#076: What to Do When a Prospect Doesn’t Return Your Calls or Emails

As a freelancer, there are few things more frustrating than a prospect who suddenly disappears for no apparent reason.

He reached out to get some information, indicated a high level of interest, was fine with your ballpark fee — maybe even gave you a verbal confirmation that he was going to move forward.

But then … nothing! You can’t get him to return calls or emails.

You have no idea why. And now you’re wondering if you said or did the wrong thing.

Sound familiar?

In this week’s episode, my friend and colleague, Ilise Benun and I tackle this common issue head on. We look at the different flavors of this problem. We examine why this happens so frequently. And we offer some concrete advice for how to deal with these frustrating situations.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

We’ve all had prospects contact us and then fall silent when we respond. What are your thoughts on this common scenario?

Put yourself in the prospects’ shoes. When we need something, we search the web, check social media and reach to friends. Once we get what we need, we move onto the next thing. This can explain the silence after an initial inquiry.

We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Sometimes we win; sometimes we don’t. Often, we never know what really happened.

How should we decide which inquiries are worth following up?

Develop a standard framework for following up, such as one email, a phone call, another email and then a LinkedIn request.

As the same time, adjust your framework on a case-by-case basis. If your gut tells you there’s potential, spend more time following up.

Questions to ask yourself:

1) Who contacted whom? Did they reach to you or did you reach to them?

2) Do they have a need? What is it?

3) Is the need immediate or in the future?

We often tend to give each inquiry the same “emotional weight.” What are your thoughts on this? 

You have to start by identifying YOUR needs.

If you don’t know your own needs, you can’t assess a prospect’s value to you

You end up assigning the same weight to every inquiry.

When you know how much you income you need to generate every month, you know which prospects to follow up with, how much time to spend pursuing them, and how to feel if you don’t hear back from them.

When should we move from responding by email to scheduling a phone call?

Whenever possible, have a real conversation. It’s tempting to respond to email inquiries with your price. But you don’t know enough about the person or the project to quote yet.

Also, do you even want this prospect? If you don’t know, then a ten-minute phone conversation will help you decide.

What if prospects want to know the price right away?

Remind prospects that many different factors go into your pricing. Let them know you need more information to put your pricing together, and you need to schedule a ten-minute phone call with them.

By insisting on a phone call, you’re forcing prospects to invest something into the process.

If a prospect won’t give you a ten minutes on the phone, that’s a red flag.

If you don’t hear back from them, they’re probably price shopping.

When you do get them on the phone, give them some real numbers. If they balk at those numbers, you’ll know and be able to respond.

What’s the difference between talking money and quoting prices?

In the initial call, you need to talk money. But you don’t have to quote your price.

When you ask, “What’s your budget,” they’ll often say, “We don’t have budget.” Usually, that means they don’t know how much this kind of project will cost.

Help them out by talking numbers. Are they at $500-$5,000 or $5,000-$50,000? Find out where they are on the spectrum.

But before talking money, ask:

1) How did you find out about me?
2) What’s your need?
3) When do you need it done?
4) What’s your decision making process?

Only then should you ask, “What kind of budget are you working with?”

If the first question out of the prospect’s mouth is “How much do you charge…” then the prospect is probably price shopping.

When prospects don’t respond, don’t take it personally. They don’t know you well enough to know what they’re rejecting.

Missed connections are part of doing business. If prospects don’t respond, that doesn’t mean you should stop reaching out. Staying in touch shows persistence, professionalism and interest.

Always keep your interactions friendly and professional. Make it clear you’re not taking their lack of response personally. Make it easy for them to get back to you, even years later.

Where can listeners learn more about you?

Ilise Benun’s website is Marketing Mentor. Sign up for free tips via email and advanced notice of online store discounts.

Ilise also recently launched a new coaching program, Command the Fees You Deserve.