You had a great conversation with your prospect. Maybe even a few conversations.
Emails flew back and forth. You had done your research, figured out their challenges, and developed solid solutions. You had shown the ROI that would come when they bought from you.
It was going great.
Or so you thought.
Because one day they just vanished. They stopped responding to your emails and answering your phone calls.
Until you finally had to accept the reality of your situation.
You’d been ghosted 👻
The Pain of Getting Ghosted
The term ghosting comes from the dating world when someone abruptly cuts off communication without warning or explanation. Usually, it stems from one partner trying to leave the relationship without conflict or having to deal with the negative repercussions.
And now the practice has infiltrated the business world. Instead of telling salespeople or potential professional partners “no,” prospects cut off communication and become pretty much impossible to reach.
To be clear – this isn’t the same problem as when you are first reaching out to a prospect. That has always been a challenge and will remain so. Ghosting is different because it happens once the conversation has already started. And not only has the conversation started, it’s usually going well. There’s often multiple phone calls and emails where the prospect is excited, and it seems like there is a legitimate chance to move things forward.
That’s why getting ghosted hurts on both a business and personal level. It’s a surprise that doesn’t seem to make sense. Everything is going smoothly. And then? Radio silence.
Why Do Prospects Ghost You?
Here’s the biggest challenge for salespeople when prospects ghost them:
You don’t know why it happened 🤷♂️
If you did know why they ghosted you, then it wouldn’t be ghosting. That makes it harder to reconcile on an emotional level, but it also means it’s really hard to manage and prevent.
There is a wide range of reasons why a prospect might stop reaching out to you. It could professional, personal, or a mix of the two. It could be that your prospect:
- Never had the authority to make a decision and didn’t tell you.
- Was instructed by their boss to not work on your project.
- Doesn’t like conflict and doesn’t want to tell you no.
- Found a review on your company that wasn’t flattering.
- Had a death in their family and are out on leave.
Those are just a few. There are a slew of other reasons that could lead to the relationship going cold.
3 Proactive Ways to Prevent Ghosting
Trying to anticipate or manage all these different scenarios would be exhausting and ultimately futile. Instead of trying to prevent every possible option, it can help to follow a few guidelines that minimize the chances that you get ghosted.
Finish Every Conversation with a Next Step
One of the ways to avoid the relationship limbo that leads to ghosting is to be specific and clear about what the next point of contact will be. Instead of leaving your next conversation up to chance, schedule a time to continue. Be clear with what will happen between now and then. (Bonus points if you can get a specific meeting on the calendar before you leave your current conversation).
Here’s an example👇
“This has been a great conversation and I think there are some ways that we can help you drive efficiencies. Let’s grab another conversation in two weeks. I can get the specific numbers you needed and you can poll your internal stakeholders. Let’s keep it simple and get that next meeting on the calendar. How does the afternoon of the 17th look for you?”
Follow Up Promptly
If you don’t have a specific meeting scheduled, don’t let it go too long before you re-engage. I’ve heard too many professionals say, “I emailed them three weeks later and they didn’t get back to me.” There’s a lot that could have happened in those three weeks and you’ve probably been relegated to the junk folder.
The professional world moves quickly and it’s super busy. The longer you wait to re-engage with someone, the more likely priorities will shift or new situations will crop up. Don’t fall off their radar. Sure, you don’t want to be a pest – but touching base regularly, even once a week, can be better than going radio silent for a few weeks.
Have More than One Contact
This isn’t always possible. But to the best of your ability, branch out beyond your initial contact to other people within their organization. Even if you aren’t going to engage with the others much, they can act as a good “backstop” in case your original path into the company goes silent.
It’s good to have someone (or a few someones) you can reach out to with this kind of message👇
“Hi Sue. I was talking with Mark about the new HR solutions and hadn’t heard back in a few weeks. I wanted to make sure everything was OK before I kept pestering him.”
How to Handle Ghosting When It Happens
No matter how many processes and backstops you put in place, though, ghosting will still happen. When it does, your response can help you manage the disappointment and frustration.
Switch Communication Channels
It seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does. Change the channel you are using to talk with them. If you had been emailing, send them a note on LinkedIn. If you were calling, try texting.
Putting your message into a different context will sometimes provide an opportunity for them to respond differently. For example, if you are just one of the hundreds of emails that they get every day, it’s easy to ignore. If you send a text or a Twitter DM, it might cut through the static. And yes, the phone still works. Pick it up and call them!
Be Pleasantly Persistent
It can feel good to write the “break-up email” where you try to call them out on their ghosting. There are tons of articles on the internet that promise the perfect way to be snarky and indignant so that your prospects call you immediately. But would that kind of message work on you? Didn’t think so. And trust me, they don’t work on your prospects either.
If a prospect would respond to snark, they would also respond to your consistent, persistent, and genuine attempts to keep the conversation going. So be persistent – but don’t let your frustrations come through in your communication.
Don’t Take Offense
When someone ghosts us, it feels personal. But it isn’t. In the grand scope of your prospect’s life, you are just a little piece. Don’t get too bent out of shape and don’t dwell on it.
Yes, it’s frustrating. But remember that your prospects are human. They’re busy and overloaded and dealing with challenges in the office and problems at home and everything that you might be dealing with. Cut themselves, and yourself, a little slack. That can help take the sting out of being ignored.
So take a deep breath in, and let it out.
And then talk to the next prospect on your list 📝
Want more sales tips? Start by getting our guide to 10Xing your sales development team’s productivity here.
David J.P. Fisher (known D. Fish to everyone except his mom) is a best-selling author, internationally-recognized speaker, and average cook. He helps individuals and organizations win more business by building their digital influence and creating human connections. Connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/iamdfish or at www.davidjpfisher.com.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post. Interested in contributing content to the Drift blog? Email Molly Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.