It is a common problem. You’ve locked down a tentative agreement with a counterpart, and the action is supposed to take place by May 1. But it is now June 15, and nothing has happened. They’re not calling you back or responding to your emails, but you still want to close the deal. What do you do?
Ask a Proof of Life™ question.
First things first: You want to take some preventative actions to minimize the likelihood you’ll get ghosted in the first place. Most importantly, you need to ask a Proof of Life™ question which answers two subordinate questions; Is there a deal, and is it with you?
If you don’t get a robust answer to this question, you are setting your future self up to be a ghosting victim.
At a very basic level, your Proof of Life question is just some variation of the following: Why are you considering doing business with us? There is a lot of competition out there, after all. Why is this company thinking about doing business with your organization to begin with?
If you hear a comprehensive response to your Proof of Life question—in which your counterpart is essentially stating your value proposition — then you’re good to go. It is at this point that the rule of consistency is engaged. People want to be consistent in words, thoughts, and actions. They won’t tell you that your business is the greatest thing in the world and then ignore your calls.
On the flipside, when you hear anything less than substantive positive responses to your Proof of Life question, you’re probably wasting your time and may very well be ghosted later on.
Talk about implementation.
One of the main reasons sales teams get ghosted is because they don’t spend enough time talking about implementation. You can avoid this fate by asking the following types of Calibrated Questions™:
- What are the next steps?
- What should we do if we don’t hear back from you?
- What happens if we find out we’re off track, and what will we do to address it?
Based on their responses to these questions, your gut is going to tell you how firm their agreements are. Keep in mind that you might have to what and how them seven or eight times before you’ll be able to determine that the agreement is on solid ground.
Ask this question if you’re still getting ghosted.
If you’ve taken the first two pieces of advice and are still getting ghosted, there is likely some new factor that is preventing this person from engaging further.
When you find yourself in this situation, you need to stay curious. At this point, the easiest way to jumpstart a conversation is to shoot over a quick email with this subject line—Have you given up on [blank]?—and nothing in the body. Chances are high that you’ll get a response to this message within 48 hours, even if you haven’t spoken to your counterpart for three months.
Why does this question work so well? It’s simple: No one wants to look like a quitter. No one wants to have their name associated with giving up on anything—especially when they haven’t given up quite yet.
When you use this tactic, you’re going to get a response in the vast majority of instances. Of course, that doesn’t mean the response is automatically going to be something you want to hear. So, what happens when your counterpart responds in the affirmative?
In most cases, it is time to move on. Remember, losing a deal isn’t the biggest sin, but taking a long time, giving up a lot of information, and still losing is.
To be fair, asking this question is as direct as it gets. If you want to take a softer approach, you can send an email with subject lines like this: It seems like I’ve done something to offend you or It seems like I’ve failed to provide some clarity.
Ready to close the deal?
Being ghosted happens more often than you might think, but it is primarily because negotiators fail to ask Proof of Life questions and fail to discuss implementation.
Incorporate these two tactics into your toolkit, and chances are you’ll avoid being ghosted in the first place. And should you find yourself still waiting in silence, get ready to fire off that last email and you’ll find out where you stand, one way or the other, and either close the deal or move on.
Setting themselves up to be ghosted is just one mistake negotiators make. To learn more about common negotiation mistakes and how to avoid them, check this out.