You’re feeling confident: you delivered a great pitch, leaving the prospect visibly impressed by your product or service. And, they said they’ll get back to you after talking things over with their team.
But you never end up hearing from them again.
You’ve been ghosted.
Unfortunately, this is a reality for sales reps across every industry, and it happens to everyone sooner or later. But why do prospects ghost?
We’ve done a deep dive into the most common reasons behind ghosting in sales and sourced 10 expert-backed tips to help you prevent it from happening.
Ghosting in sales: Why do prospects ghost sales teams?
If you’ve been a victim of sales ghosting, you’re not alone. It’s a pervasive problem, and to combat it effectively, you need to understand why it happens. While it may make you feel insecure, it’s probably not personal.
Here are the top five reasons ghosting in sales happens:
1. You didn't bring up the competition
What would you do if, during a sales meeting, you discovered that your competitor’s product would better fit your prospect’s needs?
While your first instinct may be to avoid bringing it up because you’re afraid of losing the sale, doing so could get you ghosted.
The reason is that most B2B companies are talking to multiple vendors at the same time, and at some point, they will find out about your competitor on their own. But how do you bring up the competition in a way that keeps your prospect interested in what you’re offering?
“If you mention it [the competition], you keep the conversation on the table where you can still influence it. You also earn kudos from the prospect for adding value and being a pro. If you don’t talk about it, they’ll talk about it without you,” says Nicolas Zumino, Salesforce Consultant, in his article Seeking “No” In Sales.
For example, if your competitor has a specific feature that suits your prospect’s requirements, but your product excels in other areas, say something like:
“[Competitor] does have [X] features. However, when you look at the bigger picture, our features [A, B, C] will help you reach your goal more efficiently because [reasons].”
2. You followed up too much
According to research conducted by the Brevet group, 80% of sales prospects require 5 follow-up calls after the meeting to close the deal.
Does this mean you blow up your prospect’s phone or inundate their inbox with emails asking for an update on the deal?
Purchasing decisions move slowly, especially when multiple stakeholders are involved and your product presents substantial value to the prospect.
Following up frequently out of fear that they’ll choose your competitor or think you’re not interested in them will inadvertently lead them to ghost you.
3. You didn't highlight your product's unique selling proposition (USP)
“If your prospects are engaged with other businesses offering what you do, your sales pitch becomes irrelevant to them – no matter how good it is.
“As far as they know, you operate on a similar basis with your competitors. And nothing quite distinguishes you from your field,” says Eric Ang, One Search Pro.
In other words, if you don’t identify gaps in your competitor’s products and clearly highlight how your product solves a prospect’s problems better than your competitors, you’re looking at a one-way trip to ghost town.
4. You tried selling to uncommitted prospects
Salespeople ask a lot of great questions during a sales conversation to understand their prospect’s pain points. But they often fail to ask how committed the prospect is towards taking a step towards change.
“A salesperson must be assertive and ask for what they need – a prospect that is truly committed to moving out of the status quo,” says Colleen Stanley, President, and CEO of Sales Leadership Inc, a training company for salespeople. “Remember, you can’t be more committed to your prospect’s success than they are,” she adds.
If you go forward with the deal despite knowing that the prospect isn’t serious about solving their problems, there’s a big chance you’ll end up getting ghosted when it’s time to put pen to paper and close the deal.
5. Your prospects didn’t think a meeting would provide any value
Set up a video or in-person meeting only to have prospects ghost you? This type of no-show happens for two reasons:
- Your sales rep didn’t pre-sell the product effectively: If your reps don’t pitch your product or service with conviction, your prospect will have no reason to believe you’re the right fit for them. This will prevent them from feeling motivated to move forward with the deal.
- The prospect wasn’t a good fit: It’s unlikely you’ll get any conversions when you try to nurture prospects that don’t fit your target account, as unqualified prospects won’t find any value in your product.
Sometimes, this happens because you don’t have the right information about the prospect or account in the first place. If this is the case, hooking up a sales intelligence tool into your CRM ensures you head off unqualified prospects and don't waste time trying to book a meeting.
10 tips to prevent ghosting in sales
Getting ghosted is probably one of the worst feelings in sales. It can make you feel stressed out, unconfident, and unmotivated. The good news is that you can avoid it by following these 10 tips.
1. Take control of the sale
“Be a control freak. Own every part of the sale. If you don’t, your sale is as good as dead, and you’re about to become a ghost,” says Greg Kligman, Sr. Communication and Development Program Manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS.)
Greg’s statement may sound counterintuitive, but if you wait for your prospect to show initiative and set up a time to discuss your proposal, chances are, they'll never actually do it.
Instead of waiting on your prospect, Greg suggests getting commitments by providing value to your clients from the get-go. But how do you ask for a commitment?
Get the prospect to agree on a time instead of chasing a vague deadline. Say: “I’d like to take you through your proposal. How does 11 am on a Friday or 10 am on a Wednesday sound?” instead of “Here’s your proposal. Let me know when we can discuss it.”
This way, you’re in control of the narrative, and your prospect will follow along if they’re serious about buying from you.
2. Leverage social selling
As a savvy salesperson, you know that your prospects are on social media researching which products they should be buying.
So, your first step should be to reach out to your prospects on social media and develop a connection with them through social selling.
What’s that now?
Hootsuite describes social selling as using a brand’s social media channels to connect with prospects, develop a rapport with them, and engage with potential leads.
Sadly, not many salespeople get results from social selling because “people think [social selling] is selling on social media. All these pitches that you get on social are not social selling; they are spam."
“The other thing you need to know about social selling is that this isn’t about “putting out some videos” or 'putting flowers on your profile' or 'going viral,'” says Tim Hughes, author of “Social Selling - Techniques to Influence Buyers and Change-makers.”
So, what’s it about then?
In his article, “Out with the Old, in with the Digital, Andrew Ferrier (Operations Director), ” lays out what social selling means to their organization, Display Technologies:
“For us, it’s about expanding our connections and network, reaching out to give the business community on LinkedIn an insight into who we are as individuals, our interests, our expertise, our knowledge. To remove the barriers of the old collar and tie brigade, presenting our human selves.”
In other words, it means:
- Optimizing your social media profile to be buyer-centric.
- Posting valuable content like case studies and testimonials that show how you solve a prospect’s problem.
- Engaging with your prospects online.
3. Be prepared before meeting with a prospect
“People buy from people they trust” is a common sales adage. The best way to erode this trust and up your chances of getting ghosted is to go to a meeting unprepared.
Not preparing for a meeting means you won’t be able to understand your prospect’s pain points, answer their questions, or address their objections. This causes the prospect to lose confidence in what you’re selling and leads them to consider other options.
According to Krysten Conner, Enterprise Account Executive, UserGems, one way to avoid this unpleasant scenario is to:
- “Do the work to research and learn about the prospect, their company & their industry issues.
- Understand the common issues for personas on the buying committee.
Combine [both points] above to ask relevant, open-ended questions and LISTEN,” she adds. You can also go further and connect with different decision-makers and influencers beforehand.
LinkedIn’s Head of New Business for Australia and New Zealand, Andrew McCarthy, also advises you to do some preliminary research when you want to gain the trust of multiple stakeholders in the process.
“All those indicators [finding out if anyone is connected to someone he knows, was recently promoted, or has had the same role for many years] help me better run the play and do a better job for the prospective customer,” he says.
It can also effectively shorten the sales cycle and accelerate deals, reducing the chances of ghosting in sales.
4. Don't forget to check in with your prospect
Don’t write off your prospects if they don’t get back to you immediately. Your prospects have busy schedules and a life outside work. They might have forgotten to get back to you or had a shift in priorities.
To stop this from happening, simply send them a check-in mail 30 minutes to an hour before your meeting to confirm if they’ll show up. This will also serve as a reminder for them if it’s slipped their mind.
Alternatively, send a follow-up email inquiring if they’re still interested. Blaise Bevilacqua, a Senior Account Executive at UserGems, says, “when all else fails, I send this email 👇 And with a little humor, typically, it helps find out why.”
Letting them know you’re open to rescheduling will also help to keep the conversation going. However, if you reach out and the prospect doesn’t respond, it might be time to move on or find another contact within the account instead.
5. Track job changes
A Forbes survey predicts at least 40% of people are planning to change jobs in 2022. So, if you’re not tracking job changes, you’re missing out on an opportunity to win new accounts and recover lost or closed ones.
When a past or existing customer moves to a new company, they can influence the buying decision at their new company by advocating for your product.
At the very least, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to provide a warm introduction to another contact in the company, which wins their trust faster than cold outreach.
6. Create social proof for your business
One of the main reasons prospects ghost sales teams is that they don’t believe your product can deliver what you’re promising in a sales pitch or proposal. In other words, they don’t see a true path to a positive ROI.
“The best way to avoid [ghosting] is to invest in creating as much social proof for your business as possible — through case studies, detailed testimonials, and reviews which are verified on third-party platforms,” says Ryan Turner, CEO of EcommerceIntelligence.com
When prospects see that you’ve delivered results for brands similar to their own, they’re more likely to feel confident about taking the next step with you.
7. Ask the prospect if they're comfortable saying no
Sometimes, it’s easier for your prospect to ghost you than explain why they’re not interested in moving forward. This sudden silence can sting, especially if you thought a meeting went well.
The simplest way to avoid this is to ask the prospect if they’re comfortable saying “no” when you get on a discovery call with them. Here’s how Ioni Papadakis, business coach, 9 ELEPHANTS CONSULTING INC. does it:
“After you have established a genuine level of comfort with the prospect and discussed their pain points, conclude the sales discovery phase of your pitch with, 'now that I understand XYZ is important to you, and my offer seems to solve this, are you comfortable telling me 'no' if something doesn't feel right?'”
Here’s another way to make it easier for your prospects to give you bad news, according to Krysten, Enterprise Account Executive, UserGems.
"I love to hear yes. I'm totally ok with no. What's hardest is maybe/silence. Can you help me understand what's going on? And if we have to part ways, I promise we can part as friends." Or "my boss is asking me for updates. I'd rather be accurate than optimistic. Can you help me out with where we stand?"
“Most will happily agree to be honest with you, and it will set the tone for a much more direct communication moving forward,” says Ioni.
8. Outline the next steps and set clear expectations
One of the biggest reasons for ghosting in sales is that prospects don’t have the time for lengthy buying cycles.
“Potential prospects may disappear because the sales process feels like it's taking too long, so outline the next steps clearly to get them moving [towards signing the deal],” says Patricio Paucar, Co-founder and Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Navi.
Another reason you need to set clear steps during each interaction is “prospects need to know what the immediate future will look like, and they’ll fall out of a sales cycle if they don’t have a clear picture of what they will get out of working with the sales team,” says Peter Zawistowicz, Head of Marketing at Pace.
This helps the prospect understand where they’re in the process and makes the decision to move forward easier.
9. Send thank you notes
“When you take the time to write a personalized note, it shows that you appreciate [the prospect’s] time and that you're interested in deepening the relationship,” says Rick Elmore, CEO of Simply Noted.
Apart from coming across a sweet and genuine gesture, personalized notes also help you stand out from your competitors and improve the chances of developing a better rapport with the prospect.
10. Review your lead qualification process
A tight lead qualification process helps you filter out unqualified prospects at the beginning of the sales cycle and avoid radio silence. Here’s how to get started:
- Find out what your prospect’s current challenges and needs are
- Be upfront about costs so you can move on if the prospect isn’t a good fit
- Verify whether they have the decision-making power as early as possible
- Know where your prospect is in the sales funnel to provide a personalized experience.
Frequently asked questions about ghosting in sales
1. What is ghosting in business?
Ghosting in business is when a prospect stops all forms of communication without any notice or explanation.
2. Where would you research a prospect before you reach out?
There are a handful of places that can be helpful for research prospects including LinkedIn, Twitter, and their company’s website. Don’t forget to search for any news articles about them. It can also be helpful to read company press releases or any recent news articles.
3. How to avoid being too salesy
A few main tips to avoid being too salesy include:
- Avoiding common sales terms
- Taking the time to research and understand your prospect’s needs and challenges
- Provide real-life examples that prove your points
- Retain integrity in your communications
How to handle someone ghosting you in sales
Ghosting in sales doesn’t mean you aren’t good at your job. It just means you may need to change your approach. Analyzing your sales process will help you discover your weak spots so that you can engage prospects throughout the buying process.
Take some time to figure out where you can make adjustments and focus on leads that are the most likely to convert. Turn to your relationship intelligence data to optimize how you reach out with certain prospects.
UserGems can help you target more warm leads by letting you track job changes of your past prospects. This gives you a chance to leverage your rapport to influence decision-making at their new organization, preventing ghosting in sales.