Why don't clients answer you?
If you've been working with clients for a while now, you'll probably have noticed that sometimes they don't respond to your messages or calls. They might even disappear without saying anything.
Sometimes it feels like they've dropped off the face of the earth.
And you're not even trying to sell them something. You just need an answer to a simple question.
So what's going on here? Why aren't they responding? And what can you do to get them back on track?
To prevent ghosting, you first have to understand what’s causing your client to avoid you. Let’s look at seven reasons why you might be ghosted by clients (and what to do about it).
Ghosting (noun). ghost·ing | \ ˈgō-stiŋ The act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone usually without explanation.
1. They didn't hear from you
Did you know that it takes an average of 5 touches to get someone to buy something? Feels the same about getting them to do something too.
If they don't hear from you after your first conversation, there's a good chance they'll move on. It's not personal—it's just business.
But what can you do about it?
Make sure you have a system in place so your client gets a follow up call from you as soon as possible.
And keep them in your calendar. Always have a meeting with your client scheduled for sometime in the future. Even if they ghost you between meetings, you have those placeholders to catch up.
2. They're busy
It's easy to forget that clients are human beings. They're not always available. So if they don't return your phone calls, chances are they're busy with something else.
That doesn't mean you should give up.
Instead, of reminding them of their commitment to you, send a message to ask if you can help. Let them know they're off the hook (for now). The last thing they need if they're busy is more pressure from you asking for stuff.
If they value what you provide (or will provide), they'll respond once their schedule clears up.
And if they don't, at least you know where things stand.
3. They don't need anything
As a key account manager, if you've done your job right, there's no reason for them to keep in touch.
When everything runs smoothly, your client can concentrate on things that aren't working.
Usually our clients are more important to us than we are to them
Especially if you're not a major supplier.
I once had a client who told me my category was 5% of their spend, so they only wanted to spend 5% of their time managing it.
The more you know.
It's OK for things to go well. Sometimes no news really is good news. Rebalance your communication expectations to align with your value as a supplier.
4. They've lost confidence in you
Ask yourself, "Have I been delivering my best as a key account manager?" Could it be that you've fumbled, maybe even dropped the ball? Your client may be ghosting you because they've lost confidence in you.
- Have you missed important deadlines?
- Not delivered the results you agreed?
- Been difficult to contact?
- Slow to respond to issues?
- Had disagreements?
They may feel these situations reflect your work ethic and ability to perform.
Review past interactions for clues. Where may things have gone wrong with your client relationships?
I once had a client who refused my calls and contacted my boss to say they wanted another key account manager.
After some soul searching I realised that I had missed some reports I promised. I was like, "So what," but you would have thought the world ended from their perspective.
I sent a follow-up email to my client straight away with the missing reports and it wasn't long before they had a change of heart about a new account manager.
Our relationship got back on track and they returned my phone calls.
Successfully deliver what you agreed - running into any problems? Let them know, so they'll feel like they can count on you in the future too.
5. They're not interested
Even though we hate to admit it, sometimes people just don't want to talk to us.
- They don't see the value.
- They don't have any money.
- It's too much work for them.
- They think you're too expensive.
- What they have works fine.
What other reasons can you come up with why your client isn't interested?
Once you've identified the objections, you can plan a strategy to overcome them.
You may need to approach your communication from a different angle. Or you may realise that (right now at least) what you're giving them is all they need.
6. It's bad timing
If you know your client has a lot going on, do not send them more work. That will only make their already busy life, busier.
Beyond their workload, there could be other things going on that make it a bad time to ask for stuff.
- Uncertainty from organizational changes.
- Problems with colleagues lead to stress and anxiety.
- Performance issues at work.
- Difficult boss.
- Office politics that make certain topics sensitive to discuss.
- Personal lives that spill into work and lead to distractions.
And lots more.
It could be that it's too difficult, embarrassing or confidential to talk to you.
Silence is easy.
Make a conscious effort to show more empathy. Recognize the emotional factors your client may feel and the problems they face and send messages of support.
Look for alternatives. Can you do things more simply, in less time or even with another person? You may rely on your key contact too much and risk overwhelming them.
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7. You're pushing too hard
We should never be pushy with our clients because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Your goal is to make them feel more at ease while talking to you - not less - to work together to achieve goals.
Reflect on your interactions with your clients.
- Have you pressured them or harassed them?
- Are you sending too many messages?
- Left too many voicemails?
- Have you gone over their head or behind their back to get attention on what you want done?
- Jumped into solutions without understanding the problems?
You may seem desperate. Or a bully. Or a stalker.
Not a good look.
We all have deadlines, targets, and things we need to get done. Those demands can lead us to pile pressure on our clients.
Be assertive, not aggressive. Compare these two sentences:
- Aggressive. "You need to make a decision by Friday"
- Assertive. "Can you give me a date when you'll make a decision?"
Can you see the difference?
Same message but the aggressive approach is a turn-off and may even antagonize your client. The assertive approach is decisive and encourages discussion.
Don't drown your clients in a barrage of information and requests. Take your time and focus on what your clients need and not what you can get.
Create a process to stay in touch. Contact plans and reminders ensure there's a reasonable interval between messages and that you have something useful to share when you send them.
Final word on client ghosting
Remember, it's not uncommon for a client to fall off the radar. Sometimes it's a simple as they need to take care of business. Other times, they're just not interested. Whatever the case may be, it's important to know why you get ghosted so that you can be prepared for it in the future.