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Monday, June 11, 2007

Overcoming the 'silent treatment'
This thread on the networking site provides a truly revealing collection of answers to the problem most business-to-business sales representatives encounter virtually every day in their work: They call, have a conversation, seem to receive some interest, then . . . silence.
Unreturned phone calls and emails leave the salesperson in a quandary: Is the prospective client avoiding us because they don't want to buy, because they simply are very busy, or because they are afraid to say 'no'? Most sales reps would rather have a clear cut 'no' than being left up in the air -- but of course that is not the way most businesses -- or people -- work in real life.
I'd like to say I am good at returning calls; but often things get crazy, and if I can sense at first glance that the caller won't be able to provide anything of value to me, I leave the message unreturned. This is not entirely out of disrespect. Occasionally, as one poster noted, the reason for not calling back is that I am genuinely working on a decision -- as an example, a non profit group wanted some publicity requiring me to attend an evening meeting; I needed to clear this with my wife before responding; and that took an extra day. Usually (though not always) a second call or email with a clear request for a response will result in an answer -- and almost always, it will be 'no'.
The issue is always more complex and challenging when you really believe you have a product or service of genuine value to the prospective client, if only he/she would listen, meet, or see you. Here, persistence is often justified -- as long as you handle it with tact, good humor, and respect. Finally, sometimes it is helpful to let things rest for a while and then return when you have something new to offer. I like non-intrusive methodologies such as electronic newsletters, personal notes, and the like.

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