How to Avoid Getting Ghosted by Your Prospects (4 Steps)

It’s been six weeks since you gave your prospect a demo.

You’ve sent your fourth follow-up email, and left them a few voicemails. You cringe as you enter your Monday-morning pipeline meeting knowing that, yet again, you’ll have to tell your team that the deal’s “still in the works.”

The week drags on, and you keep refreshing Gmail or Outlook. You watch as the proverbial tumbleweeds roll across your inbox. Your worst fears are realized…

Your prospect has ghosted you faster than your last Hinge date.

What was once a warm lead has now gone cold, and unlike your last Hinge date, you’d love to put a label on it. You don’t want to mark them Closed/Lost quite yet.

Today, I’m going to take a deep dive into why you’re getting ghosted and 4 ways to avoid it by focusing on communication and a relationship-first approach.

What is ghosting?

The term “ghosting” comes from the dating world.

Ghosting is defined by Google as “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” More often than not, ghosting happens when one partner in a relationship would like it to end it without conflict or consequences.

Ghosting happens when one partner would like a relationship to end without conflict or consequences.

The practice of ghosting is rampant in romantic relationships, particularly since dating apps. Now, ghosting is occurring more and more in business partnerships as well.

For sales professionals in particular, it’s become far more normal for prospects to drop out of the picture after a seemingly great conversation. Instead of telling salespeople that they’re unable to conduct business with them, prospects cut off communication and render themselves unreachable.

Why is ghosting so painful?

Why is ghosting particularly painful?

Well, for starters, the conversation has already begun. Usually multiple positive phone calls and email exchanges will make it appear as if the deal’s moving towards Closed/Won before the ghosting occurs.

And then, poof. Out of nowhere, your prospect vanishes.

This hurts on both a professional and personal level. Obviously we want to avoid this. The first step is to understand why it happens.

4 reasons why SDRs & AEs get ghosted by their prospects

Sure, you’re a pro at handling rejection, but there’s nothing more disheartening than getting ghosted after already having several conversations with key stakeholders.

Think you’re alone? Well, you’re not. As it turns out, getting ghosted by leads is quite common. According to Veelo, an average of 58% of the deals in a sales rep’s pipeline will stall.

There are four main reasons your deals are stalling and your prospects are disappearing:

1. It’s not a good time for your prospects to commit

Your prospect may have genuinely been excited about your business, its products, or its services. Everything from the language in their emails to their tone of voice when you spoke with them over the phone told you that they wanted to close the deal.

Unfortunately, sometimes there are factors that you’re unable to account for. Issues may arise on your potential partner’s end that you are simply unaware of.

For instance, they may have discovered that their budget wasn’t as big as they’d thought. They might have assumed that they could allocate spending to solidify a partnership with your company, but they were unable to get the approval.

Mirroring today’s dating world, your prospect may find that it difficult to communicate that now’s just “not the right time” to engage in the relationship.

They could be evading your emails and sending your calls straight to voicemail in an attempt to avoid breaking the bad news.

2. Your prospects aren’t sure you’re a good match

You believe that you can help your prospect solve their business’ pain points. And you can envision the mutual benefits of your partnership. You wouldn’t be talking to them otherwise.

The prospect seemingly agreed, asking you a multitude of questions and appearing absorbed during your pitch and presentation.

Just because the prospect shows interest doesn’t mean that they’re ready to fully commit.

Your contact may have ghosted you because, after thinking it over, they don’t believe the partnership will be a good fit for their company.

Maybe they were inclined to jump on your bandwagon initially. But now they’re hesitant or want to back out. And instead of disclosing their uncertainty or disinterest, they’ve decided that silence would be the best route.

(Just like your Hinge date!)

(Okay — I’ll let that one drop.)

This change of heart may be hard to understand. But it’s very common and can happen for a variety of reasons.

Here are three common reasons prospects change their mind partway through a deal:

  • There’s an essential functionality that’s missing from your company’s products or services that would help your prospect overcome his or her main challenges.
  • They’re concerned that your company’s product is too difficult to learn, use, or implement within their organization.
  • They’ve encountered a negative review or heard derogatory commentary from their connections about your company, and are now second-guessing the potential partnership.

Regardless of the specific explanation, they’ve gone quiet because they’re unclear regarding how to communicate their change of mind, or because they want to ensure that they save your company as a backup option if they ever decide to pursue the partnership in the future.

3. Your competition has caught your prospect’s eye

Just like modern dating, your potential client is probably evaluating other options before deciding to move forward with a partnership. To make matters more daunting, there’s a chance that they’re in contact with one of your direct competitors.

They might feel uncomfortable admitting that they’ve been talking with some of your rivals.

If you suddenly find yourself receiving the silent treatment, there’s a high likelihood that they have chosen to move forward with one of your competitors and feel uncomfortable telling you.

Additionally, there’s a possibility that they already have a contract with one of your top competitors. Despite the initial attraction towards your company’s products or services, upon weighing their options, they now feel uneasy about breaking off their partnership, and don’t want to run the risk of ruining their relationship with their current vendor.

They may have decided to stick with the status quo and forgo sending you a response in an attempt to prevent any awkwardness.

4. Your prospects are just plain busy

What’s the most basic explanation for why you might be getting ghosted by a prospect? A personal circumstance outside of their professional life is now a priority.

Sure, you might feel distressed by your prospect’s radio silence. But ask yourself these questions to quell your anxiety and get your facts straight:

  • Is your contact on vacation? Maybe they forgot to include an out-of-office reply or a voicemail intercept message.
  • Is your contact sick?
  • Did your prospect mention traveling for a work trip? ✈️
  • Has a company crisis occurred that’s now occupying their attention?
  • Could they be experiencing a family-related emergency?
  • Has your prospect left the company?
  • Do they have a holiday break special event they’re busy with?

If you keep following up and still aren’t able to receive a response, try connecting with one of their company’s receptionists. Their personal assistant (provided that they have one), or another one of their colleagues, may be able to tell you why you’re being left unread.

It’s not you: it’s them

The bottom line? Your prospect deciding to pause or end your conversation most likely has little to do with you or your company, and has more to do with them and their immediate personal or professional concerns.

However, just because they’ve decided to go silent doesn’t mean you should be completely discouraged. There are four things you can do to improve responses and get them moving through your pipeline again.

4 ways to avoid ghosting and speed up your sales cycle

Stop ghosting before it starts with these four tactics:

  • Use relevant communication
  • Practice personalization
  • Learn to leverage EQ
  • Incorporate gratitude

1. Use relevant communication

The primary objective for any business is to be top-of-mind for a potential customer when they’re in need of a service you provide.

How do you make sure your prospects perceive your messages as relevant and, more importantly, respond?

Alter how you communicate with your prospects to move them through your pipeline faster. The only way to encourage your prospects to reply is by conducting outreach that prioritizes their pain points.

Even if the prospect knows you well, 57% of email recipients consider a message to be spam if it isn’t applicable to their needs. Your communications need to be crafted to target your prospect’s goals to ensure you’re not losing their business.

Put yourself in their shoes when composing your follow-up messages. Curate your messaging to align with the problems that their business is attempting to overcome right now.

Connect Leader claims that 67% of B2B buyers list relevant communication as a major influence for choosing one provider over another. So, if your contact ghosted you because they are in the process of choosing between you and one of your competitors, using relevant, targeted communication will help you stand out.

2. Practice personalization

It’s difficult to stand out amongst the myriad of emails and voicemails that your prospects receive. One way you do that, and increase your chances of getting a response, is personalization.

Each time you interact with potential clients and don’t provide them with something that’s specifically customized for them or their personal interests, you miss an opportunity to make a sale or earn their loyalty. This may sound overwhelming, but there’s no need to panic. Personalization can be basic and simple.

Two simple, yet effective, techniques to help you practice personalization include applying customized messaging and using unique delivery systems.

Use customized messaging

Since the majority of your outreach is being conducted via email, it’s important to note that tiny tweaks to your email drafts will make a big difference.

For example, try naming your lead in the subject line for a personalized, attention-grabbing touch. It takes little effort to add a recipient’s name to an email subject line, but the results can be very impactful. In fact, including a recipient’s first name in the subject line of an email can boost your open rates by 29.3%.

Use unique delivery systems

You’ve tried following up with emails, maybe even phone calls, but have you thought about going back to basics?

One way to incorporate personalization is to avoid your potential customers’ inboxes and opt for old-fashioned, handwritten notes. Additionally, if your company has the budget, consider visiting a few of your prospects’ offices in-person to pick up the conversation face-to-face.

Not everyone prefers emails or phone calls. Cater your methods of communication to your prospects’ personal preferences. This will not only help you stand out, but will also prompt them to WANT to talk with you.

3. Learn to leverage EQ

If you want your potential clients to continue responding, it’s important to leverage your emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is the ability to understand other people, their motivations, and how to collaborate with them by concentrating on the collaborative partnership in your outreach.

Leveraging EQ can be as easy as adjusting the way you email. Here are some tips to ensure that you’re incorporating EQ in your email communications:

  1. Imagine your email exchanges as in-person conversations.
  2. Start by using friendly greetings such as “hi,” “hello,” or “how are you?”
  3. Evaluate your email voice to see if you’re maintaining a positive and friendly tone.
  4. If you’re making a request, explain your reasoning so your ask doesn’t come across as a command.
  5. Keep in mind that emails can be forwarded. Before hitting send, determine if you’re okay with your message being shared with people other than your intended recipient.

To test how EQ can generate more revenue, start by regularly acknowledging the people who are already giving you business. You’ll find that their appetite for genuine affirmation is unlimited.

Keep in mind that your prospects are people too. Even though you may not be able to immediately convince them to meet (or mark them as Closed/Won), by prioritizing the relationship you’re trying to build, you leave the door open to partner with them in the future if and when the opportunity arises.

RELATED: Sell like a Psycho(Therapist): 3 Counseling Techniques to Crush Your Quota

4. Incorporate expressions of gratitude

To encourage your potential clients to start talking with you after they’ve already ghosted you, try incorporating an expression of gratitude. Either thank them or do something to show your appreciation.

Thank them

When a prospect’s stuck in your pipeline, saying a quick “thank you” will give you another entry point for conversation while allowing you to avoid coming across as irritating.

According to a study in the Journal of Psychological Science, recipients of an emailed expression of gratitude felt much more “ecstatic” than the senders expected.

Even thanking your potential clients for their time after a phone call, meeting, or lengthy email exchange will help you hold their attention, and it will shift their impressions of you in a positive direction.

Regardless of whether or not your outreach is automated, a brief thank you can help build stronger relationships with your prospects, and it will inherently lead them further through the funnel.

Show appreciation

Research conducted by Inc. confirms that showing appreciation to your customers and potential buyers can help you build brand loyalty. That being the case, simply expressing your appreciation at various points in the pipeline — namely, before the close — can prime your prospects to respond to your messages, as well as putting you ahead of the game if and when your prospects become clients.

There’s no doubt that sending a customized “thank you,” curated to your targets’ personal interests, will help you stand out from the BDR or SDR pack.

So set aside some time in your schedule to send gestures of appreciation in the short-term. It will help you build long-term relationships that lead to greater ROI.

Closed/Lost doesn’t mean closed door

It’s not a real breakup if you only ever discussed where you might grab drinks on the first date. Similarly, marking a prospect who ghosted you as “Closed/Lost” shouldn’t mean that you’re completely closing the door on that relationship.

Although you may feel upset or hurt that your prospect has gone MIA, you never know if they’ll reach back out in the next few days, weeks, months, or years when circumstances change.

To avoid getting ghosted, just remember to:

  1. Use relevant communication
  2. Practice personalization
  3. Learn to leverage EQ
  4. Incorporate expressions of gratitude

These four techniques will help you become more likable in the eyes of your prospects. Not only do individuals naturally want to conduct business with people they like, but they also look to create additional business opportunities with those that they enjoy partnering with.

And hey, in the rare case that incorporating these four practices doesn’t work with your prospects, they might just score you a second Hinge date.

Edited by Kendra Fortmeyer @ Sales Hacker 2022

As a Director of Sales at Thnks, Mike DeCorso spends most of his workdays educating companies on how they can grow their businesses and generate more revenue by incorporating gratitude and sharing gestures of appreciation. Whether prospective companies want to gain more leads, strengthen their relationships with their current clients, or ensure that their employees remain engaged, Mike helps these organizations overcome their challenges through conducting conversations and delivering demos that demonstrate how the Thnks application can help them yield strong ROI, all while sharing his appreciation for these contacts in the process.

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