We’ve all been through it. You have a great conversation with an excellent prospect. They say all the right things and respond to you perfectly. It sounds like an ideal match! The right product or service for the right prospect at the right time. We just need to iron out a few details to get things wrapped up, but then they stop taking your calls. They stop responding to email, they ignore your texts. So, what do you do when people ghost you?
David: Hi and welcome to the podcast today cohost Chris Templeton and I will be talking about what to do when prospects ghost you. Welcome Chris!
Chris: Hi David. You know, salespeople have been dealing with prospects disappearing forever, and this term ghosting. I just heard about it recently and I wasn’t quite sure what it was. It’s apparently not the scary kind of ghosting, but it’s really become popular as social media and texting have become more and more prevalent, hasn’t it?
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David: Yeah, it really has, and I think there's an argument to be made that this type of ghosting can actually be more scary. If you're in sales, it's probably scarier to have this kind of ghosting than to have what's traditionally viewed as ghosting.
Chris: That’s a great point.
David: And everybody has experienced this, as you've said, it's been happening forever. But this term is kind of interesting and I think from what I've seen, it's developed recently as part of the social media culture where you're having a conversation with someone and then they don't respond. And it's their turn to respond and they don't, and you send a text or you send a social media message and you don't hear anything back and they just basically disappear. So, while it's found its way into the personal culture, I think for anyone who's been involved in business or sales for a long time, they're totally familiar with the concept. They understand immediately and instinctively what it means. And of course, then the question is how do you make it go away? How do you keep it from happening? Which is what I'd like to talk about in this podcast.
Chris: Well and this goes back to that whole question that we've talked about of kind of our default definitions. And I think especially as salespeople, we have a tendency to go to the place of saying, “Oh my gosh, I've been ghosted.” When maybe I haven't even been ghosted. And so, when you look at it, how can you tell if someone's ghosting you or if they're just slow to respond and busy?
David: Well, that happens a lot. There's a lot of times when people are just busy, they're tied up and they may not be intentionally ghosting you but you're not hearing back from them. And the only real answer to that is time is the final determinant of that. Time is the only thing that will tell you for sure whether they're ghosting you or whether they're just busy. If they're just busy at some point they will become less busy and you will likely hear from them again. But all of us in business have to determine sort of our threshold, our tolerance for pain. How long are we willing to endure a relationship that is completely one sided? If we're sending texts or if we're sending social media messages or if we're leaving voicemail messages for people, how long do we want that to go on? And there are some salespeople who will continue to pursue a prospect for months or for years. And I don't know, I guess that could work. I think to me it strikes me as a bit desperate. One of the things that we've always done in our organizations is we've sort of set a limit as to how many times we're going to continue to pursue a particular prospect. And I think it's a good idea for everyone to do. Say, “Okay, this is going to be my limit.” I'm going to go this far and then I'm not going to continue to do that. Part of it also though has to do with the messaging because the way that we communicate to people is also going to help to determine or dictate the response that we get. And if people just think you're going to keep chasing them and chasing them and chasing them and they just feel like you're going to be there whenever they decide to get back to you, then there's not a lot of incentive for them to do that in a prompt and timely manner. But if people recognize that your time is valuable as well and that you're actually looking for a response, then they might be more inclined, at least the ones who are serious might be more inclined to be more responsive.
Chris: I think one of the things that we should dig in a little bit deeper on is, you said sometimes it's just a question of the messaging and you know, what - if all it is, is this sense of, Hey, what's going on? Or you know, I really want your business or that sort of thing. Talk about good messaging and how that can help this process along.
David: Right. Well, some of this also goes back to what we had talked about in a previous podcast in terms of just conversation that helps to foster a relationship, essentially relationship building as opposed to straight out salesmanship. Okay, where ‘sell at all costs’ if that's the goal of the conversation; then people are going to be a lot more likely to ghost you, because they feel like the conversation could be one sided. The advantage that we have when we're good at what we do in whatever profession we're in is that we can talk to people about the types of situations that they're having, the types of struggles they might be dealing with. We can talk to them about how we could potentially help them with those things, and it doesn't mean that we have to constantly be immediately selling them on it. So simply having conversations that are helpful, that are useful, that get them thinking about the things that they would like to have happen. All of that can be done in a way that is not totally self-serving and when we do that, we are going to be a lot more likely to have people want to continue those conversations.
Chris: It's such a great point. And again, I think the other thing that I would look at also is if you've figured out kind of where your end point is, one of the things that I heard as a strategy and it's served me well over the years; is at some point if you don't get a response just saying, “Hey, I just want to check in with you and make sure that everything's okay with us because I'm a little surprised I haven't received a response. If I've done something, boy I'd sure like to know what it is that I could do to get us back on the right track.” Something that you totally own and the kind of the strategy behind it is, but when it's not accusatory, like “Where have you been?” And it's just like, “Oh my God, if I've done something to offend you…” typically you'll get some kind of response saying, “Oh Hey, I'm really sorry.” And there is this... I think it becomes almost a desire to strike that feeling from the person who sent that note. And it's heartfelt, you know? I mean usually if there's somebody who hasn't gotten back to me that I think I've got a decent relationship with, it's an authentic and honest question and so that may be another way; and then I think from that point on, can't you just move to kind of putting them on an automatic message? Here's our email newsletter, that sort of thing?
David: Yeah, we refer to that as a drip campaign and there are people who if we've haven't heard from them in a long time but that they have signed up to receive our newsletter, that type of thing, they can continue to get that for as long as they want to get it. Or until we get to the point where we say, okay, this person has received X number of newsletters. They haven't opened any, they haven't clicked on anything, they haven't responded to anything. Now we're going to make the decision proactively to remove them and sometimes that's a good idea as well, because if you have a lot of people who are getting your stuff and not engaging with it; that's going to impact your deliverability rates, it’s going to impact who's seeing your stuff on social media. So, it's a good idea to do that sort of cleanup every now and then to make sure that you're not just putting stuff out there to people who have absolutely no interest anymore in what it is that you're talking about.
David: And so, go back for me. Talk a little bit from your standpoint about how you determine if somebody's just been slow to respond?
David: Well, once again, it just goes back to how long it's taken. And you know, you had mentioned a great one to get people re-engaged, which is basically finding out if there's something you've done. And we've sent out emails that had subject lines of “Is it something I've done?” And that's typically the kind of thing that someone would think of in a personal relationship - Is it's something I've done? It sounds very personal, but it tends to get a decent response. Years ago, when we had our retail mail order catalog business, we used to send out postcards to people that we hadn't heard from in a while. People who hadn't ordered our stuff in a while. This is pre-internet, which is why we were sending out physical postcards, but we essentially would send out a postcard that said the same thing. “Is it something we've done?” And so, it would be personalized it would just be a postcard. It would have your name at the top and it would say, “Dear Chris, you know, it's been quite some time since we've heard from you. We've appreciated your business over the years, but we haven't heard from you in a long time…” and then headline would say, “Is it something we've done?” And then it was just go on to say that because we value your business, if we didn't handle something properly, if you weren't happy with an order you received, please be sure to let us know so that we could make it right. If it's not something we've done, let us know that too. And if we can help you, we'd love to do that. Here's our number. And we would send out that postcard and we would have people contact us back just to say, “No, it's not something you've done. We've just been busy.” And so that approach, and again, this is decades ago now, this is a long time ago, but that element, that aspect of human nature doesn't change. And so when you're able to approach someone authentically and to say to them, “Hey, listen, what's going on here? Do we still have some sort of relationship here?” Then those who are worth engaging are going to engage.
Chris: I think the other thing to keep in mind is just like that in my mind, the thing that makes that so powerful is that there's no accusation, right? And there is no push on our end in asking the question. And I think then going back to messaging overall and looking at your messaging and saying, gee, is this something that people feel good about getting or... and occasionally there's no reason not to say, Hey, what's next? Or can we close the deal? That sort of thing. But if most of our messaging doesn't have resistance, doesn't create resistance in our prospect, we're probably going to have better results overall.
David: Yes. And I also think that sometimes it's not a bad idea to give people a little cover if somebody should be responding to you and they're not. If you were to take an approach that says, “Hey, what's going on? What's wrong with you?” If you take more of an accusatory standpoint, that's not going to go well. So if you are taking an approach of, you know, “Is it something I've done?” that can certainly work, but "Is it something I've done" that also, that implies sort of a relationship where there's a hierarchy and you're on the lower end of the hierarchy. So that might not always be the best bet either. So, you can offer opportunities or you can essentially offer excuses. If you have a subject line that says, “Did you get my last email?” What that implies is I'm assuming you're not ghosting me, but, and it gives them an opportunity to say, “Oh yes, sorry, I didn't see that.” Even if they did see it and they'd been meaning to reply and they just did, it gives them an opportunity to say, “Oh Hey, yes, sorry.” Either I did see it and I didn't have an opportunity to respond or I thought I already responded to this. It gives them a little bit of cover. So sometimes you can do that when you have a sort of a ghosting situation going on, “Hey did you get my email?” And then the body of the email, it could say, I wasn't sure if my last message went into your spam folder. And sometimes they'll tell you that it did, even if it didn't. And you don't care because the goal is to get them engaged back in conversation.
Chris: Exactly. And that goes back to that whole idea of, you know, what I'm doing is I'm creating a piece of conversation that allows me to answer without feeling bad about it - as the prospect. And I mean I think that's part of this issue of messaging is: Does the messaging encourage somebody? And you obviously don't want to do that approach every time, but does your messaging put people in a corner or does your messaging have people feeling like this person is here to help me. They've got something that'll really make a difference. And I think that's really important to keep in mind is not creating resistance and creating, like you talked about, creating cover where they have the ability to come back into the conversation easily.
David: Yes, and deciding for yourself also when enough is enough, because if you keep reaching out to someone and they keep blowing you off, then at some point it becomes really disrespectful and you have to ask yourself, “Is this relationship worth it? Is it even worth the money if we end up doing business?” And if it's not, then you can make that decision. I don't think it's a bad idea at all to make those sorts of decisions proactively. And this applies just as much to social media as it does to former prospects and clients. If you've got a situation where there are people following you on social media and they're not interacting with you and you've got no relationship with them, well, what's the point of continuing to put content in front of people who have no interest in what it is that you're saying? It doesn't benefit you and it doesn't benefit them. And the detriment to you is that it's going to limit the amount of people who are actually going to see your stuff. So by pruning that list and by making sure that the people that you're engaged with actually want to be engaged with you, you're going to be more focused on the people who are best positioned to serve you, or to have you serve them.
Chris: Yeah. To have you serve them in a way that they want to be served. Right?
David: Right. Exactly.
Chris: Okay, let's talk about the action steps that our listeners can take if they notice that their prospects are ghosting them.
What to Do When Prospects are Ghosting You
- Determine Your Threshold for pain. Decide how long you'll be willing to pursue an unresponsive contact. Set your threshold and stick to it.
- Review Your Messaging. Is what you're saying compelling or interesting enough to warrant a response?
- Try Asking: "Is it something I've done?"
- Adopt a Dunning Approach. Create a communication sequence that gets stronger with each message.
David: Okay. So, first thing we need to do is to make the decision about what our threshold for pain is, right? How long are we going to be willing to carry on a conversation with someone who is not responding? Is it going to be a certain number of emails? Is it going to be a certain number of days? What are we going to set as our threshold, and then do your best to stick with that. If it gets to beyond a certain point, then you want to make sure that you're discontinuing those conversations so that you're interacting with the people who are best suited to have conversations with you. Something we didn't touch on, and this is just a great model, it's been in effect for years and we may have touched on it in a previous podcast, but it's the idea of, it's called the Dunning model based on Dun and Bradstreet. When they would chase people for money, they would send a series of three different letters and the first letter said, “Hey Chris, you owe some money and it's just a little bit past due. If you forgot about it, please be sure to put it in an envelope and send it to us or enter your credit card number in the box below so that we can get this taken care of. Thanks a lot.” Right, and then has your name and then the second one, it goes out maybe a little while later and it says, “Hey, Chris sent you a notification last week. We haven't received your payment that is now whatever, two weeks past due. It's now getting to the point where it's becoming a problem for us. Please be sure to get this taken care of within the next week or so. So that we don't have to take this to collections.” Right? Then the third one is far more strict and it's like this account is now seriously due. If we do not receive payment within X number of days, this is going to be turned over for collections, which could result in additional costs and additional problems. Please take care of this at your earliest convenience. So it gets progressively sort of louder and more obnoxious. Now, I'm not suggesting that we get obnoxious in our communications, but if you think in terms of steps like that where we're initiating communication, it gets ignored. We're giving them a nice polite way to respond. “Hey, listen, did you get this? Not sure if you missed this, but I wanted to make sure we got your feedback on that.” And then if you don't hear from that, it's like, “Hey, I sent you this message a few weeks ago. I sent you this reminder notice the other day, still haven't heard back. Please give me a call either way or get in touch either way, let me know where you stand on this.” And then the third one could be something like, “Hey, listen, I haven't heard back from numerous messages. If you're no longer interested in pursuing this, please let me know as soon as possible. Or I'm going to assume you're no longer pursuing this. If you are interested, let me know. Otherwise this will be my last communication.” Right? And then that's it. And we've done that sort of thing with phone, we've done that sort of thing with voicemail messages and in a lot of cases when this is done right, that final message, particularly when it's positioned as a final message, we'll get you more response than the other ones. So, our salespeople have done that with voicemail messages. “Hey, left you a couple of messages sent you this thing, haven't heard back at this point. I'm going to assume you're not interested. If that's not the case, give me a call at this number or drop me an email at this address. Otherwise have a great life.” You know essentially, that's what you're saying.
Chris: And the beauty of the Dunning model is the first two letters that are non-confrontational that are checking in. And so, I encourage listeners to make sure that there's good balance of non-pushy communications that go out towards the end of that process. Say before you go to the final one that's like, “Hey, I guess I'm gonna assume that you've moved on and I appreciate it, whatever.”
David: Right. And the third one, it's like you said, the first two are very cordial, the very pleasant, and then the third one lets them know that you're serious. You're not a complete pushover, that you're serious about business, you're serious about the relationship and you need them to be serious about it as well.
Chris: It's really important to know when to quit pursuing somebody, isn't it?
David: It sure is.
Chris: Hey, let's talk about what's coming on our next podcast.
David: Okay, Chris, in our next podcast we will discuss why every social media conversation is now becoming suspect.
Chris: Uh oh, okay! Hey, be sure also to check out topsecrets.com/call and find out how David and his team can help you with a strategy session. It's on the house and all you gotta do is go to that site, topsecrets.com/call and you will see what you need to schedule an appointment. Thanks, David.
David: Thank you Chris.
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