Ad Sales Life

Stop getting ghosted by your clients

Sound strategies and advance planning keeps advertisers engaged after the sales call


Ghosting is a relatively new term that describes a phenomenon familiar to most salespeople, especially those of us in advertising sales. To “ghost” someone is to abruptly cut off contact, with no warning nor explanation.

Every ad salesperson encounters this from time to time when a client suddenly gives you “the silent treatment.” Despite best efforts to connect, the client is inexplicably unresponsive. The challenge is to keep the client engaged, especially after a sales call. I’ve discovered some strategies that help keep the lines of communication open.

STRATEGY: Manage expectations

At the beginning and end of every sales call, be clear about expectations for the meeting and plans for follow-up. For example, I might start the conversation with, "Thank you so much for your time today. Here are some things I hope we might discuss, and at the end of our conversation, I’d love to set up a follow-up plan.”

In other words, begin your sales calls by setting yourself up for success.

STRATEGY: Own the follow-up

After you lay out the expectations for the follow-up, follow through on them. Often, salespeople take a passive approach, expecting the advertiser to reach out and make the follow-up call. A proactive approach is better. You remain in control, and a client may be grateful for your initiative.

 For example, I might finish a sales call and send out a calendar invite for a quick follow-up call or virtual meeting. That way, when the meeting appears on the advertiser’s calendar, it’s just a short commitment and less likely to be canceled.

STRATEGY: Be accommodating

We have so many ways to communicate today. Though my preference is always a face-to-face meeting or a phone call, advertising clients may prefer other contact methods. It's essential to ask the client how they'd like you to follow up — a drop-by or scheduled appointment, video conference, phone call, email or text. Texting is increasingly popular, and you may have clients who prefer to communicate this way. Still, given the personal nature of texting, it's important to get permission before sending a text.

Clients are slowly becoming more comfortable with face-to-face meetings, but as someone who survived COVID-19 (and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy), it's important to be safe and make the client feel comfortable. I’m finding that most advertisers I work with are okay with face-to-face meetings.

In-person meetings tend to be more effective than virtual meetings, and we know virtual meetings are better than phone calls. But the goal is the same — to get in front of your advertisers. Having face-to-face time, or as close to that experience as possible, is essential to being a successful salesperson. It’s also harder to “ghost” someone with whom you’ve had a face-to-face conversation and developed a relationship.

STRATEGY: Invite feedback

If you feel that a client is reluctant or has reservations about a follow-up, invite feedback. For example, you might suggest, "If you think this is a marketing idea that interests you, I think it's worthy of a follow-up, but if you feel it's not a good fit, please let me know. My goal here is to help and not waste your time."

STRATEGY: Maximize every minute

Be prepared to present ideas on the spot. Go into every call armed with a proposal filled with great ideas. Too often, salespeople make the mistake of waiting to create a proposal until after the meeting, convinced they can't create one until they know the advertiser's needs. With a bit of advanced homework, an ad salesperson can research the advertiser’s past ad buys, news or new products coming to market, and other insight that allows the salesperson to create an informed, relevant proposal. While on the sales call, you can tweak the finer points to fit the advertiser's needs better, but a proposal gives you a foundation to build upon; from there, you can offer options and discuss possibilities.

If you leave a sales call and then have to create a proposal, it’s an invitation to be ghosted.

STRATEGY: Be prepared

If you're a regular reader of my column, you know that I'm all about having an organized plan of attack for sales calls and follow-up expectations. I like to be a bit unorthodox at times because breaking up failure patterns is vital to success. So it's essential to be prepared and to be agile.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” In the field of advertising sales, ghosting happens, but planning ahead with these strategies will ensure that it’s less likely to happen to you.

Ryan Dohrn is a 30-year veteran media sales, professional and marketer.  He is an Emmy Award-winning motivational speaker and is a sales coach to more than 200 media companies. Find him at


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