Laura Petrolino

Professionally Ghosted: What to Do When a Prospect Ghosts You

By: Laura Petrolino | September 30, 2019 | 
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Professionally GhostedIt’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. 

Who knows?

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 email on your phone just to make sure 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 test 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.

What Do You Do When You’re Ghosted?

You’ve just been professionally ghosted.

So now what do you do?

Ghosted Option One: Let It Go

This happens. It’s the name of the game.

There are endless reasons why a prospect might have ghosted you.

Some may be about you, but many aren’t.

You can decide it isn’t worth stressing about, take a cue from Frozen, and let it go.

If you are going to let it go, you need to be all in. 

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. 

Ghosted Option Two: The Ego Follow-up

You follow-up and use the most powerful weapon in the world: ego. 

Here’s how.

Step 1: Find something they’ve recently done, said, been featured in, or do really well. 

“I saw the recent launch you did on XX, I loved how you all 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 and kudos for being so forward-thinking.”  

Step 2: Add value. 

Now take this topic and add value to it from your point of expertise. 

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 <did something similar to this awesome thing you just did> and was able to leverage it to <goal they laid out for you in initial meeting>. If you want to jump on a quick call, I would love to share our process to help you achieve that result.”

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 since 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. 

Ghosted Option Three: The News Tie-in

This is similar to option two, but it doesn’t have to be something to stroke their ego.

It can simply be something you see (new story, event, research, educational piece) which 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. 

Ghosted Option Four: Don’t Forget the Phone

This 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 off because of all the other emergencies we have in 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.

Ghosted Option Five: 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 crosses your path who would be an ideal match for your prospect.
  • 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. If you are thinking about moving forward anytime soon, I’d love to try to get things going by X date so we can take advantage of it.”

When Do You Give Up If You’re Ghosted?

When you’re ghosted by a prospect, there comes a time when you must give up. 

So when do you give up and revert to option 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.

Ways to Avoid the Ghosting

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.

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.

Next week, I’ll dig into several of these further and what you can do to avoid them.

Have you been ghosted by prospects? Share your stories in the comments below.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.