Almost anyone in sales knows what it means to be ghosted. You have a series of interactions with a client and everything is going well, and then they vanish into thin air, like a ghost. Poof. Emails and calls don’t get returned. This is often something that happens in the final phase of prospecting, when a verbal agreement was made, a contract or proposal was sent to the client, only to have them go full “witness protection program” on you.

Frustrating to say the least. During sales training sessions, reps will often ask me how to handle those situations. While I do have some tactics to attempt to re-engage a ghost, proper “ghostbusting” actually occurs as a preemptive practice, not a reactionary one. As tempting as it is to go full “bunny boiler” mode on someone ghosting you, you need to do the work in advance.

When I was a new white belt, I would often ask my Jiu Jitsu instructor how to get out of a bad position. To my great annoyance and frustration he would always reply with, “Don’t let yourself be put into that position”. As I’ve gained experience I’ve come to understand that as a good instructor, he knew that any tips or techniques he shared about getting out of those bad positions would have me focused on what to do once I got in that position. He wanted me to focus on what to do BEFORE I got into that position first and foremost. Escaping wasn’t the priority. Avoiding the trap was. He need my brain and practice to be preemptive.

While there’s no way to completely eliminate ghosts, if you work on them before they’re ghosts, you can drastically reduce the number of hauntings.

Here’s your main ghostbusting technique:

Always….always….ALWAYS, set a next step before leaving a customer interaction. 

For example, when you agree to send someone a proposal/agreement, as part of that conversation, set a meeting 3-4 business days in the future, to review the agreement, handle questions or concerns, and make a decision. Don’t just set the meeting, set the meeting and set the expectation that a decision will be made at that meeting to punt or keep moving forward (whatever next step it may be). Sometimes that next step is signing the agreement, sometimes it’s something else like moving up to the next decision maker, procurement, whatever.  

Mine sounds something like this:

Great Sam, that sounds good. I’ll send you the proposal and agreement for you to review. You’ll probably have some questions or change requests, so let’s do this: Pop open your calendar and let’s find a time on Friday or Monday and set a quick 20 minute call. We’ll go over any questions, address any issues, and we can decide then it makes sense to move forward and start putting things in place. Sound good? Great. Does Friday or Monday work better for you?”

You’ll notice. I don’t just set a meeting. The meeting has an agenda, and part of that agenda is a DECISION. I set the expectation of a decision being made. I’ll take any decision, including asking me to take a long walk off a short pier, because a decision, any decision, is better than being ghosted.

If your pipeline is filled with ghosts, let me assure you that you are contributing to it. Be a ghostbuster. Work on not getting put in a bad position to begin with.