Why prospects stop returning calls

Have you ever asked why prospects stop returning calls? Elay Cohen, CEO of SalesHood and former SVP at SalesForce has some perspective. Cohen is focused on how to modernize sales processes, and he understands specific reasons why prospects stop returning calls.

Elay Cohen
Elay Cohen

His mission is quite simple, increase and grow revenue through your sales team. But what exactly is enablement within the context of sales? Enablement mastery is about connecting organizational processes so you can get every single person (not just sales) on message so they can deliver a much better experience of customers. Realistically, this sounds simple, but it’s not.

“Messaging alignment is the heart of organizational readiness and enablement mastery.” Every single person needs to understand your brand stands for something, and be able to communicate that. At SalesForce this was a challenge. The way Cohen would do this at SalesForce is by sitting down and training every single person in the company on who the company was, what words to use and how that attached to customers. “It’s difficult,” Cohen says. We need to give our people resources and tools to do this as well. So, what does an organization look like that doesn’t do this?

Cohen says an organization that is struggling with messaging, coaching and learning has some specific symptoms. They will see sales numbers slow down for no particular reason; salespeople start to fail to hit quotas; and win rates begin to decline. Essentially, they finally hit a glass ceiling in sales. Most companies fix this by one-off band-aids.

Most companies fix this with checkbox enablement. They host webinars, get product managers to walk through the product, or perhaps they will just fly everyone to Vegas and do an event. It never works, because sales enablement is a cadence that happens daily, weekly, monthly. It’s a never ending, always refining process.

Most companies do a great job hitting hiring numbers, and execute concrete tasks quickly. They will send out the right amount of emails and the right amount of calls. This is why sales leadership is confused because these aren’t real metrics. But these aren’t part of a proper sales process.

Cohen says he has seen a decline in salespeople do at getting in front of people, but they don’t. Only 30% of salespeople are actually hitting quota, that’s a global number and he says it isn’t increasing. The problem for this is that most salespeople think they are at the right person but aren’t. This is because of what Cohen calls “Happy Ears.” If you have ever asked yourself why prospects stop returning calls, he has the answer.


Why prospects stop returning calls: Happy ears

Cohen explained to me happy ears are when salespeople see opportunity and attempt to protect that opportunity by foregoing the hard questions. Questions like

  • Who else cares about this problem in the organization?
  • Why do you want to buy?
  • What happens if you don’t buy?

But salespeople won’t go deep because they don’t want to tip the boat. They will ask their teams why prospects stop returning calls yet do nothing about it. Sadly, their action resulting from fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not asking the questions, is the very reason why contacts and companies get put on ice. Not asking the questions will hurt in a big way.

Fixing this is as easy as speaking openly about happy ears, and situations. We need to identify the questions our sales people are asking and diagnose happy ears more quickly. In doing this, our reps win rates will double and people will hit or exceed quota. Building a program around success and process is enablement.

Make sure to simply avoid sending a “happy ears” email and tell people to avoid these moments. That won’t actually do anything. It must be a process.


Cohen’s Sales Pet Peeve

There is more to the sales process beyond figuring out why prospects stop returning calls, however. Cohen continues to hear that most companies think they are already doing enablement. But, of course, when he begins to ask questions and look at data, the hard truth is that most don’t get it. A lot of organizations believe in coaching and training, but they are training on the wrong things. He sees this a lot.

This is the number one thing. Organizations aren’t getting to the root of problems, they just keep their heads down and chip away at things they understand already and have no processes for identifying weakness. And this hurts.

Companies are spending billions of dollars on programs and no one asks, why are we rolling this program out and how will it help? It seems shocking, but he sees it all the time. If organizations simply focused on the right things, they would be saving a lot of money.


A Failure To Remember

The biggest failure story he actually wrote about in his book and it ultimately sparked his new company SalesHood says Cohen. It was 2011 and he was executive of the year, and he was on cloud 9. He was invited to Hawaii to present to the Marc Benioff, the CEO of SalesForce. Within a few minutes, he realized the information he was presenting was not aligned with Marc or his vision, and he couldn’t escape the moment.

After Mark had asked to be shown a summary of data proving the correlation between performance and activity, Cohen realized he didn’t have it. It was a learning moment for him and he didn’t truly know “the why.” He realized that he had completely missed a data-driven approach. It took him a few months to snap out of the shock.

He says it was vital that leaders must be able to show data that proves why they are taking the steps they are, and what those methods accomplish. Leaders big and small make these mistakes.


Cohen’s Get Unstuck Tip

Get curious! When asking why prospects stop returning calls or whenever you get suck this is Cohen’s go-to solution. When a team Cohen is working with becomes stuck, in the past he’d immediately try and solve it, but he no longer does that. Instead gets teams curious by getting them to ask questions in a compassionate way. He credits getting curious as one of his big problems.


If you are going through a failure moment, snap out. Keep pushing. This kind of failure is completely normal for leaders that push. Cohen says clarity of thought is what will help you snap out of your slump. Yes, you failed, but you’re not a failure.


Listen To The Interview With Elay Cohen >



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