and check newsfeeds
Could seasonal peaks, market or organisational changes be affecting the prospect’s workload?

10. Don’t give up – really!
80% of B2B new business opportunities are reportedly left on the table through a lack of persistent pursuit. Some who say “yes” won’t be able to move forward as intended, of course, and will fall away. Trust your memory –  and instincts – if there was real intent, follow through. Either you’ll have a chance to win their business or learn something: possibly about what changed, possibly about why you lost this time round; either way invaluable information.

Finally, remember there’s a difference between being persistent and pushy. When your prospect has told that they’re no longer interested, there’s your signal to move on. Thank them for their honesty and add them back into your nurturing programme.

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