7 Reasons Why Prospects Go Cold and How to Avoid it – by Dave Kurlan

Outside of Boston, today is the day after the blizzard of 2018, it’s a winter wonderland, and the deep freeze we have been experiencing is expected to get worse, with extended periods of sub-zero temperatures and wind chills approaching -30 degrees Fahrenheit.  What does that have to do with selling?  Plenty!

One of the biggest frustrations that salespeople and their sales leaders have is when good prospects go cold.  These include prospects that were projected to close soon yet, they aren’t returning calls, emails, inmails or overnight deliveries.  Not only have the prospects gone cold; the salespeople have been frozen out.  But it’s more like the weather than the two scenarios sharing common words.

I finished reading Dan Brown’s new book, Origins.  I think it’s his best work since The DaVinci Code although I did correctly guess the ending…  Anyway, at one point they are reading the Roman Numerals XI + I and coming up with an answer of 12.  12 was not the answer required to decode the matter at hand.  Professor Langdon, the main character, changes his perspective.  He rotates the equation by 180 degrees, turning it upside down until the equation becomes I + IX.  The new answer is 10, exactly what they needed.

If you change your perspective about prospects going cold, you might discover that you caused them to go cold, rather than the myriad of other possibilities.  I’ll explain.

The deep freeze didn’t just suddenly arrive last week.  The weather has been working up to this since temperatures began to drop in mid November.  It’s been getting cooler and cooler and then colder and colder until now.  There is a lead-up to the freeze and if we take a step back, it happens nearly every year around this time.

Your prospects don’t suddenly go cold either.  There are signs.

In half of the cases the salespeople had developed a case of happy ears earlier in the sales process and their belief that the prospects were interested or warm or even hot was entirely imagined.  Their prospects didn’t go cold as much as they were already cold and couldn’t find another way to tell the salesperson to go away!

In some instances, the prospects were actually hot but the salespeople complicated things and didn’t get out of the way enough to allow their prospects buy.  The prospects became frustrated with their inept salespeople, bought from someone who could quickly help them, and didn’t talk to the original salesperson again.

In many of the cases, the salespeople were moving more quickly than the prospects.  The salespeople were on their own timeline and the prospects didn’t have the same urgency.  Feeling more pressure than they were comfortable with, the prospects decided not to talk with those salespeople anymore.

Many prospects go cold when they aren’t the actual decision makers, they haven’t engaged the decision makers, and have nothing to report.  These salespeople made two huge mistakes:

  1. They achieved nice to have, but not must have.  If you aren’t talking with the decision maker, nice to have will never be enough to empower a subordinate to ask the decision maker to participate or get the decision maker to approve the needed funds.
  2. They didn’t start with the decision maker!  It’s nearly impossible to sell up hill and while selling downhill isn’t ideal, it doesn’t cause your heart to beat as fast as trying to sell up hill.

The reality is that in most scenarios, salespeople caused their prospects to go cold.  When salespeople have been frozen out it’s usually because they were talking with the wrong person, weren’t moving at the correct speed, or didn’t get their prospects to sense that they must have this product or service.

If you are wondering why salespeople find themselves in these scenarios so frequently you don’t have to look any further than these 5 Sales Core Competencies:

  1. Sales Process – the freeze will nearly always happen when an effective sales process is not followed and presenting occurs too early.
  2. Doesn’t Need to be Liked – when this competency appears as a weakness, salespeople won’t ask the necessary questions to smoke this out.
  3. Consultative Seller – when the salesperson fails to take a consultative approach they will fail to uncover the compelling reasons to buy and fail to get past nice to have.
  4. Value Seller– when salespeple fail to sell value, it can be difficult for prospects to justify spending the money
  5. Qualifier – when salespeople aren’t thoroughly qualifying, they will often find themselves selling to the wrong person

There are 21 Sales Core Competencies in total and while they all play some part in the freeze, these five take center stage.

If you are a sales leader, one thing you can do to address this issue is to hire stronger salespeople who won’t find themselves in the deep freeze.  It begins with an accurate and predictive sales candidate assessment.

What can you improve upon to eliminate most instances of the deep freeze?  And equally important, if your prospect returns from the deep freeze, will you know why and will you do the right thing?  Read Part 2 here.


Dave Kurlan
Best-Selling Author of Baseline Selling
Understanding the Sales Force
Founder and CEO
Objective Management Group, Inc.


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