When it comes to rejection as a business owner, two things are true.
First, I don’t think I’m blowing anyone’s mind when I say that, as business owners, we need to become very comfortable with rejection. We know we won’t convert every single prospect we encounter over the lifetime of our brands into a client, because that’s statistically impossible!
Second, even with that intellectual understanding, rejection sucks.
It sucks when you think you’ve really clicked with a potential client; you both were vibing throughout your conversations, you felt that happy warmth in your gut that told you this is a match made in independent business heaven, and you were ready to move onto the next step in your sales process of making it official — but then you never heard from them again.
🔎 Related: Why you keep attracting bad clients (+ what to do about it)
“Was it something I said?”
“What did I do wrong?”
“Am I not cut out for this?”
If you’ve ever been in a situation like this, I want you to smash the brakes on your Shame Parade of One and understand we have another “two things are true” situation on our hands.
First, you are cut out for this, and you didn’t exactly do anything wrong in your sales process.
Second, while you will encounter some prospect situations where even performing literal magic before their eyes won’t win them over, you have more control over how often prospects ghost you than you may realize. Moreover, there are steps you can take right now to potentially drastically decrease the number of times a prospect leaves you hanging.
Let’s talk about it.
I don’t know about you but, as someone who’s had more than a few tangos with social anxiety throughout my life, one of the last things I want to do is annoy anyone. Even when I know reaching out to someone is totally OK, there’s this little negative gremlin in my head that says, “Don’t be a nag, Natalie!”
Although it’s still a work in progress, I’ve gotten better over the years at not listening to this gremlin as much. However, if you relate to that, you need to be aware this unfortunate way of thinking can leak into our businesses.
We sit down to write that follow-up email to a potential client who’s gone strangely silent, and then we hesitate …
“I don’t want to be annoying.”
“I don’t want to be an inconvenience.”
“I don’t want to seem desperate.”
“I don’t want to be a nag if they’re not ready.”
“Take a hint, they didn’t follow up because they don’t want to work with you!”
Early on in my wedding photography business, when I thought about reaching out to a prospect when I didn’t hear back from them, this is often where my mind went. Today, I still hear these same concerns echoed in the conversations I have with service-based business owners (particularly women) about their prospect follow-up fears.
🔎 Related: How to set client expectations in the instant gratification era
That’s why your first step in addressing any sort of ghosting prospect issue in your sales process is to shift your mindset away from, “They’re going to think I’m a desperate nag,” to “Following up is a natural part of the sales process, and I need to do so … often.”
HoneyBook CMO Dan Visnick asked this question a few years ago, in his first meeting with our team after the community I co-founded was acquired. Dan is an exceptionally accomplished marketing leader, so I was more than a little nervous going into this conversation.
Then he asked that question:
“Do you know how many swings on average it takes a Major League baseball player to hit a home run?”
Of all the questions he could have asked … let’s just say I didn’t have this one on my BINGO card. I don’t think anyone did. So, when no one answered, Dan said something that completely rocked my business world:
“The number isn’t actually the important part…It’s the fact that you can’t hit a home run without swinging the bat. And baseball players who get a hit three out of ten at bats are extremely successful. Of those that they hit, only a fraction of them make it all the way to the stands. It takes a lot of at-bats to hit even a single home run.”
He shared this with us to establish psychological safety around what became a weekly practice known as “The Batter’s Box,” where members of our team share their new ideas, tests they’re running, or mistakes they’ve made along the way (and what they’ve learned).
But this way of thinking is also critically important to selling.
🔎 Related: How to respond to requests to discount or work for free (+ examples)
If you’re relying on one proverbial swing in your sales follow-up strategy to land you the home run, you’re setting yourself up to feel those pangs of disappointment and unworthiness.
You need to follow-up.
In fact, according to research from Brevet, you likely need to follow-up way more than you think you do:
Now, before you start worrying these stats are telling you to wear down prospects in your sales process until they finally submit to becoming clients, you need to remember our little psychology friend, the Spotlight Effect …
As humans, we sometimes forget that while we are undoubtedly the center of our own universes, we’re not the center of everyone else’s.
Enter stage left, a psychological phenomena called the spotlight effect, which is an annoying little cognitive bias that leads us to believe people are thinking about us and noticing us (and our blunders) way more than they actually are. For example, if you’ve ever done or said something embarrassing in front of others, research from Tom Gilovich found you’ll likely grossly overestimate how many people noticed.
That’s right, no matter how many times you replay what happened in your mind — likely with your face pressed up against the shower wall wondering why you are the way you are (or is that just me?) — odds are most people didn’t notice. Or, if they did, they didn’t care as much (or for as long) as you think.
So, why did a prospect not get back to you? They may have forgotten.
And will they think you’re annoying for following up? Definitely not!
Your prospects will never judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. Heck, they may be thankful for the reminder when you bump yourself to the top of their inbox. And if they aren’t, that’s more of a “them” problem.
If you missed the latest clientflow research from HoneyBook (in partnership with Visa), this next juicy morsel of data goodness is for you. We surveyed 1,500 consumers (who spent between $500 and $30,000 on services in the past six months), and what they said about how they make choices between vendors was mind-blowing.
86% of buyers said that a quick response was the determining factor in which vendor they ultimately chose. In many cases, a prospect went with the vendor who replied first.
🔎 Related: Clientflow for independent business owners in 2023 (new data!)
If you’re feeling in any way “iffy” around your prospect follow-up process, now is the time to address it. You may not be hearing from prospects who actually would have loved to work with you … it just took too long to hear from you.
Here’s how you can get started:
Seriously, in this instant gratification era we live in, speed counts big-time … especially in the sales process!
For those of you who are camera shy (hello, also me!), don’t scroll past this! It’s time to get in front of the camera, because one of the most powerful ways you can transform your sales process is with video.
If you don’t believe me, check out this research from Vidyard and Proposify:
If you’re looking for a way to be an independent business David who can sell like a Goliath, integrating video into your sales process is one most effective strategies you can adopt.
It’s also a lot easier than you might think!
One of my local friends, Liz Murphy, is a content strategist and the owner of an independent business, Buona Volpe, a content therapy practice for purpose-driven brands and visionaries. When I asked her about using video in her sales process, Liz was raving in seconds.
“Look, I’m not the biggest fan of seeing myself on camera, but video is so impactful in my sales process (and easy to do) that I don’t care,” she shared.
Liz doesn’t have a fancy filming setup in her home (the HQ for her company).
Instead, she fires up her webcam and shoots personalized videos with a Google Chrome extension called Loom on the fly. Here’s an example of one she created for a prospect recently:
Liz then directly embedded the video into an email to her prospect directly through HoneyBook, so she could keep her client communication flowing seamlessly through the platform:
According to Liz, absolutely.
By adding that there’s a video in the subject line, she’s seen a marked increase in prospects opening her emails. On top of that, embedding the animated GIF of the video thumbnail in the email (possible with a single click with platforms like Loom and Vidyard) — as well as the length of the video in the body of the email (short and sweet!) — her prospects are more likely to engage with the email and reply.
“I guess I could say video has empowered me to close tens of thousands of dollars in business I might not have otherwise,” Liz said.
“But honestly, that total is incalculable. Video makes it easier for a prospect to trust you as a human faster — something that is even more important today than it’s ever been. The quicker you can make a truly human connection with a potential client, the more likely it is they’ll sign on with you instead of someone else.”
Yes, you can quickly minimize your chances of becoming haunted by ghosts of prospects past by shifting your mindset, speeding up your communications practices, and bear-hugging video into your sales process.
But if you remember nothing else from this article, let it be this:
The more you go out of your way to educate, the more you’ll sell.
One of my other favorite little nuggets from HoneyBook’s recent clientflow report is that your prospects overwhelmingly say the research and information gathering stage is the most important when it comes to making a purchasing decision.
That means you need to make it easy for prospects to understand who you are, what you do, who you serve, what it’s like to work with you, your pricing, and so on. I know this kind of radical transparency may feel scary at first, but it’s so critically important for your success as a business owner.
⚡ Big news: Gutsy by Natalie Franke (my 2nd book!) now available for preorder
Your prospects want more information and more control over the sales process than ever before, and trust is one the most important factors in how many of your buyers are making their choices.
The most efficient way to build trust is through proactive transparency and education; and the quickest way to erode trust is to make it hard for buyers to find the information they seek … or worse, make it seem as if you have something to hide. Then it won’t matter how many times or how quickly you follow up. A competitor who is more open will likely win that client’s business.
When you make it easy to trust you, you’ll make it crazy easy for those potential clients to say “Yes!” to you.
© 2023 Natalie Franke