As a sales professional, you are accustomed to what it feels like from the seller’s experience juggling prospects, customers, details, and priorities. But, have you ever stopped to think what life feels like from the prospect’s point of view assuming they stay with you through the sales process? Do you sometimes disappear from the sales process only to reappear when you get back on track with your schedule?
It might seem like only yesterday when you last talked with that prospect and agreed to follow up with something, but if the gap in contact is longer than expected, your prospect could get confused, disillusioned or even downright angry. How long does it take for a child in the mall to panic if the parent is suddenly out of sight? How much different is it for your prospect?
So, how do you avoid inadvertently leaving your prospect alone?
Here are some ideas:
Contract clearly as to what the next steps will be for both parties and establish a reasonable deadline for delivering. Too many salespeople get excited when a prospect expresses genuine interest, so much so that they get anxious to move to the next step too soon. Don’t overpromise here. It will send the wrong message early. You can explain to the prospect why it might take more time to respond than they thought because of the nature of the assignment. “I like this idea, Mary. It will take me about four or five days to get all the right people in my company to provide the material you are looking for.” If it’s legit, prospects will understand.
Provide periodic communication and updates between meetings. It’s easy to do with email, text, Linkedin messages, etc. “Bill, just wanted you to know I am very close to compiling the data you were looking for to involve the other managers. See you Thursday.”
If what you are doing is behind schedule, communicate that soon to the prospect and let them know exactly why. “Ramona, I know you wanted to make sure we also had ideas from the folks at corporate, and it is taking me a little longer to round them up. I expect to have what we need by this Friday, so I will call you back to set that new meeting.” (They’ll understand and appreciate your honest communication.)
At the beginning of any relationship both prospect and salesperson are trying to figure each other out.
Gaps in communication that might seem small to you could look cavernous to your prospect. Be that responsible parent that guides them through the mall safely. Contracting on clear expectations and deadlines is crucial to reducing relationship tension. And, if something gets behind, which it probably will, let them know what is happening. They are likely to understand completely.
Don’t leave your prospect alone to panic in the mall.
Jim Hopes is the Chief Executive Officer at The Center for Sales Strategy