Are you trying to sell something to prospective clients, but keep getting ghosted in the process?
If so, keep reading.
Over the last 5.5 years on Credo, we’ve seen thousands of proposals go to prospects for marketing services. For a period of time these went through our systems, though now we see them when someone hires us for our Proposal Review Calls.
This post isn’t just for marketing agencies though. It’s for anyone running a business where you send proposals to prospects.
There are many points along a sales process where a prospect can ghost you, though the most common two are:
- After an initial call
- After a proposal has been sent
While these two are sometimes one in the same (when you send a proposal after a first call, which I never recommend doing), they are most often distinct times and the ghosting happens for different reasons.
As I think about it, there are some common reasons why a prospect might ghost you during the process. Once you understand what they are, then you can adjust your sales process to take these into account so that there is less of a chance of being ghosted, which directly maps to increased win rates.
And increased win rates means you can grow your business!
Common reasons prospects ghost you during the sales process
There are many reasons prospects might ghost you in the sales process:
- They’re not ready to convert, so they go quiet on you after they get what they needed (which was pricing and what’s available)
- Your pricing shocks them, and they don’t know how to negotiate back
- What you propose to them isn’t what they need, and they just don’t respond
- They sign with someone else
Today I’m going to cover each one and help you understand how you can get ahead of these objections so that you can improve your close rates.
Not ready to convert
It’s common to talk to people who are just starting their research and thus are not ready to convert into a client (yet, if ever).
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was not uncommon for us to hear “We’re thinking about maybe doing some (insert marketing channel) because our competitors are doing it and…(insert more waffling here).”
Now, there’s a chance that prospects in this mindset may turn into a client if you’re really good at convincing people, but the vast majority of the time the service provider ends up wasting a lot of time.
So how do you determine if someone is in this phase and thus what sales actions to take or not take?
First, it starts with simply asking them to tell you about the problem they’re looking to solve. If they are unable to articulate the specific problem, then they’re not yet in the pain point phase and thus are going to be harder to get to sign at the rate they should pay (aka, industry standards).
Second, listen for the terms they use. If you hear “we’re thinking about” or “our competitors are” or anything around “getting quotes”, then you need to listen closely to see if they’re actually qualified or if they’re just looking for information.
If someone is just looking for quotes or thinking about it, offer to send them your typical pricing and engagements or refer them to various resources (ideally those you’ve created, so you can build trust with them). Prospects in this phase are not ready for you to spend time going deep and sending them a proposal.
Pricing is shocking (aka, sticker shock)
When a prospect receives a proposal, what do you think they do first?
We like to believe that they’re reading the whole thing and understanding the value of what you’re proposing, but the reality is that few do and most just scroll to pricing to see if it’s in line with what they were thinking.
So how do you avoid your prospects getting sticker shock and then ghosting you?
First, let’s recognize that if this happens then it is your fault. Yes they should ask more questions, but a lot of proposals are positioned as being the final offer instead of opening up a conversation.
In my way of doing sales, a proposal is indeed the final offer but it’s also only sent once both parties are aligned on scope, timeline, and pricing. But for many proposals that are being sent, they’re interpreted as being a final offer when really they’re the start and open to negotiation.
Unfortunately, many prospects don’t know that and don’t know how to negotiate back well. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.
So how do you avoid sticker shock for your prospects?
It all starts at the beginning and is best explained by the sales term of price anchoring. You need to anchor them during your conversations to a higher price, and then listen to see how they respond to understand if your pricing is in line with their expectations or wildly high or low.
Say you’re speaking with a prospect and you’re telling them stories about a client you worked with who had similar needs. Instead of hedging and saying “Say an audit costs $1,000…”, say “Say an audit costs $5,000…” then listen for their tone of voice.
If that’s within their expectations, they’ll just keep going and not bat an eyelash.
If that number is within their budget and they’re a sophisticated buyer, then they may ask what that audit encompassed to justify such a price. They’re interested but the price merits discussion. This will be a great client if they see the value.
If it’s not within their expectations, they’ll ask more about the price probably with a question like “Did you say $5,000?” to make sure they didn’t hear you wrong. This person’s budget is sizeably smaller, which is good to know.
From here, you can determine if it’s worthwhile to send a proposal at all.
Some advice: you do not always have to send a proposal.
If the prospect is unqualified based on budget, then you should probably walk away unless you can trim back to scope to get it within their budget and still deliver them value. Even then, it might not be worth the added complexity.
Proposal doesn’t meet their needs
The next most common reason why a prospect ghosts you in the sales process plays on sticker shock, but is a bit broader.
Quite simply, there are a lot of sent proposals that do not answer the prospect’s questions, which are:
- What will I get?
- When will I get it?
- How much will it cost?
I see a lot of proposals that are simply a list of tactics and things that the agency does. This is not a proposal – this is a statement of capabilities.
A proposal answers the above three questions and weaves together a narrative, with strategies and data and timelines, that helps the prospect understand in one place what they will get, when they will get it, and how much it will cost.
They should also understand from your proposal how the strategies and engagement you are proposing will help them reach their goals, and what the next steps are.
Without all of these things, the prospect will likely just ghost you because it is simply too much work to go back and ask for all of this.
Sign with someone else
The final reason (at least in this article) why a prospect ghosts you is because they signed with someone else and either:
- don’t know how to tell you nicely that they did, or
- don’t feel like they owe you a reply to tell you
I tend to lean towards trusting people and giving them the benefit of the doubt, and my experience tells me that the most common reason why they ghost you after signing with someone else is because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
While I see that and understand it, it’s unfortunately not a professional way for them to act as it’s wasting your time as well.
If you’re being ghosted by someone after great conversations and a proposal and maybe even adjusting that proposal, you should do everything you can to get them to a “yes” or a “we signed with someone else” or a “not yet, but follow up with me in X months”.
So how do you do this?
My strategy is to follow up with 4 emails and a phone call over the next two weeks. If I don’t get a reply, I send this email:
“NAME, are you still interested in our SERVICES?”
Example: “Sarah, are you still interested in our SEO services?”
This is called a spear email, otherwise known as a “nine word email” popularized by Dean Jackson (a well known real estate entrepreneur and marketer).
This email more times than not gets a reply that is one of these:
- Yes, sorry, let’s get going
- Yes, but not yet
- We hired someone else and I forgot to tell you.
At least now you’ve either moved the conversation along, or have finality and can mentally move on to other prospects.
I hope this is helpful in understanding why prospects may be ghosting you in your sales process, and what you can do to overcome these common reasons so that you can close more deals.
If you are struggling with your sales process and not closing enough work, I’d love to do a Lead Gen and Sales Strategy Call with you. Let’s get your business back on track.