Merriam-Webster recently added 370 new words to its dictionary. While it’s too early to know how many will be added in the next revision, I’d hazard a guess that “ghosted” and “snowplowed” will be among them.
Some people might not have heard these terms. If you are a marketer or a seller, it’s likely you have encountered them far too often lately.
Ghosted: Borrowed from an online dating experience, in the B2B world being ghosted is what happens after you have been in conversation with a prospect. They’ve acknowledged that your product or service fits with the need they are looking to address, their responses to calls, texts or emails have come quickly, no objections remain, and then – poof! They are gone. Vanished into thin air. It’s as if they never existed.
After a recent encounter, I went so far as to check the internet for the prospect’s name in accident reports or obituaries. Like that person who you thought was your soulmate suddenly disappears, when a B2B prospect ghosts you, the relationship is over.
My guess is that with all the virtual selling we’ve been doing lately, relationships are just not as personal or as committed between a seller and a buyer as they were before, so it’s easier to violate good manners and just disappear. Or maybe sellers have been using the “don’t worry about wasting my time” argument to overcome objections to holding a meeting so often that buyers are now taking them literally. Who knows?
Snowplowed: The perfect visual metaphor, being snowplowed is when the selling conversation is moving along well, but instead of disappearing, the purchasing decision is pushed into the next time period – next month, next quarter, or next year. Projects have slipped since the construction of the Tower of Babel, but snowplowing seems to have increased over the last few months in my experience.
Likely driven by the state of the economy, everyone’s budget is apparently tied to the previous month’s financial results. Or, perhaps, it’s a sign of murky or shifting corporate priorities – not really knowing what is most important in the buyer’s business and the sequence in which they should be addressed.
Personally, I think both phenomena are partially the result of all the cumulative stress humans have been under the last four years. Just dealing with life has fully loaded our minds; while we want to make decisions, we just can’t. Any concern from management becomes a reason to stop. Any task we don’t need to do, we just drop. And the email that says “we’ve decided not to move forward” just drains too much of from our diminished capacity.
Whatever the reasons, what can marketers and sellers do? My experience points to two areas to refocus your efforts: qualification and value exploration.
Every organization should have a short list of attributes that marketers and sellers use to understand how likely the person you’re working with is to complete the sale. Most organizations call these attributes “qualifiers,” and, frankly while this is a selling 101 principle, it amazes me how often it’s ignored.
When someone responds warmly to our efforts, whether completing a form on our website or being willing to take a meeting, marketers and sellers fear upsetting them by asking questions – such as, how are decisions made in the organization, who is involved in the final decision and what is driving the need today instead of last quarter or next quarter?
Without a full understanding of the prospect’s situation – and yes, sometimes it makes a person uncomfortable to ask for this information – there is no true way of knowing how ready your lead is to buy. And the likelihood of being snowplowed increases. If the buyer has no compelling reason for your product or service right now, management will find another project that does have that compelling reason and it will get the budget.
It may be OK to tell a prospect not to worry about wasting your time, but it’s something totally different for you to waste your own time by not properly qualifying.
At the same time, there might be many priorities chasing budgets in your prospect’s organization, and all with positive returns. I remember one IT manager telling me, “If I bought everything with positive return on investment, I’d go broke!”
As marketers and sellers, we must understand what the prospect wants to achieve and what its value is to the organization. As the selling conversation progresses, ask yourself: Are you leading the prospect through a series of questions to determine the real value to them of moving forward? Is the cost of the status quo so great that they are willing to incur the cost of change? Are they able to address management concerns in a way that truly matters to the organization?
If not – if they see your offering as a “nice to have” and not a “must have” – you are a candidate to be ghosted. Qualify and build value at every opportunity, and chances are you’ll only encounter ghosting and snowplowing as entries in the 2023 dictionary.
About Russ Sharer
A business leader with over 35 years of experience in B2B sales and marketing, Russ Sharer serves as Chief Sales Officer of The Brooks Group, a 45-year-old Sales and Sales Management Training organization that works with B2B sales organizations to significantly increase their results with the same amount of effort. He is co-author of Agile and Resilient: Sales Leadership for the New Normal.
Prior to his role at The Brooks Group, Russ was the founder and principal of Sharer & Associates, a professional consultancy that worked with Executives, Sales, and Marketing leaders. His career includes 3 successful start-ups in networking and communications, as well as senior level positions at Ericsson, Xircom and Rockwell International. He has worked extensively in North America, Europe and Asia. Russ has also been involved with eight successful M&A efforts.
You can contact or learn more about Russ at @russsharer or linkedin.com/in/russsharer