Is silence a surrender or a capitulation? It can be when you are dealing with a client who has suddenly gone quiet with their communication. Nothing makes a salesperson more paranoid than a client who suddenly goes silent and stops communicating. I’m not saying that you’re the jealous type, but when it comes to sales, you kind of are. You go crazy telling yourself all types of stories about why the customer isn’t calling you back. At least 95% of those stories are guaranteed to be totally wrong, but you’ll keep repeating those stories over and over until you find out what is really going on. After all, this customer has always great and responsive and it is quite unusual that she is not responding to my email and phone calls. Clearly, she must be getting a quote from your competitor and you are going to lose her business. Is that true?
Salespeople tell themselves some of the most awful stories when they don’t have all the information about the client and the sale. We are a worst-case scenario bunch as we try to figure out what went wrong before we even know if there is anything wrong at all. Before you let your mind go to all the wrong places, there is a simple and effective method that will get the information and communication flowing again; The Capitulation Method.
Before we talk about the Capitulation Method, let’s take a moment to explore possible reasons why a client can go silent. The most common reasons usually have to do with how busy or overwhelmed a client is at a particular moment. They don’t mean to ignore you, and may not even realize that they are doing so, but they likely don’t understand the importance of your outreach the same way that you do. Even unfortunate issues in their personal lives such as sickness, divorce, or even death will make your issue rather unimportant to them. Clients are almost never silent to be vindictive or to send you some kind of message. Most of the time it is not deliberate and they are not aware of their inaction.
No matter what situation your client is dealing with, you still have your needs. You have to get that form signed or get an answer for one of their orders. Perhaps it’s time to renew an agreement and it is getting down to the wire. Before you use the Capitulation Method, you need to check your communication method. Salespeople love emails as a tool a little too much. If this has been your only form of outreach, it is possible that you have been contributing to the noise in a client’s already overloaded inbox. Pick up the phone. You will be surprised how, more often than not, this gets you unstuck in less than 5 minutes. If that still doesn’t garner a response, here is the Capitulation Method (in email form)
Subject Line: Customer, I will be stopping by your office Thursday at 10:00 AM
I hope you have received the previous messages I was sending you about the contract renewal. I will come to your office this Thursday at 10:00 AM with the final paperwork for you to sign. Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll assume this time works for you.
Suddenly the client has to respond to you because your communication just became a reality instead of an option. Silence is capitulation, meaning that they are agreeing to your request if they don’t respond. At first glance, you think this method is bold and makes you feel uncomfortable. It is bold, but what is more uncomfortable; being bold or not getting a response from your client for several weeks? One thing is for sure, this method will almost always get you unstuck and rather quickly. You can expect one of these outcomes and most of which will work in your favor.
- ‘That time doesn’t work’ – After the client read the subject line of your email, they suddenly realize that they have to respond. That response usually starts with an apology. “Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. Thursdays are not good for me. Can you come by Friday morning?” This is the most common outcome of the Capitulation Method.
- *no response – You come by Thursday morning as you promised because you weren’t told otherwise. When you arrive, you finally get to speak to a real person (hopefully your client) and find out what is really going on. You may not be having the meeting you intended to have, but this should get things back on the right path because, at the very least, you’ll either find out what you needed to know or you can reschedule this meeting with your client face to face.
- ‘The truth is’ – Perhaps there is a change in your relationship that the client finally has to come clean about. Maybe they are switching to the competition after all. At this point, they are forced to come clean about whatever information they are withholding. This is rarely the case, but if this happens, you now at least know what you’re dealing with and come up with a plan of how you will deal with it.
The Capitulation Method can take on various forms. For example, your client’s office may be several hours away and a drop-in visit isn’t practical. Instead, you can send them a calendar invite for a video meeting and send some reminders up to the meeting. Be creative but be bold. Give your client the benefit of the doubt for sure, but don’t let them create a log jam in your process just because they are not being responsive.