How to Stop Getting Ghosted By Sales Prospects

If you think your sale is in the bag, and then your prospect goes dark, you may need to check your process.

This story appears in the March 2022 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Here's a situation familiar to anyone in franchising: You (or someone in your sales team) are in touch with a potential customer. Maybe you're a franchisee trying to sell them a product. Maybe you're a franchisor trying to sell a franchise. Either way, you're in touch and the prospect seems interested — but then they disappear. You've been ghosted. And you're left asking: Why?

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I've been involved in franchising since 1994, am now a coach to franchise executives, and have seen this problem repeatedly. Here it is: You lost control of the sales process. That's an easy mistake to make, particularly given our bounty of modern communication tools. You might think that digital tools make sales easier, but it's often the opposite. Technology has shifted the control to buyers, and it allows them to drive the sales process or stop it altogether. They can find information without your help, which means they're making decisions without your guidance, and they have a plethora of tools to block or delete your follow-ups.

But all is not lost. To land the sale and avoid being ghosted, you need to build a sales process that you can control.

Related: How to Win Bigger Deals and Avoid Getting Ghosted

In many ways, this now starts before you've ever been contacted. A prospect is likely to visit your website and learn information themselves before they ever reach out to you — so don't let your site do all the selling for you. Sometimes franchisors try to stuff their site with information, which can cause people to lose interest or draw the wrong conclusions. Consider the goal of your site: It isn't to convert people on the spot; it's to encourage them to engage with you! So put just enough information on there to grab your ideal candidate's interest and drive them to
take action — often by inquiring and engaging.

Next, you need to develop a step-by-step sales process — literally everything that happens from the moment you make contact through to the final sale. Describe this process to your prospect in the very first conversation; this keeps them looking forward to learning more, reduces stress, and avoids the dreaded "process fatigue."

Here's an example: If you're trying to sell a franchise to a prospective franchisee, you might begin by having them fill out an application. But if the prospect isn't told what comes next, they may be less motivated to fill out the forms. People want to know how long things will take and what kind of progress they're making. When you give them a preview of every step along the way, you also give them a reason to stay engaged.

Related: 5 Questions to Truly Connect With Your Sales Prospects

This saves your sales team from making traditional follow-up calls — something that is likely to only annoy prospects. After all, an eager voice message is never going to land the sale. When you instead give people a compelling reason to participate in your process by showing them the benefit that they'll receive at each step, they become more of a partner with you in the process. It also allows you to better respect their time: You can keep calls between 15 and 30 minutes, which won't tire them out or make them worry about how time-consuming your process is.

And here's one final fault line: Once you lay out a process, you cannot deviate from it. No surprise twists and turns. No extra conversations. A step-by-step process is almost like an informal contract — it is the agreement you're making with your prospect about how to get to the finish line. Not everyone will get there, of course. But if you stay on track, your success rate will increase and you will waste less time chasing after deals that never close.

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