When a Prospect Goes Dark: 9 Tips to Engage an Elusive Lessee

by By Linda P. Kester Sep/Oct 2014
What happens when your sure-thing prospect falls off the radar? Linda Kester provides nine tips for leasing salespeople to bounce back when a prospect goes dark.

Tara had a $60,000 approval. She talked to the lessee once a week, keeping track of the documentation and waiting on delivery of the equipment. Tara was excited about closing this deal; she would exceed her goal for the month. Suddenly the lessee went dark. Calls were not returned. Emails went unanswered. The vendor couldn’t reach the lessee either. After 90 days her approval expired, the deal died and she never knew why.

What can you do to prevent this? Here are nine ways to get out of the dark:

1. Record Your Calls
If Tara had recorded her calls she could go back and listen for subtle nuances she missed. Some companies have sophisticated methods of recording calls while others rely on trusty tape recorders. It doesn’t matter how you record the call, the end result is the same; you evaluate the quality of the call.

One precaution: You can’t record outbound calls in every state. Eleven states require all parties to consent before recording a call. These states include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington state

The other states allow One Party Permission: when one party approves recording the conversation, it’s perfectly legal to record without approval from anyone else in the conversation. Recording calls is a great training tool. It’s like reviewing videotape after a big football game. You hear what worked, what you missed and you determine the best objective for the next call.

2. Try a Different Contact
If the primary contact you’ve been working with has gone dark, there could be many reasons. Who else could you contact? Be careful not to contact their boss because that could make things more complicated. Based on your knowledge of the organization, there may be others you can contact to get an update and help move the deal forward.

This is where LinkedIn comes in handy. Obtain the names of colleagues from your prospect’s company page (do this, it works!) and reach out to them with the simple opening statement, “Can you help me?” For example, I just entered the name of one of my clients on LinkedIn and found 281 employees. This is a great resource for finding contacts at a company.

3. Don’t Give Up
When I called on National Accounts for Advanta Leasing, a friend gave me a referral into an equipment manufacturer. I called the prospect, mentioned my friend’s name and we scheduled an appointment. The day before the meeting the prospect cancelled. We rescheduled. He cancelled again. Three months later, we finally met. I thought it went great, but the manufacturer didn’t feel the same way. I tried to schedule another meeting to discuss where I fell short and he declined. I called again (perseverance and a positive attitude are my biggest strengths) and he referred me to someone else in his organization. After many failed attempts I met with her but then she went dark. I left a few fun voice mails (see tip # 7) and continued to send articles and value-added information. Ten months after the first call they sent in their first application. Over time I gained their trust because I did what I said I was going to do. I made a game of the process. I was determined. Rather than getting disappointed and giving up, I made it fun and enjoyed the process. Sometimes the best accounts take a long time to land.

4. Share Something Unrelated
In the leasing business, rapport is critically important because so many things can go wrong during each stage of the transaction. If you don’t have rapport with a vendor and their first application comes back declined, you may hit a dead end. If you can talk about a sports team, a business report or a sales book, you may keep the lines of communication open. Communication with prospects doesn’t have to be all business.

One of the best ways to get a response is to share something completely unrelated to the deal, but highly relevant to the prospect. This gets their guard down, and makes it easier to respond. Hopefully they’ll respond with a comment on what you shared and an update on the deal.

5. Put them on Trickle Down/ Soft Touch Marketing
If you’ve tried everything you can think of and still can’t get a response, but you aren’t ready to give up entirely, put the prospect on a soft touch schedule, and send something interesting and valuable every month or quarter. This will keep you top of mind when they need to finance another piece of equipment or recommend a leasing company. Recently one of my clients responded my email tip to say he was ready to go ahead. What a nice surprise!

6. Qualify, Qualify, Qualify
Every time you connect with a prospect, ask questions to get him or her to open up. Find out why the lessee wants the equipment. If you are constantly qualifying, you will inevitably discover the “hot buttons.” If the prospect goes dark, they will feel compelled to call you back when you mention a hot button because you were a good listener. Qualifying consistently is the key to keeping prospects out of the dark.

This includes gaining agreement on dates when next steps will be accomplished. That way, when the follow-up date arrives, you can leave a message like: “The last time we spoke, we agreed to speak today about…” Remember, never EVER call and say, “I’m just checking in,” or “Do you have any deals for me?” These statements are selfish and show that you are not professional.

7. Leave a Fun Message
One of my reps used to leave messages like this: “Hi Frank, this is Debbie from Acme Leasing. I’m beginning to feel we have a love-hate relationship with your voice mail — I love to leave messages, you hate to return them. Hopefully we can talk soon.”

Or, “Hi Frank, this is Debbie from Acme Leasing. If you don’t return my call, next time I’ll sing in your voicemail and it won’t be pretty.”

Sometimes they would call back right away, and sometimes she would have to sing. After she sang, 95% of the people called her back. Are you embarrassed to leave messages like this? Find what works for you, but try something different. If what you’ve been doing isn’t working, what have you got to lose?

8. Be Creative with Email Subject Lines
The subject line determines if your email gets opened or not. You want the prospect to open the email and respond. Reference something that’s important to the prospect. Listen to your recorded calls, and use words they used. Example subject lines to use:

1. Are you okay?
2. Are you trapped under your desk?
3. You must be exceptionally busy
4. Have your priorities shifted?
5. Response Requested
6. Your approval is about to expire
7. Quick question regarding your client
8. Do you feel like I’m becoming a pest?

If your emails are not opened, try leaving the subject line blank. A company called Signals does email tracking and found, “After analyzing 6.4 million emails sent from our users, we discovered that emails with no subject line were opened 8% more often than those with a subject line.”

9. Send a Text Message
Gary Greene from Lease Smart in Panama says, “Not that it’s the perfect solution, but I’ve been using text messages to get my prospect’s consideration. It’s one method of communication that gets their attention, even when they are away from their computer and sometimes will be the medium that gets a response. (SMS messaging from my computer desktop make it lots easier!)” Gary tells Google Voice who and what to text. It’s a wonderful tool.

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