One of the biggest sales issues that I hear is how unresponsive business owners and executives can be. Often salespeople get so discouraged that they throw out potential opportunities. While it may require a little extra work to capitalize on them, unresponsive prospects aren't necessarily a lost cause.

So you've placed numerous calls, left a handful of voicemails and sent out a pile of well-crafted emails—and still nothing? It can happen to anyone, and often has more to do with the prospect than you. The key here is to identify the reasons causing the holdups, and then determine your way around them.

Two Key Causes

Typically, there are two main factors that cause prospects to go dark and stay there. The first is that you may not be hitting on a prospect's most important priorities. The key to grabbing prospects’ attention is to focus on their top one or two priorities and approach them at the top of their Value Curve. Your prospects need to know that what you have to offer will be of value to them, and the only way to make this clear is to identify their biggest needs.

The second reason why prospects sometimes act unresponsive is because they simply are not ready. You could have had a great first discussion, and then they’re silent.

Maybe the issue you discussed is one they know they’ll eventually address—just not yet. Or, they might be thinking from a financial perspective that they can't afford to make a change. They don’t see the business case like you do.

Nurturing Your Prospects

If you're dealing with unresponsive prospects, don’t give up. Now is the time to nurture them. Back off a bit. Give them some breathing room, but stay in the foreground. Be just close enough for them to see, but far enough away that they don’t feel undue pressure.

Don’t aggressively push for an appointment. Instead, show up at the same event. It'll be even easier to make a connection—or reconnect—in a way that doesn't feel threatening.

Send a LinkedIn connection to get closer to them.

Send a non-product-centric article that discusses the issue you’ve identified. If they can tell you're trying to help, prospects will no doubt appreciate it.

If you have a group of prospects that are really tough to reach, create a nurturing campaign. This will save you time and shorten your sales process once they are ready to talk with you. It could be a three-, six- or nine-month plan that allows you to stay in touch over time without being overbearing. Keeping doors open can never hurt, and some prospects respond much better to this approach.

Don’t give up on your unresponsive prospects too easily. You’ve put a lot of effort into them and it may require just a few tweaks to get a response.