BD 101: How to Prevent and Navigate Prospects From Going Cold – Part 1

by Scott - 3 Comments

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Anyone in business development or sales has probably had someone go cold on them. Everything seems to be going well than the person on the other side stops responding to your emails or calls.

Why This Happens

Each situation is unique, but I think it all comes back to the same underlying reason: people avoid confrontation. They don’t want to deal with the pressure of saying no or being sold, especially when they’re not buying.

Saying no or even not right now is harder than saying yes or not responding at all. It’s just easier to ignore someone than to tell them that their offering isn’t a priority right now.

Preventing Radio Silence

As a BD/sales person, I love when people are transparent with me. In fact, I’d take an outright NO any day over being strung along only to have someone go cold. The latter is just a waste of my time.

The key to achieving transparency is to the make the other side comfortable with being open and honest  at the onset of the relationship. If you don’t do this, they’re more likely to correlate a “no” or “not right now” with confrontation then subsequently go cold.


Here is an example of something you could say during an initial meeting to inspire comfort and prevent someone from going cold:

“My goal is at the end of this call, for us to make a mutual decision whether my offering can add value to your organization. I really believe that it can, but if it turns out that this isn’t a focus for you right now, I want you to know I understand. The most important thing is that we keep the communication lines open and that you let me know where things stand so that I can be most helpful moving forward…Does that sound good?”

By declaring this before going into sales mode, I have given the other party permission to be transparent with me. I’ve communicated that it’s okay to say you have too many other things in the pipeline. I understand.

In a hard sale, I would never say this. But in a complex deal/sale involving multiple people, odds are they’re isn’t going to be an impulse buy. If you have a product they want, they’ll eventually take it. If your product sucks, they won’t. So it’s much more effective to lay the piping for an open relationship than push once you’ve reached a certain level of rapport.

Prevent Defense

Laying the foundation for comfort and transparency is a great start, but your job during the first meeting is far from done. In order to really inspire transparency and prevent someone from going cold, you need to take the steps necessary that will enable you to build rapport and understand the process. Things I like to do:

  • Learn and record as many details about that person’s life outside of  the deal you can. Interests? Family? Where they live? These are all touch points of connection you’ll be able to leverage to build rapport. Emails and calls shouldn’t always be about the deal.
  • Find out who else is involved in the decision making process and what the process looks like on their end. If there are other parties involved I will try to insert myself in the process so they’re not pitching for me. Why do you think people seem all excited when you pitch them and then never respond to your emails? It’s usually because they pitched your product internally and it got shut down. Don’t let someone whose seen your product for 30 minutes be the one pitching. Own the sale.
  • Ask questions to find out what’s important to them so you can understand whether what I’m offering is actually a good fit. Again, people are afraid of confrontation. Some people will politely let you pitch them and seem interested as a courtesy then never call you back. I’d rather know that it’s not what they’re looking for than waste my time keeping them in my pipeline. I wrote a post that speaks to this that can be found here. Get to a resolution.
  • Schedule the next meeting before ending the first one. Some people are afraid to say no. Even if they’re only mildly interested, sometimes you can get a second meeting simply by getting them to commit to it while they’re still on the phone. If I get the sense they’re pushing back and can’t insert myself into the internal sale, I’ll position the second meeting as an opportunity to check in. This doesn’t seem as threatening. “Let’s hop on a call next week just to check in after you and your team have had a chance to digest all of this. Do you have your calendar open?”

Unfortunately, taking all these precautions isn’t always enough to prevent someone from going cold. In the second part of this post, I will talk about ways to re-ignite conversations that have gone cold.

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3 comments, add to the conversation.

  1. Kyle Porter

    Another great post Scott. Biz dev is not just about opening it’s about laying the groundwork for mutually beneficial, trusting and long-term relationships. Once you get there, you are more than just a “biz dev guy”.

    One of the things we do is constantly is monitor the news, alerts, intelligence & information happening with our prospects & ping them frequently with contextual assistance. Having the info is important, but having a “flow” that helps weave this into reps everyday process is the way to think about it.


    1. ScottBritton

      Thanks Kyle and totally agree. Ultimately, your goal is to become a respected partner and friend.

      I use google alerts for a lot of what you’re talking about, but would love to give salesloft a spin.


  2. Pingback: Business Development: How to Avoid and Navigate Prospects Going Cold - Part

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