“Not interested.” “We’re happy with what we have now.” “I don’t have time.” We’ve all heard those rebuffs that sit in the middle of the sales/prospecting road – giant obstacles that block us from proceeding further. They’re not even objections that we can work with – they’re stonewalls that signal a refusal to engage. Unanswered emails and LinkedIn messages fall under this heading, too.
This disconnect just doesn’t apply to prospects – it’s part of your current customers, too. Gallup found that just 29% of B2B customers are engaged with their vendors, and an overwhelming 71% are either indifferent or disengaged. Engagement is critical – as that Gallup report notes, engaged customers translate into 34% increase in profitability.
Sparking Interest from Apathetic Prospects
- Find out what their problems are and use them as your lead-in.
When you’re dealing with an indifferent prospect, find out their needs or problems. Ideally, this would involve you having a dialogue with them in a discovery process. In asking for the meeting, don’t center the conversation around your product or service. Stress that you just want to talk about what potential issues they’re having. In the hopefully ensuing discourse, again refrain from mentioning what you’re selling – this is strictly a fact-finding mission to get the lead thinking consciously about these issues and if no needs exist, that is perfectly okay.
If their apathy is so deep-set that they’re not willing to even talk about problems, dig more into research. Monitor the social media accounts, news reports, financial filings (if a publicly held company), etc. to see if you can spot relevant issues from there.
Another way of approaching hardened skepticism is to openly acknowledge it. Saying “I know you’re skeptical” or have doubts or whatever phrasing you decide to use won’t suddenly make the prospect wary – they already are. And that kind of open honesty and transparency can be refreshing to a prospect who is used to dealing with less ethical or more grasping sales reps.
No matter which path you take to discovery, don’t follow up immediately. Instead, wait a few weeks. There’s no need to worry about being pipped here – after all, if they’re not talking to you, it’s a near-certainty they’re not talking to anybody. Then, after an appropriate amount of time has passed, follow up with something like the following:
After our discussion (or I noticed that – if your avenue was via research), I spent some time thinking about X problem. There’s a possibility that Y Product could be a solution. Would you be interested in setting up a time to explore this further? If so, I have Tuesday next week at 3 pm or Thursday at 9 am available. Let me know.”
Notice how this example positions the problem first and foremost. Also, this isn’t guaranteeing your product is a solution – merely that there’s a chance it could be and you want to explore further . And the follow-up conversation is more qualifying and discovery to answer the question of it’d be a fit. Note: You won’t be pitching during the follow-up meeting, either. It’s giving both sides more to think about, and as much work as it’s taken to dislodge the apathetic roots, it can be undone swiftly by a slip into selling mode.
- Maintain contact, but keep it light, relevant, and remotely removed from the buying and selling process.
If you can’t get the problems conversation going and can’t find anything from your research, then shift into pure relationship building mode. Still monitor the prospect and send them periodic emails with relevant links or congratulations (for example, a congratulatory email for opening a new location).
This no-pressure approach will keep you on the top of the prospect’s mind and help to build trust because you’re not trying to convince them to take a meeting or sending signals that you want to eventually sell them something. You’re just focused on the relationship.
Engaging Indifferent Current Clients
- Touch base to see how things are going.
When you have silence from a current client, that’s a detachment that might leave you vulnerable to losing the contract to more immediate and present vendors. Following up periodically with the client will not only keep you in their mind and strengthen the relationship, it can allow you to spot potential problems before they arise, or at least resolve them in the early stages before they metastasize into major issues.
To reiterate, be sure touching base includes sharing information or a line of inquiry (such as monitoring how the product experience is going) that’s relevant and, most importantly, valuable to the client. Many customers will be turned off by a reaching out just to reach out and it could unexpectedly backfire into a worsening of the relationship.
- Consider changing the account manager.
While you may have won the initial contract with a specific rep and group of decision makers, the point of contact at the company might have changed, and so might the rep covering the account. Or it’s possible the initial relationship might have soured for whatever reason. In all these cases, it might be best to switch out reps for one who is better able to communicate with the client or who has a better personality fit for the client/point of contact persona.
Apathy can be a dealbreaker for both prospects and currently contracted clients. It’s a silent, insidious contagion that can sometimes catch sales teams offguard. Careful attention to the relationship and deliberate steps to address the root issues, as outlined above, can resolve the problems and bring new energy to discussions.