Many moons ago, I was pitching a huge deal to Sony Pictures. It all was going according to plan -- we had a great initial call, flew to Los Angeles to demo the product, and nailed it. Things were looking good. We sent them a proposal, even flew out for a second in-person follow-up.
And then … they dropped off the face of the Earth. A deal we thought we had in the bag all of a sudden hit the skids.
I like to call this “ghosting” -- when a sales process is chugging along smoothly with a client, you feel positive that the deal will close, and then your prospect disappears without a trace. Even though you might use tools like Spiro to remind yourself to follow up with prospects, sometimes they just stop getting back to you.
To combat ghosting, you have to understand what’s causing your client to avoid you. Let’s examine four common reasons a promising prospect turns into Casper the not-so-friendly ghost.
4 Reasons Your Prospects Ghost On You
1) The timing isn’t right.
The client’s interest may be apparent, but perhaps other factors are working against you. Maybe their budget was never as large as they thought, or their new boss doesn’t think now is the time to be spending more money. Nobody likes being the bearer of bad news, so the client may opt for avoidance over disappointing you with a “not right now” answer.
2) Your solution doesn’t fit their needs
Yes, I am sure you are selling a great product, but maybe what you’re selling just doesn’t work for your prospect. This can happen even if your sales pitch was so captivating that they wanted to buy from you and were incredibly involved in your presentation. I’ve seen sales reps give pitches so engrossing that prospects are fully engaged despite not being a good fit.
Many prospects get into a deal farther than they mean to because they have a great relationship with a rep, only to realize once they stepped back for a second, that you don’t actually have the product they need.
3) They’re working on a deal with your competitor
Customers sometimes feel weird admitting they are talking to your competitors. I’ve heard clients say it almost feels like they were cheating on me, or talking behind my back. But we all know that any savvy consumer is weighing all their options, so of course your prospects are talking to other vendors.
If your deal seems to be going well and then you get the silent treatment, it may just be that they went with your competition -- even if they never mentioned this “other deal” in the works before.
4) You made a mistake
Maybe you thought your sales meeting went great, but another member of your sales team was on their phone the whole time and the client noticed. Or did you perhaps call someone on their cell phone when they specifically asked to be called on their business line? We all do stupid things sometimes -- don’t obsess over it. Just be aware that a silly mistake could be the reason for you getting ghosted and make sure not to do it again.
4 Ways to Solve the Ghosting Phenomenon
Personally, I’d prefer to get a “no” from a customer instead of radio silence. But often a prospect might simply be afraid of a bad reaction from a disappointed salesperson, so they opt to avoid you instead.
Here are some effective ways you can stop a prospect from ghosting you.
1) The “Buried Email” trick
This technique essentially asks a prospect if they got your last email, but in a non-challenging and lighthearted way. Here’s an example:
Just wanted to follow up in case my email was buried in your inbox.
According to HubSpot sales rep Jeff Swank, this buried email tactic sees a 90% response rate.
2) Leave a voicemail with a very specific question
Leaving a voicemail isn’t always that effective, because they’re rarely returned, but if you’re trying to reengage a ghosted prospect, this is one instance I think it’s okay. Of course, you can’t just leave any old voicemail -- if you expect a response, avoid calling "just to touch base." Give a specific reason why you’re checking in and a specific reason your prospect should call back.
Here’s a sample voicemail you could leave: “Hey, Bob, my manager asked me to let her know by the end of the week if this deal is still in the works, as she is leaving on vacation. Please just shoot me a quick email or call back so I can get her an answer as soon as possible.”
3) Find another influencer
A lot of the deals you work will have more than one stakeholder involved. If your main point of contact is unresponsive, try reaching out to another influencer you’ve worked with.
Even if you don’t know this secondary person that well, you can be honest and say, “We met with Sue a bunch of times, but we’re having trouble getting back in touch after we sent our proposal. Can you help me out with this?”
You may be pleasantly surprised at the response you get. Maybe you’ll find out she’s been out sick, or maybe she was reassigned and that wasn’t communicated to you.
4) Send a “Should I Close Your File?” email
If you aren’t hearing any response from a client, try Bryan Kreuzberger’s approach: Send your prospect an email saying that you are proactively closing out your dead opportunities, and want to see if they are in this bucket.
Sending a prospect an email that asks if you should drop their deal may seem counterintuitive, but it’s often a very effective last resort to get a response.
Here’s Bryan’s example:
I’m writing to follow up on my email and voicemail. We are in the process of closing files for the month.
Typically when I haven’t heard back from someone it means they are either really busy or aren’t interested. If you aren’t interested, do I have your permission to close your file?
If you are still interested, what do you recommend as a next step?
Thanks for your help.
Hopefully these tips will help your sales follow ups become more effective when a promising prospect loses touch. Try to diagnose the issue and work to resolve it and move that deal forward!
Originally published May 13, 2016 6:30:00 AM, updated May 08 2020