Zombies are great in the movies—so entertaining with their shambling walks and shredded clothes. But as any sales rep can attest, prospects who show a genuine interest in a dialogue and then wander off into the vast landscape of wasted efforts are a huge pain point for anyone trying to keep business relationships out of the realm of the undead. Unless you speak "Grunt," it’s so hard to have a conversation with a zombie.
How is it that prospects can seem so eager, and then just like that they fail to return your calls and emails? It's a common scenario with multiple causes, like:
- Your point person may have resigned
- Strategic priorities have shifted due to...
- Leadership changes
- Market fluctuations
- A staff shortage
- Undetermined internal changes
- In true zombie fashion, they picked your brain for valuable info and then bought elsewhere
- You misjudged and they actually don’t have an urgent need to buy
- They had a different vendor in mind all along and were just gathering comparable bids to show they’d done their due diligence
- They don’t have time to follow up with you because they’re up to their rolling eyeballs in work
Without that next connection, you may never know why you’ve been brushed off. But whatever the reason, here are some guidelines for keeping the conversation going:
Sort your disappeared prospects from most valuable to least, so that when you have time to try to pull them in, you’re going for the most promising ones first. Jettison the prospects you just weren’t feeling it for—due to factors such as company size, job title, industry, location, displayed lack of engagement. If they don’t fall within your good-customer potential criteria to begin with, you’re best served going after new leads. In other words, if they’re dead, they’re dead—at least for now; do not attempt CPR on zombies. That’s a no-brainer...
When you do make the effort to bridge a connection, make it meaningful. You’re in the business of standing out from the crowd, so it’s not enough just to remind the prospect of who you are and that you’re awaiting their reply. Add value to your touchpoint by saying, for example:
Hi Jane, judging from our last conversation, I understand that streamlining your operations is at the top of your priorities list. Based on that, I’m sending you a case study we recently published that describes in detail how we were able to help a company with a similar situation to yours. Look for that in your email shortly!
Mix up Your Messaging
We’ve blogged it often: Phoning is your most effective contact method in most cases. Just vary the way you re-approach your elusive prospects. Call at different times of day. There’s always the *67 trick, but err on the ethics side, *67-ing only if your prospect started off as an inbound lead. If phoning six ways to Wednesday isn’t getting you halfway to Tuesday, use email or social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, to try to connect.
Once your point of contact goes underground, it’s perfectly OK to reach out to someone else at the company. When appropriate, it’s also fine to mention your former point person to your new one. This shows the level of energy and research you’ve devoted to forging a connection.
Make It Matter to Them
If you’re still not able to "go live" despite multiple attempts, add a sense of urgency to your voicemail or email by saying something like this:
Hi Jim, I hope you don’t mind my following up on the discussion we had a few weeks back regarding your interest in our solutions. Just a reminder that you reached out to us looking for additional information on our premier product. I hope my feedback and ideas provided you with valuable insights. But currently, having not heard back from you, I can only assume that your priorities have shifted. My contact info is below—don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.
Ironically, this type of "breakup" message will often spark a sense of urgency in your prospect and they’ll get back to you.
But if you’re not getting that cagey prospect on the line after seven or eight attempts, launch them into the marketing funnel, where they can be added to a nurture campaign. Review their activity on a frequent basis. What’s their open and click-through rate when it comes to your company’s newsletter? Are they downloading any of your white papers? Their engagement with your online offerings can determine whether you’ve got a good case for reviving the conversation in the future.
Keeping It Alive
Finally, as a general rule—and perhaps to stop prospects from going by the wayside—take the following measures:
Don’t offer up all your valuable information on the first call. Leaving gaps in what you provide creates a reason for the prospect to jump on another call with you.
Schedule the next call with the prospect before ending the current call. Just be sure to motivate them with a reason to want to get on the line with you again.
Lastly, provide the prospect with clear next steps to complete following the call. Even small tasks are effective, creating a sense of connectedness and providing a window into the prospect’s level of interest—that is, whether or not they’re going to go zombie on you.