What to do When Your Buyer Goes Dark

What do you do when your buyer goes dark?

This is one of the most frequent questions I get from my coaching clients. It’s always delivered with a distinct tone that’s a mixture of frustration, exasperation, and more than a whiff of “I feel hurt.”

This is totally understandable. The wooing of a client is like a dance. When your dance partner excuses themselves to freshen up and doesn’t return to the dance floor, well it stings! Of course you feel frustrated and exasperated.

Here’s the thing…wooing a client is like a dance but in reality it is a business relationship you are trying to nurture. Different rules apply. Don’t get caught up in the romance of it. Remain objective and you’ll be able to navigate the process more adeptly.

Here is how I recommend dealing with the “my buyer has gone dark” conundrum…

Don’t take it personally

If you have done your best, arrived for each buyer interaction prepared and carried yourself professionally recognize that a buyer going dark simply means the time is not right for them to make a decision. They need some space.

Be empathetic

Like you, buyers are busy people. To state the obvious, making a decision on your deal has fallen down on their list of priorities. Your sales job [never an easy one] is to elevate that decision on their list. Given this…

Get analytical

Work backwards to where your buyer went dark. Analyze what happened in the sale to that point. Are there any A-ha’s here – any obvious reason for them disengaging?

For deeper insight try doing a Pain-Gain-Value analysis. Do you have a clear picture of the buyer’s Pain points, the Gains they were trying to achieve by resolving them and the Value they wanted to realize by doing so? [for more on Pain-Gain-Value theory and how it works click here]. If there are cracks here it can often explain why they went dark. Understanding why they went dark will help with managing the deal once you get reconnected with them.

The Mechanics

Here’s how you can approach getting reconnected with your buyer:

Let’s say your previously responsive buyer has gone dark. Your last email about next steps in the sale was not replied to. After waiting the appropriate number of days [based upon your communication pattern with them to this point]…

  1. Resend the email to them. This time however include a header above the original email body text that says “I’m not sure if you received message below, so I thought I would resend it. If you could please confirm your thoughts about my notes that would be greatly appreciated.” Put a row of asterisks below that sentence to separate it from the body text. This is a polite way of saying “I would like a response to my email please.”
  2. Wait two business days and if no response, then call your buyer. If you get them on the phone simply say “Hi. I’m calling you to follow up on my last email. Do you have time to chat, or should we schedule something in the next few days to do so?”
  3. If you get their voicemail leave a message saying “I’m just calling to follow-up with you on the last email I sent. I’m wondering how you feel about proceeding from here. If you could please reply to that email or give me a call that would be greatly appreciated.”
  4. Wait 5 more business days. If you still haven’t heard back then send a final email that says “I have done my best to reach you. Unfortunately, we were unable to connect. As such, I feel in the dark about how you would like to proceed. What I will do is respectfully leave the ball in your court from here. If you would like to speak I would of course be happy to do so. Otherwise, it’s been a pleasure dealing with you.” You may want to follow this up with a voicemail as well. You will of course have to tweak the wording I’ve suggested based upon your own unique situation but you get the point.
  5. Move on. Tag that deal as Dormant or Follow Up in 3 Months and start working on a deal that has a higher probability of turning into money.

I have suggested this approach to my clients and they’re all pleasantly surprised with the response rate the last email generates. Buyers who went dark due to busyness or other priorities respond to say “I’m so sorry for not responding…let’s proceed this way…” Buyers who went dark due to disinterest either say so, or don’t respond. Either way, you get some closure.

Note – A Good Sales Habit

Early in the sale, say at the end of your very first meeting with a buyer asked them “what is the best way for me to communicate with you – email, phone, text?” Follow that with “I know you are extremely busy. Just to help me understand you better, what’s your usual turnaround time in responding?” By virtue of having this conversation around communication & expectations you will establish that communication is important to you. By no means will this completely eliminate a buyer going dark, but it may contribute to minimizing it.

A buyer going dark can be frustrating and may leave you feeling like you did something wrong. Most likely, you did not do anything wrong at all. Your buyer is simply not ready to buy. When this happens, be clear with them that you are there for them if and when they are ready. Then, move on to another buyer who is more ready to buy.

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