It’s an angst-filled question that haunts every communications pro: what to do when you’re ghosted by a prospect?
It’s a scenario we’ve all been through. A prospect reaches out to you. Maybe as a referral from a current client. Or they found your website through a piece of content you wrote.
Maybe they are visiting Earth from Mars and decided your agency would be a good place to learn the ways of earthlings.
The point is they reached out. You met with them and had a great initial meeting. Afterward, you went back to your desk and labored over a proposal. You poured your heart and soul into it, and maybe even gave away a ton of your best ideas. You sent it off with pride. Nervous, giddy, and excited.
And then you waited. And waited and waited. You followed up at an appropriate interval. Nothing.
You waited some more. You refreshed your email. Ten times. Then you checked your email on your phone to ensure there isn’t something wrong with your desktop email.
You checked your sent mail. Did it actually go out? Did it get stuck?
If you sent the proposal as an attachment, you worried it was too big and maybe wasn’t delivered. You sent it to yourself. It came through. You feel relieved and crushed.
You checked the prospect’s social media. Maybe they were in a horrible accident and unable to respond. They were active and posted two and a half hours earlier about their dog’s favorite squeaky toy.
You once again feel both relieved and crushed. You’ve just been professionally ghosted.
So now what do you do?
Sometimes It’s Just Not You
I’ve mentioned that my team and I have been deep inside our clients’ organizations for the past three years. We serve as true members of the team. Attend all of their team meetings, and do one-on-ones with the leaders. In some cases, we even serve as interim leaders.
And, because of that experience, we now know that when someone ghosts you, it rarely has anything to do with you. It’s typically because priorities changed, budget evaporated, people were moved around on the team, or myriad other reasons.
Sure, it would be great if people at least reached out to tell you why, but that’s just not how it works.
That said, you have many options if someone ghosts you…you just have to decide how you want to handle it and how important the potential work is for your agency.
And Sometimes It Is…
The first option is to let it go. It happens. There are endless reasons why a prospect might have ghosted you. Some may be about you, but many aren’t.
Take a step back to evaluate what you might have done differently. Write it down. Learn from it and then move on.
If you aren’t ready to let it go yet, move on to the next few options. But know you might need to come back here … eventually.
Appeal to Their Ego
The second option is to follow up and appeal to their ego. Find something they’ve recently done, said, been featured in, or done really well and say, “I saw the recent launch you did on XX. I loved how you XXX.”
Alternatively, find something that relates to one of the above where there is a natural tie-in.
“I saw this article about the rise of XX, and I know from our conversation that’s something your organization has been focused on and doing well since XX. I just thought you’d find this article interesting. Kudos for being so forward-thinking.”
Then, add value. Something such as, “It made me wonder if you had considered XXX,” or “What a great opportunity to translate this into leads through XX.”
You can also use a case study. “We had a client who
IMPORTANT: you are not giving away the recipe to your secret sauce here. You are helping them understand a secret sauce exists (in an implied way because you are telling them of said sauce), and you know how to help them make it.
Do not give solutions. Help them understand solutions exist and get them excited about that possibility.
Provide a News Tie-In
The third option is the news tie-in. This is similar to option two, but it doesn’t have to be something to appeal to their ego. It can simply be something you see (new story, event, research, educational piece) that you think they’d find valuable.
Send it the same way you sent the ego piece, with a note that you saw it and thought they’d find it interesting. Bonus points if you can tie in a specific discussion you had during your initial meeting.
Pick Up the Phone!
Don’t forget the phone, which is something you should do after a couple of email follow-ups.
Just give them a call. It’s really easy for them to forget there’s a real person who is waiting for a decision on the other end of the email. It’s more difficult when they hear your voice. This also makes it easy for them to give you an update or talk through questions.
Professional ghosting is often just a result of having too many things on one’s plate. We all have those things we know we need to get to but we keep putting them off because of all the other emergencies we have during the day.
Our prospects are the same. Remember, your priority is not their priority. You just need to show them why making you a priority will be the solution to their actual priorities.
Bonus tip: we like to schedule a time for a follow-up call at the initial meeting. Let the prospect know when you’ll send the proposal, and then set a time a few days after that to answer questions.
Even better, schedule a meeting to walk them through the proposal versus sending it and expecting them to follow up. This works every, single time.
Provide an Opportunity
And the last option is to provide an opportunity. Here are a few examples of how this works:
- You’re talking to a journalist who is looking for a source that fits your prospect.
- An influencer who would be an ideal match for your prospect crosses your path.
- You come across an initiative that could drive leads to their product.
Whatever it is, you have an opportunity that would be perfect for the prospect and a good incentive for them to get moving with you sooner rather than later.
Call them up and say something such as, “Hey, I know you are in the process of deciding what you want to do about your communications program, but I just had this opportunity pop up and wanted to let you know about it.”
And, when you’re ghosted by a prospect, there comes a time when you must give up.
When to Let It Go
So when do you give up and revert to option number one? A lot of that depends on you. You might want to put both a number of follow-ups and a timeframe on your “give-up” trigger.
Here are some things to consider as you set those parameters:
- How excited are you about the particular client/project?
- Do they respond at all (even just to one of your passive inquiries)?
- Do they engage with you on social media or your content? (We’ve had prospects ghost us when it comes to proposals, but still comment on our blog daily.)
- Did they indicate a timeline in which they would make their decision? (Note: put this in your learnings to always ask.)
- Nature of their business or industry (is this a busy time of year for them)?
- Holidays or seasons (Christmas, summer, and holidays are always a time to expect prospects to take more time)?
At a certain point, you need to have the self-respect to let it go. You don’t want to be that girl or guy who wastes their life pining over lost loves. Learn from it and move on.
Wouldn’t it be great to simply not need the above advice? To close prospects in the first meeting? To have people call you back and not be constantly wondering and hoping.
Reasons You Are Being Ghosted
Here are the biggest reasons you are being ghosted. You:
- Don’t ask the right questions in your new business meeting.
- Give too many solutions in your proposal.
- Don’t focus on goals that matter to the prospect.
- Don’t practice active listening in your communication.
- Talk to capabilities, not results.
- Use platitudes, buzzwords, and useless corporate speak.
- Try to compete on price.
- Aren’t consistent.
- Don’t inspire trust.
Or it could simply be a case of not having any chemistry. Whatever it happens to be, understand there are many reasons and sometimes it has nothing to do with you. Be persistent without being a pain and move on if that doesn’t work.