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Sales and Ghosting: Why You Should Never Try to Guess What’s Going On in Someone’s Life

My Houston-based colleague, Catherine Brown, posted on LinkedIn about her regular Friday subject recently - follow-up Fridays as she calls them.

Her post really got me thinking that, no matter how well you think you know a customer, you never quite know what’s going on in their life.

So, let me tell you about Mark, Managing Director of an IT Services company that I was discussing a sales turnaround proposal with. We had met a couple of times and spoken several times more over the phone and there seemed no resistance or hesitation in taking my calls or replying to messages.

After a while though, Mark failed to respond to my messages.

He started to ignore my phone calls, allowing them to go to voicemail and I worried “aha, he’s ghosting me.” (I don’t like that expression but bear with me).

I started to speculate:

❌ He’s talking to a competitor about this deal.

❌ “I’ve said or I've done something wrong”

❌ “I’ve failed to do something”

❌ I’m way too expensive and priced myself out of this opportunity

❌ I need to discount the deal to get his attention

Have you noticed there's far too much "I" going on?

I haven’t mentioned “he” or “prospect” or “opportunity” much at all so far.

I was focused way too much on me, on my thoughts and actions; not on Mark and the needs of his company or his sales team's needs.

When, eventually, he did respond to 1 of my messages, he suggested meeting for coffee and to “catch up”

I arrived early at the cafe and ordered my usual black Americano plus David’s usual - an extra hot, skinny latte - in order to save precious time queuing. It was, after all, a very popular cafe and I'm a very busy person.

Anyway, eventually, Mark arrived for our appointment  - 10 minutes late - and as he sat down and caught his breath, apologised for his lateness and said:

“So sorry I’m late and for not responding to your messages but my wife recently started chemotherapy and our lives are upside down right now…”

Chemo. Wow. Makes you think, doesn’t it… 😔

Mark, quite rightly, was focused on family and on his wife getting better. And, frankly, my need to speak with him is just that: my need.

You never quite know what's going on in someone else's life, so don't guess and certainly don't assume the worst.

My Top 3 tips to Reach Your Key Contacts

  1. Send a test message eg "Hi Mark, gently looking to check-in with you but sounds like you're busy on other projects, when would you suggest making contact again please?

  2. Do you know any of their direct reports or do they have an assistant? It's worth checking in with these people who could give you vital additional context and maybe, if there's a trusting relationship there, you could have them forward a message.

  3. Send a hand written note asking if everything's ok? Receiving a hand written note is unusual these days but is an effective way of standing out and cutting through the noise of everyone else that's trying to make contact with your prospect - including your competition!

  4. Have enough in your sales pipeline so that you're not just depending on 1 deal to come through for you. If, after all the above, you still can't get a response, move on and progress the other deals in your pipeline.

At Sales Marvel, we love big, hairy, sales challenges!

If your sales team aren't getting through to your prospective customers, we may be able to help.


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