Wednesday, November 6, 2013


"Prospects aren't returning my calls." "I sent a prospective client two emails, and she still hasn't responded." "He cancelled our appointment, now he's not getting back to me." "They asked me for a proposal, and I spent hours preparing it, but I've heard nothing since then."

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? They sure do to me. Every week, my clients and students tell me similar stories. And then they ask one of two questions: "What am I doing wrong?" or "What's wrong with these people?"

Getting no response from prospects in whom you've invested time and energy can be frustrating, annoying, and deflating. It can make you feel like you're inadequate, barking up the wrong tree, or just plain wasting your time.

Don't despair! There are steps you can take to turn these situations around. But the answers may not be what you expect. First, here's what you need to know:
  • There may be nothing wrong with your message. If you're leaving voice mails, sending emails and letters, or writing proposals, and not getting responses, the fault is not necessarily in the content of your communications. Changing the words you use may have no impact at all on how much response you get, but trying to find just the right message may end up consuming a great deal of your time.
  • Your prospects are not intentionally being rude. It's hard not to take unresponsiveness personally, but it really isn't personal. Your prospects are NOT sitting there thinking, "I don't like her, so I'll ignore her," or "He's a jerk, so I'll get back at him by not replying." Prospects have their own concerns, priorities, and catastrophes consuming their attention, just like you do.
  • Lack of response tells you nothing. When a prospect doesn't get back to you, you really can't know why. Trying to figure out the reason for their non-response can be crazy-making and time-consuming. You'd be better off just moving on to your next prospect, and trying again with the non-responsive one later. Nine times out of ten (or maybe even 99 times out of 100), a prospect's lack of response has nothing to do with you, or your message, at all.
Now, here are three suggestions to change how you deal with non-responsive prospects:

1. Change your approach for prospecting. If you are spending most of your time trying to find clients by making outbound calls and sending letters and emails, this can be a serious mistake. There are many other approaches for filling your marketing pipeline that are likely to produce better results for the typical independent professional.

Put more of your energy into marketing strategies that will result in stronger connections and better credibility, such as networking in person and online, building referral relationships, or writing and speaking. Prospects who have met you, been referred to you, read your articles and posts, or heard you speak are much more likely to respond to a call or email than those who don't know you.

2. Change who you are trying to reach. Warm prospects always respond better than cold ones. If you have been trying to contact people who don't know you, and you know little about, change your audience. Instead, seek out prospects who you already have a connection to.

You'll find more likely prospects in communities you are already a part of, for example, former co-workers, employees of companies you've worked for or done business with, members of your professional association, alumni of your school, members of your social media network, speakers or attendees at a conference you went to, and people who live or work in your neighborhood. These communities are also excellent sources to find people who might refer prospects to you.

3. Change your attitude. Unfortunately, prospects not returning calls and emails, cancelling appointments, and ignoring you after asking for a proposal are all common occurrences. Yes, this is frustrating. But it is a reality of doing business.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the people you are trying to reach. Imagine that they are overworked and constantly interrupted, with not enough hours in the day to manage all their responsibilities, and a demanding boss or clients who are setting their priorities. Meanwhile, they are trying to have some time left over for themselves and their families.

Now picture your call, email, appointment, or proposal appearing in their day when it is not one of their top three priorities just then. They have to choose. Will they get back to you, and therefore delay one of those other things their boss, co-workers, clients, or families want from them, or perhaps not get out of the office in time for dinner with their spouse for the fourth night in a row?

Imagining difficult situations in your prospects' lives might help to not take their actions personally, and instead be polite, cheerful, and sympathetic as you persist in reaching out to them multiple times and in multiple ways.

What does it mean when prospects don't respond? Stop trying to answer that question, and instead, apply some of the suggestions above. This will make your own work day much less stressful and more productive.
Copyright © 2013, C.J. Hayden

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