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NorthStar Performance Partners, LLC | Minneapolis, MN

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We have all been in situations where we are on a sales call, and we get the sense that the other person has checked out of the discussion for some reason. Maybe there is an uncomfortably long silence on the phone. Maybe we can see the other person looking disengaged, making faces, getting distracted, or checking their phone.

The question is, what do we do then?

Let’s start by looking at what we don’t want to do. We don’t want to let our own personal discomfort drive the whole conversation into the ditch. That’s what happens if we let our feelings of being ignored or discounted by the other person make us say something like “Well, hey, thanks for inviting me in today. Let's get together again sometime next week. When are you free?”

That’s an extremely common response from salespeople in this situation and it’s understandable enough. If we feel uncomfortable, we may feel like we just want to get out of there! But that’s definitely not the response we want to make. Why not? When we say that, we are helping the prospect end the interview… even though we don't know why the disconnect that made us so uncomfortable is happening!

We need to find out what is going on. If we are talking to somebody who just doesn't look like they are engaged, who has suddenly gone silent, or has started grimacing, we have a mystery that we need to solve. We need to start channeling our inner Sherlock Holmes --not running for the door.

Why did the person disconnect from the conversation? Is it because they have a real problem, and they are feeling uncomfortable about that problem? Whatever it is and whatever they are experiencing that right in front of you. If that is the case, the disconnect we are seeing could be a good thing … if we find out what that problem is. Is their problem that their boss gave them something to do, and they feel they haven’t been able to solve the problem and they don’t know what to do about that?

Or ... is the problem that they love your competitor, and they wish this conversation were over?

Or ... is the problem that they have a case of indigestion?

Who knows? It could be any of those things. It could be something entirely different. We have no idea, but it is our job to find out.

And here is the rule that will help us to do that. If you feel it, say it. What would following that rule look like in this setting? It might sound something like this: “Hey, Steve, you know what? Just now, I got the feeling that I may have said something that took us offline or maybe even upset you -- for which I apologize. Help me understand. Did I create a problem somehow?”

Guess what is going to happen next? Nine times out of ten, Steve will tell you what is really going on. He will get you back on track. You will have a much better idea of what you should do next.

So don't end the meeting for the prospect. If things get awkward, don't run for the door. Instead, find a way to ask the other person what is going on. You may be able to put the meeting back together. Even if you can’t, you will know where you stand.

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