Chances are, you’ve had at least one experience in which a prospect gives you “the silent treatment.”

Let’s say you’ve worked with them quite a while, had great conversations, and they’ve expressed interest in your solution – but all of a sudden everything stops. You try calling them back once or twice, or send follow-up e-mails, but nothing. They just disappear.

There is a pressure-free way to reestablish communication when your sales prospect gives you the silent treatment, says sales coach Ari Galper. But first, it’s important to understand why it happened in the first place.

The ‘hopeium’ addiction
Silence sends a message, but sometimes we don’t want to hear it. Instead, we get addicted to “hopeium”: that is, we string ourselves along in the hope that we can still make the sale.

Hopeium is a trap, because it’s impossible to keep in mind the most important goal: to learn your prospect’s truth. When you’re fixated on making the sale, you anticipate how the process will go, and tell yourself that things will happen as you hope they will.

But if you’re in that mindset and the prospect breaks off communication, you feel lost, anxious, frustrated, discouraged, confused. You get stuck. You know something’s wrong, but you hope it will get better if you just wait.

Clear up the mystery
Is there any way to clear up the mystery? Yes, by giving up your agenda, learning the truth about where you stand – and being okay with whatever the truth may be.

If you approach your noncommunicative prospect with too much hope, you’ll introduce sales pressure into the relationship. This will push the prospect away and erode any trust you have developed with them.

Instead, eliminate pressure by saying you’re okay with the sales prospect’s decision not to move forward. The more you relax and invite the truth, the more straightforward they’ll be with you.

Reopen communication
First, just give your prospect a call. (E-mail and voicemail are impersonal, so use them only as last resorts if you can’t reach your prospect after several phone calls.)

Second, take responsibility and apologize for having caused the silent treatment. Here’s some sample language that will make prospects feel safe enough to open up: “Hi, Jim. I just wanted to call and apologize. I feel like somewhere along the way I dropped the ball, or didn’t give you the information you needed. I’m not calling to pressure you to move things forward; I’m assuming you’ve gone ahead or changed your plans, and that’s perfectly okay. I’m just checking to see if you have some feedback as to where I can improve for next time.”

When you respond to the silent treatment this way, the results will probably surprise you. You may even learn that the prospect has legitimate reasons for not getting back to you. You’ll also find yourself more productive and less frustrated.

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