What to do when a commercial prospect “puts you off”…

The question: “When and how can I bug a prospect that keeps putting me off?”

Steve’s answer: Avoid the problem by “defining the next step” before you leave. Steve explains…


Hi Steve,

I actually have been doing your weekly Dedicated Sales Morning idea. Guess what? It actually works and I’ve signed up several regular commercial accounts! So thanks!

But I do have a question regarding “follow-up” to proposals. I just did a walk-through for a potential commercial account. I obtained all pertinent information (with help from the SFS Commercial Carpet Analysis form) and I wrote up some very specific recommendations. But here is my challenge…

The business owner glanced at my proposal and said, “Let’s stay in contact by email from here on.” He seems to be extremely busy and isn’t replying to my emails. So without crossing the line from being a “Tolerated Irritation” to actual annoyance how long after I send him the proposal should I stop in or give him a call?

Stymied in Seattle

This is a tough one, Stymied! Remember to never leave the initial walk-through without “defining your next step”. For example, when he said, “Let’s just stay in touch by email” you could have replied,That works for me. However, I’m going to be travelling and off-line quite a bit over the next few weeks. If we haven’t connected by (pick a date but usually about 3-4 weeks away) can I give you a call?” They will almost always say “sure” and you now have the all-important Permission To Call.

However, an even better way is to “cut to the chase” while you are there face-to-face. “No time like the present”, ya-da, ya-da, ya-da. (Any car salesman knows the best time to close the sale is on the first sales visit!) So how can you “close the deal” on your initial walk-through?

You must first determine WHY your prospect is putting you off. Normally it is because they glanced at your proposal and saw it was higher than other bids they have received. But no one likes being adversarial by saying, “Your prices are too high”. Instead, they’ll just sidestep the confrontation with “Let me get back to you”. So whatever “smoke screen” they throw at you simply reply…

“I understand. But while we’re here together let me ask you- does the way I have these recommendations written up meet your projected budget?” If your prospect says, “Well, it IS a bit more than we were expecting…” that is GREAT! Because you can now “negotiate” by whittling down your price but at the same time the scope of your work.

Now isn’t this better, Stymied, than fretting about when to bug them again? And it sure beats the job going to the low bidder and you never hearing from this business again. So once again, never leave a prospective commercial account without defining the next step. (HERE are more commercial cleaning negotiating ideas.)


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