It can feel like you are trying to connect with a brick wall. You make multiple calls to a lead only to end up leaving voicemail after voicemail. You send email after email that are never viewed. You reach out on social media only to end up being ignored. You might even send a text message just to see if you can get a rise from a simple ping.
You have been ghosted! Ghosted before you even connect for the first time. It can be demoralizing.
Ghosting is a colloquialism that most often applies to friends and romantic acquaintances who suddenly cut off all communication with you without any explanation. Ghosting has infiltrated the business domain. Your calls are blocked, your emails are junked, your social communications are ignored, and your text go nowhere.
It is commonly thought that ghosting only happens after the conversation has started, after a presentation that you thought went well, after sending over a quote, and just when you think you are going to close the deal. However, prospects will ghost you before you ever get the chance to connect. Your attempts to reach them via phone, email, social, or text are actively ignored. At the end of your sales cadence these leads become your unresponsive prospects.
Unresponsive leads are actively trying their best to ignore you and hope that you will go way. Everyone likes to say yes. No one likes to say no. “No, I am not interested in your product or service” is different from “I’m not interested in you.” Product or service or another human being it is difficult to say no. So, avoidance is the prospect’s best defense. If the prospect can avoid you long enough, you will eventually give up and move onto another prospect. You faithfully execute your sales cadence until you reach the very last step, that last phone call, that last email and deliver your final “break up” message, and then you are done. You set the prospect as unresponsive in your CRM and move onto the next.
Why Do Prospects Ghost You in the First Place?
Business Development Representatives (BDRs) focus on outbound prospecting while Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) focus on inbound marketing leads. BDRs are hunters and looking to start relationships with prospects that may not be aware of a company’s product or service. These are considered cold prospects. SDRs engage with hand-raisers who have an expectation that they are going to connect with sales. Inbound leads are warm by nature.
When BDRs start outbound prospecting, they will often hunt for prospects that meet the company’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). If the ICP is too broad or poorly defined, then almost any company and any one at that company will match the ICP. In an ideal world you have a carefully defined ICP or set of ICPs to aid in targeting the right persona at the right company with products and services that might solve a problem they might not know they have.
When you reach out to cold prospects you will get ghosted. When you target the people and companies that fall outside your ICP you are highly likely to be ghosted. The more time you spend hunting for the right person at the company that matches your ICP, the more likely you are going to connect with a decision maker or at the very least someone who may have influence into the buying decision.
Ever if you connect with a decision maker or influencer, poor delivery of your value proposition can lead to ghosting. Failure to communicate using language and concepts a prospect can grasp can lead to ghosting. But so can failing to explain how your product or service solves a problem that the prospect has, or worse yet, solves a problem the prospect does not know or think they have.
You have once chance, that first contact with a prospect to establish the connection between you and the prospect. If you fail to connect on first contact, you will be ghosted. You are not likely to connect with that prospect every again. So, first impressions count and allow you to get your foot in the door. Once in, the burden is still on you to keep the interaction lively. You will need to deliver items of value to your prospect to engage their interests all the while working towards determining if there their budget, if they have the authority to purchase, that they need what you have to offer, and in what period they might decide if and how to proceed.
When an SDR starts prospecting with inbound leads they will often find that those leads do not meet the company’s ICP. Website visitors who complete forms to gain access to proprietary information may be decision makers (early and late-stage buyer), may be influencers (researchers gathering information for decision makers), may be competitors and other shoppers (blatantly shopping the competition or secret shoppers assessing the sales team). Sometimes these prospects will leave their name, email address, and even a valid phone number. If you are lucky, these prospects will leave workable information. They are just as likely to leave bad information that makes the lead unworkable. In the former case, you might end up being ghosted at some point during the prospecting process. In the latter case, you have been ghosted before you even get a chance to start outreach.
No matter who you are prospecting, inbound or outbound, leads will ghost you. Should you reach a prospect, remember everyone likes to buy but no one likes to be sold. You must create a buying environment. Buyer motivations have always prevailed over even the best persuasive selling skills.
Ideal Prospect Scoring Model
Many companies use lead scoring models and fancy algorithms to measure engagement with prospects and customers for marketing purposes, but then hide the score from the sales development team. These efforts focus on pre-prospecting engagement. Once a lead reaches a certain threshold, then they are passed to sales to be worked. But that is where it so often stops.
Enter the Ideal Prospect Scoring Model (IPSM). This model or algorithm considers the company’s ICP and active prospecting activities by the sales team. Ideally the IPSM Score is logged in the company’s CRM and is visible to everyone.
How would IPSM work? Every prospect would start with one hundred points. For each attribute of a prospect that does not match your company’s ICP, deduct one point. As the sales team conducts further research on the prospect, for example updating the number of employee or adding a title or role, attribute points would be added or subtracted from the IPSM Score.
For each attribute of a prospect that matches that of the ICP gets a point. Add up – rather than subtract – all the points to determine if a prospect exceeds the threshold where active prospecting could begin. Attributes can consist of characteristics drawn from the company and the person to be prospected.
If these attributes for companies match the ICP they are a plus one or a minus one if they do not:
- Number of employees
- Sector, i.e., private, government, education
- Age, i.e., startup, growth, mature, declining
These attributes for people match the ideal persona profile are a plus one or a minus one if they do not:
- Title or Role
- Time in Position
- LinkedIn Presence
And other considerations can include (primarily applies to inbound leads) and could be a plus or minus:
- Name, i.e., not Nonof Urbiznez
- Branded email domain, i.e., not yahoo.com or gmail.com, and not email@example.com
- Phone number, i.e., not 123-456-7890 or 800-555-1212
Once outreach is started, each time the sales team reaches out to the prospect and fails to connect, get a response, connect socially, deduct one point. But make a connection, get a response, exchange a message in a social channel, add one point.
These actions for prospects are a minus one:
- If a BDR leaves a voicemail, minus one point
- If a BDR sends an email, minus one point
- If a BDR engages with social media, minus one point
- If a BDR sends a text message, minus one point
These actions for prospects are a plus one:
- If a BDR reaches a prospect when placing a call, plus one point
- If a BDR receives a call back from a prospect, plus one point
- If a BDR receives a reply from a prospect, plus one point
- If a BDR connects with a prospect in a social channel, plus one point
And so on and so forth for all the possible actions that a BDR might take (minus one point) and all the possible responses from prospects (plus one point). Should a prospect reach zero points (or some other preset threshold), then they are done, no further outreach should be undertaken. Higher thresholds could apply and determine what sales motions might be applied next, for example, a prospect dips below 50 points, they are quickly and automatically moved to a slow drip nurture campaign.
By modeling past customer attributes and actions, you can quickly determine thresholds at which you might take automated action to move prospects to unresponsive or nurture status until such time that they self-resurrect based on their interests and actions.
No matter how good your targeting is, being ghosted is more about timing than anything else. Assuming you have done your best with your outbound targeting, it is more likely bad timing and not about a bad fit for your product or service.
Be Prepared to Be Ghosted
Even with simple or complex prospect scoring algorithms, you can still be ghosted before you even initiate that first outbound call or send that introductory email. Today’s smartphones can defeat you before you even dial a valid phone number. If you are not in a prospect’s contact list, your call is already likely to be silenced and sent directly to voicemail. Same holds true for email addresses, not a trusted domain then off to the spam folder your email will go.
Prospects have (nay, we all have) become highly skilled at applying technology filters to redirect your unwanted calls and emails to voicemail and email holding cells. And what goes into those holding cells is likely never to see that light of day again. With a simple swipe your call, your voicemail, your text, and your email are banished once and for all.
You are not the only company offering prospects solutions. How many solicitations do you think your prospect receives every day? More than you realize. These solicitations overlap and compete for your prospect’s attention. In the end breaking through the noise is a tricky thing to do.
You must demonstrate value on the very first attempt to reach a prospect. Failure to provide relevant insights are likely to result in the prospect pushing you away.
Stop Ghosting Before It Starts
Alter the way you communicate with your prospects. Sales success means prioritizing solving the prospect’s pain over your gain. Target your prospects with messages that focus on their goals otherwise your messages are likely to be considered a nuisance at best and spam at the worst. Do not underestimate the value of relevant personalized communications over generic marketing messaging right from the first touchpoint.
Stop Being Ghosted During Outreach to a Prospect
While actively scoring prospects before initiating outreach, to avoid being ghosted before you begin outreach you will need to:
- Personalize your outreach, connect with the right people
- Expand your outreach and go wide with more than one contact at the company
- Standout in the inbox with compelling subject lines and strong calls to actions within
- Hail on all frequencies (multichannel) using calls, emails, texts, social media, and snail mail
- Use strong concise calls to action upon connection, in voicemails, in emails, and with texts
- Never assume that unresponsive is because of business, it could be for personal reasons
It will always be a challenge to break through the clutter and capture the attention of your prospects. Once you have that attention, be sure to use it wisely. And if you find that you IPSM scores are dropping and dropping quickly, ensure that you are demonstrating value with relevant insights instead of employing lame tactics that will push prospects further away. Remember, ninety-nine percent of the time it is not you, it is the prospect. They do not have the budget, no authority to purchase, no need for the solution, and it is not the right time.
Use a strong qualification framework such as BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing). Incorporate BANT into your IPSM score algorithm. If a prospect fails to meet one or more BANT criteria that should drop their IPSM score dramatically, even to zero if the prospect meets none of the criteria.
Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
Use SMART Research to uncover facts and fodder alike for personalization that shows your prospects you know who they are. Speak their language and use their jargon. Connect in the channels they use which may not be limited to only phone, email, chat, or text. Consider using traditional approaches like sending a letter, writing a handwritten note, or even a post card or greeting card. Be where the prospects are, whether that be groups on LinkedIn, trade shows, or conventions. Subscribe to and read their industry trade magazines. Follow their posts on forums and skillfully like, comment and reshare.
Know your prospect and their pains better than they know themselves. SMART Research is an acronym to help you remember the wealth of information that is available to you online and offline.
- S – Source information about the Prospect (Company Website, LinkedIn, Glass Door, etc.)
- M – Mutual Connections – Identifying common connections to build trust and spark conversation
- A – Authority – Confirm this is the best target (CEO, CFO, CTO, CIO, CRO, CMO, CPO)
- R – Research Internally – Has there been past engagement with the Prospect
- T – Trigger Events (Hiring surges, investment news, mergers or acquisitions, office openings)
Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks to which he responded, “Because that’s where the money is.” When asked why you are scouring company websites, joining industry groups, roaming trade shows, or browsing industry magazines, your answer should be “Because that’s where the prospects are.”
Do not Give Up
No matter what, do not give up. Never assume that your prospects have been abducted by aliens and that their interstellar internet service is down. It is easier than ever for prospects to ghost you than it is for them to say no. Saying no requires the courage to deliver a rejection, and no one likes to do that. Ghosting is effortless and (relatively) painless, for both parties.
When prospects do not return your calls, do not respond to your emails, have gone dark on social media, ignore your text messages, remember, it is about them, not about you. Check your fragile sales ego and emotions at the door. Prospecting is like fishing. You are throwing a line in the water with what you think is good bait. Somedays the fish just are not taking the bait. Having a good prospect scoring algorithm should enable you to pursue the best fish in an ocean of prospects.
About the Author
Stephen Howell is a multifaceted expert with a wealth of experience in technology, business management, and development. He is the innovative mind behind the cutting-edge Chatbot ChatGPT plugin for WordPress. Utilizing the robust capabilities of OpenAI's API, this conversational chatbot can dramatically enhance your website's user engagement. Visit Chatbot ChatGPT to explore how to elevate your visitors' experience, and stay connected with his latest advancements and offerings in the WordPress community.