You recently had a good meeting or two with a new prospect. Afterward, you followed up with a couple of emails and left a few voicemails. But you haven’t heard back. Zero. Nada. Sound familiar?

You keep at it for as long as it takes because this approach has worked a few times in the past. But times change. It’s getting harder to grab your prospects’ attention, much less convince them to seal the deal. Your approach to finding and closing the right kinds of new business might need some fresh ideas. So are you willing to mix things up?

Keep in mind that sales is just like dating. You want to be confident, attractive and persistent—but not desperate. At each step of your initial courtship, you’re trying to gauge whether you and your prospect make a good fit. You might decide to pursue things further, or you might decide to move on.

If you move too fast, you can scare your prospects away. Admit it—there have been times when you were blind to the obvious signals that your would-be mates were not exactly smitten by your charm. Sometimes they just got busy. Sometimes the timing just wasn’t right.

As you solicit new prospects this year, remember the delicate balance between courtship and overdoing it.

As you solicit new prospects this year, remember the delicate balance between courtship and overdoing it.

If it seems like things have been going well and your prospect remains unresponsive, I can help you get a truthful response 75% of the time. The catch? You have to be willing to hear the truth. This is hard when we are feeling needy. Some days it’s hard to bear hearing “No” or “No, not now” or—worst of all—“It’s not you, it’s me.” At this point, you’ve done your best to make yourself attractive, state your case and inspire some future commitment. It’s time to move things along one way or another. Step one is to be honest with yourself about what’s going on.

Typically, you’re being avoided for one of four reasons:

  • Your date just doesn’t know how to say, “No thanks.”
  • Your date likes you but is not compelled enough to make a change right now.
  • Your date is not the true decision maker and has not gotten the buy-in needed.
  • Your date definitely wants to keep talking but just got busy.

“When you lean psychologically or emotionally on people, it’s a sign of insecurity,” writes Stuart Wilde in Silent Power (Hay House, 1998). “It makes them feel uncomfortable. They resent the weight you’re laying on them, and they’ll react by denying you.”

At this point, you can’t want your prospect’s business more than your prospect wants to do business with you. Before you send another email or leave another voicemail, try something different—even if it scares you. To get more of the right kinds of new business more quickly, sometimes you have to clear out things that are taking up space in your brain. Either move them back in and go forward, or move them out and move on.

Here is a real-life email example in which the sender, having heard nothing for three weeks, got the truth from the prospect in as little as five minutes.

Subject: Hank—Quick follow up note from Sean O…

Hank,

The last time we talked, we seemed to be on the same page regarding moving forward with your commercial policy transition to SSA. I sent you the proposal we discussed and followed up a few times and haven’t heard back for a while now. 

I’m not sure if something has changed since then or if you just got super busy.

If we are still on track, the next step is to schedule a 30-minute meeting in the next week or two so we can solidify the transition plan. If you have some lingering concerns we have not discussed or something has changed on your end, that’s OK. Either way, I would like to move things forward or agree to close the loop for now.

I’m in the office all week. Email or call and just let me know either way.

Sean

I know this approach will be uncomfortable for some of you, and you might even think I’m nuts. Just try it. You really don’t have that much to lose. Sometimes you’ll hear what you want; other times you won’t. But at least you can lick your wounds more quickly and move on. Remember, your time is valuable. Spend it with those who appreciate you and are motivated to do business with you now.