We’ve all heard them. It’s the sound of unreturned emails and phone calls from a prospect that you thought was a serious buyer. An absolutely maddening sound. You found a prospect, met with them, researched their problem, and proposed a brilliant solution. Naturally, the next step is an order, right? Well sometimes, but other times it’s just crickets.

Whenever I hear crickets of the sales variety it reminds me of Ben Stein’s line in the classic movie Farris Buehler’s Day Off when once again Farris Buehler is AWOL from class and Ben Stein calls the roll. He calls out, “Buehler? …. Buehler? … Has anyone seen Farris Buehler?” He’s nowhere to be found.

So, why do prospects sometimes turn into crickets and what can we do about it? I put all crickets into 5 categories and I treat them all with the same 5 step response model.

Explanations as to why prospects turn into crickets fall into these general categories :

1. They don’t like your proposal. In fact, they’re so turned off by you or your proposal that they don’t want anything more to do with you. So, they avoid.

I think this is a small segment in actuality but oftentimes this is our first assumption. As salespeople we ask ourselves, what did I do wrong, or why don’t they like me? We question the validity of what it is we are selling, and how it’s priced. We can alleviate some of these doubts with a verbal trial close before delivering the proposal. Then, the costs and other objections can get discussed before an official proposal is conveyed. Still, I think this is more of an imagined reaction than a real one in most cases. If they do hate your guts and can’t stand your proposal and therefore won’t ever speak to you again … there probably isn’t much that you can do about it. You would think that the person you’ve worked with would at least communicate their issues so you could amend your proposal, but don’t count on it because not all people are rational. I’m going to call this one “the irrational cricket.”

2. They got busy with other things and your proposal pushed out on the calendar or was moved to the back-burner.

Patience is a great weapon and this is where you need to exercise some. What is the most important thing to you, namely the product you’re selling, is rarely if ever going to be the most important thing to your prospect. Important perhaps, but not THE MOST IMPORTANT thing. And so, you have to practice what I call impatient patience. This is an understanding of the reality of the relative importance of the project but a polite persistence in moving toward closure. Remind the prospect at intervals that are persistent but not annoying why the project has merit, why it is important. Sometimes that more important thing is of a personal nature and you’ll never know what it was. Let’s call this “cricket on the back-burner .”

3. They didn’t know you were trying to reach them. Really?

It’s hard to believe in this day and age where we have so many communications tools at our disposal such as voice-mail, email, text, LinkedIn, and twitter that anyone could not get the message that we’re trying to reach them to finalize our deal. The fact is that all this variety means that we can’t check it all, at least if we every unplug for a minute. So, it is possible they didn’t see your LinkedIn mail, or didn’t hear your voice-mail, because they just didn’t. The remedy here is variety. Get the message to your prospect through all the different means at your disposal in a persistent but not annoying fashion and you can be certain that the message was received. Use these messages as opportunities to reinforce the importance of the project, what it will do for them. Refer to this one as “cricket off the grid.”

4. They’re embarrassed.

This happens more than we as salespeople know. It turns out the person that was working the deal with us didn’t have the budget or authority to move forward. You can see why that would be embarrassing. Problem is that this one of those categories that can only be supposed because few prospects will admit this one. It’s just too embarrassing. So, the thing to do (as in all these cases is to be persistent, use multiple channels, be professional and talk about value. If this standard approach continues to yield crickets then you can assume that you’re talking to the wrong person and need to find another contact within the organization. How much time to give it? Well, that’s going to vary but you’ll know it. If you’re frozen out and you’ve been patient but persistent then it’s time to find another contact. “Red-faced cricket.”

5. They’re doing research and actually considering your proposal – perhaps comparing it to your competition.

This can be good or it can be bad. If they’re doing a fair evaluation then it’s an opportunity for you to continue selling your project as you reach out. Your persistence, professionalism and the value that you speak about during this cricket period could be the difference in the deal. Keep selling! It will sometimes be the case that you lose a deal and your prospect, whether by neglect, cowardice, or poor upbringing, won’t let you know. He’d rather wait you out than break the bad news to you. That’s a shame and a potential waste of your time, but you can’t do anything about it unless you move onto another contact at the prospect’s company as in number 4. This is a “good cricket.”

The key to how to respond to crickets is to realistically understand what the cricket sound means but to always proceed with this model:
1. Be Patient
2. Use Multiple Communication Channels
3. Stay Professional
4. Preach Value
5. Cautiously Change Contacts

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