You signed a new client after chatting about their big ambitions, then you get to work… You show them what you’ve made, then they request an edit. After reworking your initial presentation, they’re thrilled and are ready to scale the work. You start preparing for launch and reach out to ask a question… crickets.
Or perhaps you didn’t even get that far. When a prospective client cuts off communication with no explanation for why, it can be alarming. When a current client does it, it can feel full on defeating. Hopefully you’ve signed contracts, but if they’re ghosting after pen met paper then it's all the more reason something’s fishy.
Dictionary.com defines ghosting as ‘the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.’ It’s an ‘easy-way-out’ strategy some clients unfortunately take up as well. No longer exclusively reserved for romantic interactions, the term refers to when a prospect or client starts pulling back and mysteriously vanishes despite your best efforts.
You can’t control how others act, but you can intervene early and set proactive measures to nip ghosting in the bud before it happens.
Why prospects ghost
It helps to know why people are disappearing on you in the first place. Usually, there are two main reasons prospects vanish:
1) The timing simply isn’t right for your prospect either strategically or due to some extenuating circumstances. They may even come to this realization on the precipice of signing a contract, in which case it might be best to cut the work short and give them a grace period to return at a later date.
2) Prospects might be leaning toward one of your competitors, which should raise alarms in your agency if you determine this to be the case. It’s one thing to lose prospects or clients to poor timing or unfit solutions, but if a competitor swooped in and pulled the rug from under you then you might want to reassess your unique selling proposition.
Discerning why your prospect ghosted is the most important step in scoring them as clients. More proactively, you can also take these steps to avoid getting ghosted to begin with.
Why clients ghost
When it comes to people you’re already working with, the circumstances are different, meaning they ghost for slightly different reasons than prospects as well. You might be thinking, “why would someone who signed a contract disappear?” but it happens. The two main reasons here are:
1) You’ve made a mistake somewhere along the way. In this instance, depending on the severity of the mistake, it’s best to apologize and offer a redeeming one-time service or discount. You can use these win-back strategies to incentivize clients to return.
2) More critically, your client might not see how your solution is fitting their needs. In this instance, you may need to better demonstrate value by walking your client through some case studies or offering a small freebie that will re-energize them after you get a hold of them. You don’t want to be in selling mode, though: focus the conversation on the problems they need solved, not the services you provide.
How to never get ghosted again
The key to avoid being ghosted (beyond being inviting, approachable and fully committed to servicing your clients) is overcommunication.
Be willing to be the first to reach out and always create a pleasant climate for prospects to return to. Never be snarky and mind your tone across all communications, even if you feel like you’re in the right (which you very well might be). Avoid being accusatory, but be clear in your messaging that things need to change for work to continue.
Another suggestion: assess early on if the prospect is comfortable saying ‘no.’ Signs include regularly agreeing to calls or meets they don’t uphold, conflict avoidance and ‘yes man-ing’ half-baked statements. It's easier for people not to explain why they don’t want a service (and feedback should be a request, not an expectation), so this subtle question provides a glimpse into their general behavior while also making you seem like you’re genuinely interested in solving their problems - because you are.
Lastly, make sure to establish social proof in your agency by going through referrals. Rather than cold emailing prospects, recommendations reduce the chances of getting ghosted based on the fact that both parties have already been vetted.
It’s time to get ghostbusting
Who are you going to call when things go south? It’s ultimately up to you to lead by example and set the tone for a strong agency-client relationship.
Ineffective communication is the enemy of getting the job done and scaling your business. Look out for ghosting cues long before they come to make ghosting a thing of the past.
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