A common topic among B2B sales teams is how difficult it can be to reach prospects. My team often makes (8-10+) attempts to reach prospects (more in some cases,) which is a reflection of the fact that people are extra busy in today's B2B environments. It takes a very coordinated effort of skill, expertise, and persistence to reach prospects and is much more than a "numbers game" as so many people believe. Rather, not only do you need to know how to sell, but also the psychology of engagement, and preparation to maximize the moments you do get.

What could you be doing right when prospects are apologizing?

Even though there is a requirement for a much higher level of persistence in today's B2B selling landscape, old habits die hard and the habit of '3 strikes and you're out' is still very alive on the sales side (2 is even common, 2 emails and 2 calls.....) What that means is a typical effort to reach a prospect is a couple of voicemails and an email, and if the prospect hasn't responded by then, the rep moves on thinking they weren't interested after all. I have heard reps say things like "if they were interested they would have called back" or "I don't have time to chase them" to "I'm not going to waste time leaving voicemails, I sent an email--if they don't respond they aren't interested." Right when a follow up engagement is starting to get on a prospects' radar, many reps gives up and it's two ships that passed in the night. Sound familiar?

Recently, I was talking with a client of ours who gave me an example of how he had to call one prospect more than 5 times. It was someone that initially was very interested but went quiet. My client said he felt sure there was something there and persisted, and to his surprise the prospect was very interested and nothing had changed, he was just busy. We agreed most sales reps would have given up by then. I asked "did your prospect apologize when you connected with him finally?" He said YES, and how did I know? We have that happen all the time, it's an indicator of doing something right.

What does this mean to you when your prospect apologizes? It means they did get your messages, they had good intentions, and appreciate your persistence (This whole article is assuming this is happening with a professional peer-level outreach and not being a pest--which my other articles have mentioned.)

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Typically it takes around 3 discussions before relationships with prospects becomes reciprocal, which means those first 2 discussions may take extra effort to connect
  • What is often interpreted as no-interest is really just "real life." It is important to put yourself in your prospect's shoes to understand what is really happening and not take it personal

While reps give up trying to reach their prospects thinking they aren't interested, what really happens is maybe they were out of town, they were out sick, or things like their client called them ranting about a problem and they had to put out a fire, one of their staff had to leave on a family emergency, they had a key team member quit, because they get 300 emails and 15 vendor calls a day and there is a lot of competition for their attention, or because an enterprise platform they just bought crashed, or they have 200 sites offline right now because the network went down....the reasons are countless...but bottom line, the deal is still there and they are still interested.

The National Sales Executive Association had released some statistics a couple of years ago from a study that stated:

  • 2% of sales are closed from a single attempt,
  • 3% from two attempts,
  • 5% after 3 attempts,
  • 10% after 4 attempts,

but here is the whopper—

  • 80% of deals closed after making from 5-12 attempts.

Companies often do a "Did They Buy" Study on past leads that typically reveal that from 50%-70% of your prospects ended up buying something, but did they buy it from you?

Prospects tend to take the path of least resistance—so if you are making it easy for them to buy from you by being available and persistent, then you have increased your chances of closing the deal.

If you hear a lot of apologies from your prospects and progressing deals, it isn't a bad thing. If you aren't, then take a look at your process for follow up and ask if you might be giving up too early?

One thing you never want to do is start communicating in a punitive manner, mentioning they haven't responded or it is their fault you haven't connected. It can turn a warm prospect into a cold one.  Let them off the hook when you reconnect and remove any tension in a conversation, not add to it reminding them they haven't responded. First, you have no idea what is happening on their end. For all you know, they could have had a tragedy in their family or some other extreme circumstance. At a minimum they are so slammed they haven't been able to respond, and they may not enjoy their workload either....so reminding them they aren't responsive isn't helping build a rapport for the future.  

When was the last time a prospect told you they were sorry they didn't call you back sooner?

I'll look forward to hearing your comments!