THE SCENARIO You thought you had several strong prospects lined up for work. Time has passed, and you're waiting to hear back from them. Where do you stand?

THE CULPRIT If the ball is in the prospects' court indefinitely, you probably didn't create an “up-front contract” with them, says Jack Hauber, a sales trainer with the Sandler Sales Institute. Prospect meetings should always end with both parties agreeing upon the time and terms of the next step, such as the date by which they'll let you know if they intend to sign a design agreement or accept your bid.

Example: “If I don't hear from you in a week, what would you like me to do?”

Don't say that you'll call them. “It needs to be their idea,” Hauber says. “Ninety-nine times out of 100, they'll say, ‘Give me a call.'”

MAKING THE CALL Even without an up-front contract, you owe it to your company to find out where you stand. The sooner you get to the truth either way, the better.

Call and say, in effect, “I haven't heard from you since late February, and the obvious reasons are that either you're still thinking about it, or you've decided to go with someone else and you didn't want to tell me.”

Use language that is comfortable to you, Hauber says. If you're easy-going, you might say that you don't want to be a pest, but if they've decided you're not their guy, to please let you know. One of his clients used to joke about the possible opportunity taking up “head space.” That language fit her personality and helped put prospects at ease, Hauber says.

Jack Hauber, Sandler Sales Institute,; 301.590.8700 ext. 11.