Want to stop getting ghosted by prospects? Ask more questions.
Have you ever heard from a prospect, “I will need to get this approved,” and then you never heard from them again? Most sellers have had this experience. One of our clients frequently encountered this problem, so we helped them with a question flow “script” to follow when a prospect tells them they need to get approval. Read through this flow and modify it to your business and selling situation.
Possible Opening Questions
- “Are you convinced of the value of our solution?”
- “Do you want to go forward with this proposal?”
- “If it were your decision alone, would you hire us based on this proposal?”
- “What course of action will you recommend?”
- “Will you recommend that your company hires us?”
These questions will confirm if the person telling you they need approval actually WANTS to work with you. The ‘I need approval’ line can sometimes just be a way to get rid of you because they don’t want to tell you they aren’t on board. This is almost never a price objection, really. Ask questions to get to the truth of this person’s commitment to working with you.
With these questions, either the person will give you a sense that they are on the fence or ‘no’ OR the person will be clearly and enthusiastically a ‘yes.’ Be wary of both! Don’t get ‘happy ears’ when they tell you that they fully support the approval of the proposal!
What If You Sense Hesitation?
If you sense hesitation, ask the following questions:
- “I might be off track here, but I sense hesitation. I must have missed something. Are there some boxes we left unchecked?”
- “In my experience, sometimes this sort of hesitancy is because you are either being polite and don’t want to tell me ‘no,’ or you are unsure about some particular aspect of our proposal. Can you tell me which it is?”
- “Are you really saying: ‘I am considering other options?’ Would you mind sharing what your other options might be so that we can determine whether or not we are still in the running?”
What If They Are Bought In?
If you sense unreserved support, ask the following questions:
- “What else do you need from me to be able to confidently recommend us?”
- “Do you usually get what you want when you recommend?”
How Will the Decision Be Made?
Next, get as much detail as you can about how many approvers, who they are, what the process will be, and how long it typically takes. Ask the following questions:
- “Can you please give me an idea of how your approval process works?”
- “What roles in the company get involved in directly deciding or indirectly influencing a decision like this?”
- “What are those peoples’ names?”
- After hearing that Joe the CFO has to approve it:
- “What will Joe be looking for in our proposal and your recommendation?”
- “What will his questions be?”
- “What will convince him?”
- “How can I help you be Joe’s hero?”
- “What additional information or data would help you be armed for that conversation so we arrive at the outcome you want?”
- “What will you tell him the pros and cons are of our solution?”
- “Will you be recommending us to him?”
- “Is there any chance you’d want to meet next with him present so that I can address any concerns?”
- “How long does the approval process typically take?”
What’s the Next Step?
Finally, set a next step. Your ability to do this will eliminate or substantially reduce how often you are ghosted:
- “I know we’re both really busy, so it would be great if we could put 30 minutes on the calendar now for next month (or whenever they said they’d know more about the approval outcome) to close the loop?”
Push Back Now to Avoid Being Ghosted Later
If they hesitate to set a next step with you, be bold enough to ask why:
- “It seems like you are being pretty hesitant to set a short meeting with me to tell me yes or no. I may be wrong here, but that sometimes can indicate you have some hesitation about the proposal itself. Am I off base? What’s holding you back from setting a next step with me?”
- If the hesitation continues, give permission for them to tell you no: “Is it possible that you are hesitating to set a time to tell me the outcome because you are too polite to tell me you already know the outcome is ‘no?’”
At this point, you have asked the prospect a lot of questions. If they have been open and forthright and comfortable with your questions, that’s a great sign. If the person pushes back on ‘all these questions’ or gets prickly, I recommend letting them know why they should be grateful for your determination:
- “I’m sensing you would love for me to stop asking so many questions. You might even be thinking, ‘Jeez, why won’t she stop!’ But please consider this tenacity is representative of how hard we will work to exceed your expectations! We don’t give up when it comes to helping our clients get the results they want! It may be kind of bothersome to you in this moment, but I’d ask you to consider how happy you would be to have the force of our entire team working to help you with extraordinary determination?”
Could This Have Been Prevented?
By the way, this is something you could have and ideally should have learned before submitting a proposal or quoting pricing. Ask these questions up front to save wasted time and effort:
- “We often find for work like this that multiple people are involved in making a decision like this. That can come in the form of an approval process or maybe you serving as the point person for a group of people who will be involved in the final decision. Is that the case here?”
- “To save time and cut out any possible game of “telephone,” would it be possible to set a short meeting with the collection of people involved in this decision so I can present the value of our proposal to the decision-making group and answer any concerns or questions they might raise directly?”
The best response to a price objection (or ANY objection) is generally not a statement. It’s definitely not a diatribe-style monologue about how great you or your product / service is. It’s a question.
Questions create pattern interruption in the mind of the customer. Questions reduce resistance.
If the prospect throws up an objection, and you throw up a response, it can turn combative quickly with verbal tit-for-tat. Instead, your asking questions can make the customer feel in control, which reduces buying resistance.
What questions can you ask to ensure your prospects return your calls? If your sales team could use some improvement in asking powerful, effective questions, reach out.