What do you do when qualified prospects go dark?

What do you do when qualified prospects go dark?

It’s a fact (a sad one) of any sales cycle that prospects will go dark and drop out of your funnel. It’s actually even sadder that many sales reps keep these types of prospects in their funnel for another 15 months, creating the ultimate sense of false hope. But what we don’t discuss enough is this question: why do prospects typically drop out, and if you know the why of the equation, can you adjust the how of your approach?

Why do prospects drop out?

There are many reasons relative to different industries, but three of the big reasons that cut across most company types are:

  1. They get busy.
  2. They don’t care about your sales pitch.
  3. They don’t think they have a problem.

These are three of the big reasons because of a completely logical series of steps in how business evolved over the last 20-30 years, namely:

  1. Oftentimes being seen as busy is more important than being legitimately productive (over-focus on task work).
  2. Many sales reps are trained to focus on features and objections, demos and the perfect cold email. But the era of inbound sales has meant prospects can do a lot of their own research, so they are less rapt when you launch into a pitch. You still need to have the contact and the relationships to close the deal — self-research won’t replace that — but the “pitch” approach has shifted.
  3. Honestly, a lot of people have their head up their own posterior.

So now what?

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How do you solve these problems?

There are some approaches:

Being Busy: This is a tough problem to solve, but you need to figure out how, because everyone is always going to set themselves up as super busy. One of the key ways is to stay top of mind. If the prospect says they need “2-3 months,” don’t just wait 3 months and email/call again. Someone else will have swooped in by then. Send something every 1-2 weeks of relevance to them. The message here is: never follow-up without new information. Maybe message them around important events (a launch of something at their company, a birthday in the family, etc.) Timing is extremely fickle — sometimes it’s the first email a buyer sees when he’s ready to go that gets the contract — but staying top of mind and consistent is the easiest way to beat back busy.

They hate your sales pitch: Here’s a pro tip. Tape (recorder in pocket via phone?) the first 8-10 minutes of your sales presentation to a prospect. See who does most of the talking. If it’s you, that might actually be a bad sign. That probably means you’re trying to sell from a features-driven place. Makes sense. Doesn’t everyone need to know the features? No. If the prospect took the call / is in the room with you, he knows the general features. He wants to know how it applies to him and his problems. Have you even asked him that? Now reformulate how you approach people around that idea. “Tell me about your company.” “What problems are you experiencing?” “What have you tried?” Switch from presentation to conversation.

They don’t know they have a problem: You are going to need to guide them to understanding that. The sharpest path is through financials. “You are doing this. If you did this, you’d save or make XYZ money.” If you show the financial benefit, that’s going to be the quickest path to a longer conversation. Pro tip here: a lot of sales guys send blog posts and white papers to illustrate a problem, but decision-makers get that stuff all week. If you have something visual, especially with $$$ visuals, send that. It’s going to pop/click/resonate much faster, and you’re closer to closing them.

What other reasons have you seen for people dropping out, and what have you done to combat the potential loss? Here’s some other insights into lead generation.

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