I am almost never ghosted because in all my important business interactions, I follow these three simple rules:
1. Get a solid commitment.
At the end of every conversation with a contact, I obtain a specific, scheduled commitment to meet. For example, if the contact says something like “let’s touch base in next week” or “I’ll talk to my boss and get back to you,” I counter with
“Great idea! Let’s schedule a call at 2pm next Wednesday to check status and plan next steps.”
Pinning the customer down to a specific appointment 1) commits the customer to a deadline, 2) holds the customer accountable and 3) if the customer blows off the appointment, I now have an excuse to reschedule the meeting (and make multiple calls and emails) without coming off like a pest.
Why does this work? Well, it’s emotionally and psychologically easier for a customer to blow off a fuzzy commitment than a specific one. Ignoring the former makes them a mere procrastinator; ignoring the former makes them a liar.
And nobody wants to think of themselves as a liar. Which means less ghosting.
2. Document that commitment.
After each conversation, I email the customer three things:
- A summary of our meeting that documents the commitment that customer made.
- Two schedule items, one in Outlook format and the other in iCalendar format. I want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to get this into their calendar.
- A personalized reminder on the day before the meeting. It says “I’m looking forward to meeting with you tomorrow” along with some tidbit or fact that might be relevant to the discussion
Why does this work? The emails and schedule items emphasize that you’re a serious businessperson and that you take the meeting seriously. More important, you’re making it impossible for the customer to claim they “accidentally” forgot the meeting. Which means less ghosting.
3. Keep Everyone in the Loop.
Finally, if at any time a customer brings someone else from the customer’s firm into the conversation, I keep that person in the conversation.
For example, suppose my customer contact CCs an email to their boss. From that point on, I CC that boss in every important email, even if it’s in response to an email that didn’t CC the boss. Same thing with colleagues.
Why does this work? Customers are far less likely to miss an appointment if multiple people (especially their boss) know they’ve made a commitment. Plus, in the unlikely event I still get ghosted, I now have multiple points of contact to move the situation forward… without going through the ghoster.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.