BD 101: How to Prevent and Navigate Prospects From Going Cold – Part 2

by Scott - 9 Comments

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In the first part of this post, I talked about ways to prevent prospects from going cold. The reality is that even when you do all these things, people will still go cold…even after they act super interested initially.

Here are a few tactics I’ve used to reinvigorate a cold conversation, starting with the least obvious first.

Blame Yourself/Act Like It’s Your Fault

Again, my thesis is that people who initially seem interested go cold because they’re weary of confrontation. They’d rather just ignore someone than say “not right now” or “I really like this but my boss thinks its not worth our time.” Communicating these type of responses makes them uncomfortable. They anticipate you’ll react by continuing to sell and they don’t feel like dealing with the pressure of being sold.

A powerful tactic to immediately disarm this perception is to act like them not responding is your fault.

The other side knows they’ve been the one who’s been avoiding you. They know you haven’t done anything wrong. So when you put the blame on yourself, they feel bad because they know that they’re responsible for the communication gap. Usually this prompts a response that extrapolates what’s really going on:

“No, no – it’s not your fault. We’re just really busy and won’t be looking at this till Q2. You’re on my radar and I’ll reach out when we’re ready”

This may not ink a deal, but it provides transparency to a previously dead, opaque conversation. Understanding where things stand enables you to recalibrate your efforts moving forward instead of continuing to chuck Hail Mary’s in the dark. Ball control.

Here is an example of how you can act like it’s your fault after the other side has gone cold on your emails and calls.

Hi X,

I first want to apologize that we haven’t been able to connect recently. I feel like somewhere along the way I must have made it difficult to communicate or dropped the ball because for awhile there it seemed like you guys were really excited about our offering. Apologies if this was the case.

I just want to open back the communication lines and let you know that I know you have a lot on your plate and if this is something that is no longer a priority, that’s totally cool – in fact as a startup, I completely understand! If nothing else, I’d enjoy opportunity to hear what’s new on your end and maybe even get some feedback on how we can improve our offering.

Let me know if you have a few minutes next week to hop on a call.


Sure this type of email may play up a psychological chord or two, but everything communicated is 100% true. They did indicate they were excited about my offering. They did stop responding to me and I have no idea why. I do want to open up the communication lines, even if just for feedback.

Don’t feel bad for being clever.

Ping Them on Something Unrelated to Your Deal

I take notes on everything during my initial conversation with a prospective partner whether it’s related to the deal or not. In fact, I intentionally try to derive personal, non-deal related information from whoever I’m talking to. Are they a NFL fan? Do they have children? Where did they grow up?

All of this information can be leveraged not only to build a relationship that makes you more than a just “BD guy”, but also ignite a conversation that has gone cold.

When someone demonstrates that they paid enough attention to a conversation that they remembered a fleeting comment about my favorite football team, it tells me they care. It makes me feel more than just another row on their hitlist. I like this person more.

My experience indicates I’m not the only person who feels this way. I’ve had a ton of success reigniting conversations that eventually pushed a deal through by sparking dialogue around a topic unrelated to the deal. More often than not, it has something to do with an event pertinent to something personal I learned about that person.

Let’s say I know someone is a Miami Dolphins fan and they’ve been unresponsive. I might send them an email like this:

Subject: HardKnocks Just Got A Whole Lot More Interesting

Hey Deal Blocker,

Did you see that HBO’s hardknocks is profiling the Dolphins this year? I always love the series (you should definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it) but now that they signed OchoCinco it’s going to be a whole new ball game….I think BleacherReport hits the nail on the head.

Hope all is well on your end,


An email like this humanizes you. It engenders rapport. People buy from people they like.

Recognize and Congratulate Accomplishments

I closely monitor the companies in my pipeline for events to congratulate them when they accomplish something. New feature? Big New Partnership? These are all opportunities to send them a nice note and spark a conversation.

In order to efficiently manage the process of abreast of this information I rely on a couple tools.

Google Alterts – News on those companies in my inbox

Google Reader – Subscribe to the company’s blog

If you really want to score brownie points send them a gift. A guy who I did a deal with just sent me fancy chocolate (which I dominated) after the sale of our company. I’ll never forget it and now feel more compelled to help him if I can in the future.

Mention Competitors

It’s amazing what namedropping a few competitors can do.

I just had a friend tell me a story that he’d emailed a prospect that went cold 5 times without a response.  On the 6th try, he shot them a note mentioning a few competitors that he signed. They responded 30 seconds later…no one wants to be the last guy at the party.

It’s important how you position these emails. Being blunt can work, but I prefer to incorporate a little social finesse. Again, I want to shift their perception  of me away from just being the person selling to them.

You can accomplish this positioning a competitor email as a “fun update” or an “example of how you’re working with a similar company.”

Hi X,

Just wanted to send you an example of how we’re working with competitor X and Y to deliver this solution. Check it out here.

So far feedback has been extremely positive. Would love to get you guys up and running too when you have a few minutes.


These are a few tactics I’ve used to combat prospects going cold. I’d love to hear some other things people have found successful. Feel free to share in the comments.

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9 comments, add to the conversation.

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  2. Hoang Pham

    I sometimes see myself as my own business and applying for a BD job at a startup as doing business development for myself. From your Udemy course on getting a startup job I’ve learned to add a ton of value without expecting anything. Now while I’m waiting for the decision whether I’m the chosen candidate for the job, how can I prevent the conversation from going cold?

    I mentioned competition, pinged them on something unrelated to the job and did a bit of the proof approach.

    I was expecting to hear from them a couple days ago, but have not yet. Of course they could be just busy, but what would you do? Give them a friendly reminder of wait it off.

    I didn’t really see this in your Udemy course, but yea it is kinda related to this blog post.



  3. Post Author Scott

    I’d honestly hang out in this situation. You don’t want to be too pushy and it sounds like you’ve done the right things…If you don’t hear anything well you were expecting and say you just wanted to check in on the status of your application and whether there was any way that you could be helpful with…

    Using this for a job app might not be the best fit in my opinion…


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