It’s difficult to accept that a potential sale can disintegrate at any point in the funnel. Most potential sales unravel eventually, as confused or unsure prospects investigate which products or services might best address their needs and what that solution could cost. But it’s never encouraging when your clients start ghosting you and cutting off communication.
I’ll wager that you don’t take it personally when your early-stage browsers, the top of the funnel group, disappear. It’s not until the prospect demonstrates real interest and reaches the bottom of the sales funnel that things get serious. Prospects who reach that stage have real potential to become a client. It’s disappointing when a sale fades away.
You begin to invest time and attention in prospects who reach the middle of the funnel. You’re pleased to learn that they downloaded an e-book or case study. You may follow up on that with an emailed note of thanks, an offer to provide more details on request or the chance to schedule a no-cost half-hour phone or video consultation.
You may daydream about being asked to write a proposal and how wonderful it would feel to add this company to your client roster. So, when clients abruptly go silent, completely ghosting you, it’s a painful blow. Why does this happen and how can you prevent it?
Let’s figure this out.
Prospects can ghost you at any point, although disappearing acts usually occur after the first meeting or phone call, or after they’ve received a proposal. In this case, the prospect most likely wanted to find out what was available in terms of products, services and ballpark pricing info. These people are fishing and evaluating possible solutions for the problem, and they’re not ready to commit to taking action. Let it go.
How can you evaluate an actual opportunity?
To separate genuine prospects from pie-in-the-sky window shoppers, the best tactic is to ask a couple of direct questions about the problem or goal. This is the reason why your prospect is looking for a solution in the first place. If the would-be customer can’t articulate a specific problem that motivates their curiosity about your products or services, assume the need is not urgent. Accept that it may be impossible to convert this prospect in the near term, if at all.
If you have information that speaks to the prospect’s interests—an issue of your newsletter, a case study, a white paper or even an article by another author—offer to send that information. If you’re able to help their decision-making process… well, you never know. It may pay off for you somewhere down the line. You might become the recipient of a referral as repayment of your courtesy.
Ghosting from serious clients
If your prospect ghosts you after they’ve requested and received a proposal, the matter is much more serious. The three most likely obstacles are:
- Your price is too high
- Your solution doesn’t appear to address the problem
- They were talking to a competitor all along and went with the other company
Both the pricing and the solution of your proposal are best discussed before you commit anything to writing. Whether you discuss these critical issues on the telephone, in a video meeting, or face-to-face—I wouldn’t recommend emails for matters so important—you must understand what the prospect needs to achieve and when the deliverables must be in hand. You must know if you can provide what is needed, deliver when it is needed and present a price that the prospect will accept.
A proposal answers three key questions:
1) What will the prospect receive?
It should be clear in your proposal how the strategies and actions that you propose will achieve the goals.
2) When will the project be completed?
It should be clear that the project deadline can be met; and
3) How much will it cost?
You should have a very good idea of what the client is willing to pay for the product or service you will provide.
A good proposal presents a narrative, with strategies and data and timelines, that helps the prospect understand what they will receive, when it will be ready and the price point.
More on pricing
Regarding price, you should inquire about the budget as the project specs are being discussed. As the prospect describes what’s on their wish list, start thinking about how much it might cost your organization to deliver. You can mention a ballpark figure and ask the prospect if that’s within the budget.
Hint: give a high estimate. If the prospect doesn’t flinch, that’s great! If their body language and facial expressions indicate that your off-the-cuff price is too rich for their blood, downshift and let the prospect know that you’re confident you can customize a solution that will provide the must-haves and remain within their budget.
What if I do everything right, and they still ghost me?
If all seems to have gone well and yet the prospect goes silent, experience tells me that the most common reason for ghosting after receiving a proposal is that they’ve signed with someone else, and they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
Still, it’s not professional behavior. It’s inconsiderate of the time and effort you’ve invested in helping the prospect solve a challenge or reach a goal. You owe it to yourself to follow up by phone or email and ask for an update. Say, “Are you still interested in our services/product? When would you like to move forward?”
You’ve most likely lost the sale but nudging the prospect to face up to their decision allows closure and helps you to move on to greener pastures.