What Prospects Think When You Don’t Follow Up

My phone rang last Wednesday at 4:08 pm,  just as I was settling in to do some prospecting calls. It was my colleague and friend Steve Foran, CEO of Gratitude at Work. It’s always great to talk with Steve; he’s incredibly energetic, knowledgeable and generous. But this call related to recent frustrating experiences.

What was causing Steve’s frustration? And why did he choose to call me?

On this particular day, Steve had set aside some of his valuable time for a 4 pm phone conversation. This had been scheduled during an earlier prospecting call with a salesperson. But … the call never came.

As we spoke, Steve’s voice got a little louder, his words a little faster, clearly displaying his annoyance. This was the second time in the past month a salesperson wanting his business had scheduled an appointment with him  … and then not followed through.

“They do all that hard work of trying to get an appointment and then don’t do it. I don’t know why someone would do that,” he said. “And it’s not like it’s someone halfway around the world. These are local people.”

Steve has certainly made a lot of sales calls over the years. It’s been part of how he’s built his successful company and he knows that when a prospects says “yes” to a meeting, they are interested, ready to talk business, curious about how you can help them.

“I don’t know,” he said to me. “I don’t understand it.” I could visualize him shaking his head in dismay as we spoke.

What I shared with him is:

  1. Many salespeople do not use reliable systems for recording their activities. Being successful in sales – and customer follow up – requires a system that reminds and alerts you of your commitments. It’s possible these two salespeople simply never recorded their commitment to call Steve.
  2. Some companies are not interested in relationships, only in an immediate sale. Because Steve did not buy during the first call, he’s now unimportant. The salesperson moved  on. While the company will likely solicit Steve again in the future, it will be a new salesperson calling him, someone digging through past leads looking for a quick result.
  3. And if we want to be generous … some people are chronically unorganized, no matter what systems they have in place. There’s a slim possibility one of these salespeople will call Steve, apologize profusely and ask for a second chance. If this happens, it’s worth saying yes. Taking responsibility in this way would be highly commendable and the unorganized salesperson may not be representative of the company’s high standards of service.

In the meantime, here’s the impact on Steve. Remember, he was interested enough in what these companies were offering to book a time to learn more and have a detailed conversation. Now, here are his thoughts:

“I’m gobsmacked, right. I just think … oh my goodness, if this is how you act when you want my business, how are you going to act when you’ve got it.”

Exactly! When we are selling, everything we do impacts our prospects’ decisions. Keep your word … or lose the customer.


Closing a sale is the natural outcome of inspiring great conversations and listening intently to our potential customers.

This natural approach still involves a process – a plan that moves potential customers through a journey of discovery with you. So ... what's your process? And am I the right sales coach for you? Let's find out.

4 thoughts on “What Prospects Think When You Don’t Follow Up”

  1. Many things to talk about here! Foundational to relationship and client focus is action, execution and follow-up. Keeping your word is a brand imperative! Thanks for sharing Mary Jane! Lisa

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa. Keeping our word is a “brand imperative”. Very well said. It is definitely how people come to trust us … and everyone works with those they trust.

  2. I’d like to chime in…In my experience, it is the relationship that is paramount to success and especially success in sales. Selling today is relationship building. In regards to the time management approach, whether sitting in the seller OR buyer seat, I recommend an online meeting appointment be used – as a seller it shows your respect and commitment for your potential buyer’s time. Everyone’s time is so valuable. Thanks, Mary Jane! Tonya

    • Thanks for your comments, Tonya. And yes, booking appointments, even for phone calls, is becoming more and more important all the time, as is sharing a calendar invite. Also using booking apps such as Calendly to help people know when you are available so they can book conversation time easily.


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