Should You Give Up on the Ghosts? (Why It Happens & How to Respond)

Sales Process

Ghosts are real. At least they are in the sales profession.

You got a lead…

Strike that. You had a lead. Now, it seems you’re dealing with a ghost.

As you probably know, getting “ghosted” in sales means the dialogue you were having with a prospect appears to have abruptly ended. Though the early conversations seemed promising, your potential client is suddenly invisible.

Does getting ghosted mean the deal’s dead?

It certainly can, but that’s not always the case. I’ve found that sometimes salespeople attach too much meaning to the silence too early. So the real question is how to deal with ghosting.

In this post, we’ll examine this frighteningly common scenario and look at some strategies that may help you reduce the ghosting phenomena or even bring deals back to life.

What Causes Potential Clients To Disappear?

There are quite a few reasons you could get ghosted. Common ones include:

Timing – Your prospect may have simply been researching options and the lead isn’t yet an actual opportunity. Prospects may have too much on their plate and lack the time to explore the opportunity.

Imperfect fit – Your solution may not have the entire feature set needed or envisioned.

Competition – The prospect could be working with a competitor — and maybe even had an existing relationship with them. If they were price shopping or simply comparing solutions, it’s likely they chose not to fess-up.

Pricing – It’s possible your prices or pricing model are misunderstood, appear to be higher than the competition’s, or are beyond the budget the prospect had in mind. Again, prospects often keep this to themselves.

Then, of course, the relationship may not be firing on all cylinders. You might have:

Pushed too hard – Pressing too much or too soon in the sales cycle could make the prospect feel pressured and uncomfortable.

Misread the prospect – Sometimes you simply think you have a viable lead when you don’t. It’s conceivable you failed to ask the right questions and adequately qualify the need or problem your solution addresses.

The wrong person – You may have been working with an influencer — not the true decision maker. He or she may not have all the facts regarding the budget, timing, etc.

But perhaps, you’re to blame…

Blunders – You’re busy. It’s not out of the question that you weren’t as responsive as you could have been or delivered sub-par service. Mistakes happen.

Not enough value – The prospect may not feel you added enough value. He or she never got truly invested in the relationship with you or your company. They may not feel they owe you any more of their time. Or they may simply want to avoid the uncomfortable “breakup.” In other words, they’re just not that into you.

Tips to Avoid Getting Ghosted

Let’s look at how can you prevent getting ghosted — or at least reduce how often it occurs — with a number of selling best practices.

Improve your discovery process – Invest time asking detailed questions that help qualify BANT (budget, authority, need, timeline). Confirm their buying cycle and be transparent about your sales cycle and align.

Listen and follow-up Listen closely, take notes, document everything, and recap the action items in writing.

Research – Prepare thoroughly for each call so you can go into it with a firm grasp of how you can add value and solve problems. If you’re talking to a real decision-maker, be sure to understand the company, their competition, and the relevant challenges.

Expand the audience – Can you push to find true champions and decision-makers in all the functions you impact? You need to understand the politics of your potential buyer and get all the stakeholders to join the important calls.

Action items Hold the prospect (and yourself) accountable. End every call or meeting with agreed-upon action items regarding who will do what and when. Ensure you’re on the same page regarding next steps and timing to honor your commitments.

Avoid quick quotes – Don’t dispense quick quotes via email unless you have established a BANT fit. If someone simply wants a quick quote, there’s little room to deliver value and a small chance a deal is in the works.

Accommodate communications preferences – Aim to learn which mode of communication the prospect prefers: email, phone, text, smoke signals?

Learn and grow – Try to learn something from every opportunity. Establish the type of relationship that fosters honesty so, win or lose, you earn the right to receive valuable feedback.

Ghostbusters: How to Deal With Ghosting

Here are my tips for how to respond when you get ghosted.

Don’t give up too soon – A communication breakdown may not be what you thought. There may be a misunderstanding. Be patient but persistent.

Be sensitive – It may be helpful to simply reach out and check in… “Are you okay?” “Were you on vacation?” “Is there a way I can be more helpful?” Change-up your dialogue and show that you were listening and can add value.

Find another champion – What if the contact left their job or company? It may be possible to reach someone else who has joined your calls or another influencer. You could approach your prospect’s manager, but be aware, doing so has the potential to backfire.

Be brave – Call or leave a voicemail. Ask a specific, thoughtful question or ask for guidance on how to move things along. You might ask if you should work with someone else. It’s okay to give the prospect an out and play it on the light side.

Say goodbye – When all else fails, or you’ve confirmed they’re really not interested, write a cordial goodbye email, but keep the door open. Stay professional. It’s a small world and you may meet again at a more fitting opportunity or time.

How Much Follow-Up Is Too Much?

I try to treat clients the way I want to be treated by salespeople. You have to find a balance between being assertive and being overbearing.

Sadly, there’s no perfect formula. Different leads will have a different tolerance for the frequency — and the way in which you follow-up.

I’ve found many sales reps go overboard because impressing leadership with tenacity is more important to them than the customer experience. Sometimes, it’s smarter to push back internally than externally. Yes, it takes some confidence.

Should You Sell Harder with Enterprise Software?

If your job is to sell software, I’m not sure whether you’ll be more effective selling harder or softer, however I do know you should:

Understand the dynamics – The stakes (and prices) are high in enterprise software sales. Decisions are often made by a team. Multiple champions in different functions enter the fray. Understand who you’re selling to as early as you can, or you’ll waste a lot of time.

Qualify hard – Not everyone needs your software. The qualification process is all-important, and there is no need to waste your company’s resources needlessly.

Create urgency – Software sales are very competitive. You need to keep pushing a deal and create a sense of urgency, or your competition will beat you to the punch.

Consider the softer side – The “softer side” is the consultative sale. Convince your customer you’re adding value by… well… adding value.

Sheila Aharoni is the VP of global sales at CloudShare, a provider of specialized cloud solutions for training, sales enablement and sandboxing. She’s a top-performing sales executive with 25+ years delivering on quota in enterprise consultative technology sales and business development.