Whether it’s after business meeting or an interview, having a follow up e-mail go unanswered can be psychologically damming. You’ve had an amazing meeting with a potential customer and you send a comprehensive e-mail thanking them for their time, recapping your product and services, articulating your value proposition, and inquiring about next steps. You eagerly await their response, which you expect to arrive within 1 or 2 days because after all you spent countless hours putting together the initial meeting materials and agonizing over every detail… just for them. A few days go by and no response. It’s on your mind, but you don’t worry about it because they’re probably busy. Every time your phone buzzes your heart beats a little faster because it could be that catalyst your business has been waiting for. A week goes by and still nothing. You begin to worry. Should I e-mail them again? Did they go with someone else? Did my e-mail disappear into some sort of black hole where start-up dreams go to die? Maybe you e-mail them again, maybe you don’t. Two weeks and still no response. Cynicism begins to set in. What do those guys know about what they want? They’re not even that big of a Company. We don’t need them. They don’t get it…
Ok seriously. You e-mailed someone. They didn’t respond. Don’t worry…yet. Think about it this way. There is a food chain or hierarchy in business. As a small-business offering something unique you are probably at the bottom of it. Let’s look at this from a different point of view. I guarantee that as a small business or start-up you get e-mails all the time about someone trying to offer or sell you something. It could be IT services, or cheaper internet, or a new payroll software. Maybe you’ve even had a meeting with them before. They’re all trying to sell you something they truly believe will improve your chances of success and will benefit your organization. However, you don’t see it that way so you brush them off despite their continual outreach. Sounds familiar. There are a couple of things to take away from this.
Firstly, what’s number one on your list is most likely towards the bottom on someone else’s. You’re selling your vision, your heart and soul to someone. Their response dictates your success and maybe even your survival. It could be a building block for customer referrals and future growth or a harsh indicator that your offering isn’t quite there. This is why we agonize over next steps and e-mail responses, and perhaps rightfully so. However, it’s important to remember these people are busy executing their own vision and pouring their soul into what they’re doing. Maybe you can help them, but what is a priority for you may not be a priority for them. Hence the radio silence and the seemingly rude gaps between communications. Don’t take it personally, just realize that your world is not their world.
Secondly, if you are offering something a customer truly needs, they will most likely reach back out to you. Fundamentally, this makes sense. You’ve articulated your product and/or service and how it can address the pain points of a potential customer. The customer understands its pain points better than anyone, so naturally if the offering solves an inherent problem of theirs, they will either make a purchase or at the least want to learn more. So, if you don’t hear back from a prospect, maybe your product isn’t truly meeting that pain point or maybe you don’t truly understand your customer and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Of course, there are truly innovative products and services that require a tremendous amount of customer education. And sometimes it’s true that you have to tell the customer what they want. But for the most part it’s helpful to view these interactions (or lack thereof) through a productive lens. Think about why a customer didn’t respond to an e-mail or responded negatively at a meeting. Don’t get cynical. Figure out what you can do to improve your product and/or process and send out twenty more e-mails. Don’t get discouraged, keep your head up, and just… Send… Wait… Reflect… Repeat…
Warmly and Humbly,