Has “Busyness” Become an Excuse for a Lack of Professional Courtesy?

by Peter Bowerman on July 8, 2014

A commercial-writing coaching client of mine recently sent me this missive about the outcome of a quote she’d given a prospect for a freelance copywriting project.

I quoted, then called/left a voicemail, then emailed (waiting a few days to a week between each). The company never wrote me back. It’s frustrating because it’s so rude on their part. It’s one thing if someone asks, “How much for a blog post?” and I respond with a number, and then I never hear back, since that takes so little time.

But we exchanged several emails and had a phone call to get the project details. I may follow up again with them in a few weeks, in case something more pressing came up and they just haven’t had time. But damn! How long does it take to write back, “We decided to handle it in-house,” or something like that?

The silver lining is that, 1) I have another ballpark figure added to my internal fee schedule, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time, and, 2) it reminds me not to get my hopes up until a bid letter is signed. Trying not to be bitter :)

I felt for her… We’ve all been there. By way of commiseration, I wrote back with a story of my own…

Sorry to hear that, but afraid to say, it happens to all of us. And I agree, it’s tacky and unprofessional.

A year or so ago, met a guy at a networking function (he and I were connected, in person, by the guy whose space the event was in, and who’s a big fan of mine; my book got him started way back when, though he’d since evolved into a big creative agency).

He knew his guest (a client of his) was planning on doing a book and thought I’d be the perfect ghostwriter.

The prospect and I clicked, talked at length that night, and he definitely wanted to pursue it. We spoke by phone the following week for 30-45 minutes, and found even more common ground. We had lunch together the next week, hammered out parameters, and agreed I’d get him an estimate the next week for the first part.

I did just that, didn’t hear back for 10 days, emailed him to make sure he’d gotten it, he said he had, and that he’d get back to me soon.

And that was the last time I ever heard from him.

Two more emails and two more voicemails went unanswered. Sort of blew me away. Like you said, if it was one contact, no big deal. But that much invested? They OWE you a response.

FYI, next time I spoke to the guy who’d connected us (we were talking about something completely unrelated), I mentioned what’d happened. He was flabbergasted. Said he didn’t even know how to react.

Obviously, he was torn, embarrassed to have steered someone he thought highly of (me) to his client, only to have me treated pretty disrespectfully. To him as well, it was completely unprofessional.

So, yes, unfortunately, that’s how it turns out occasionally. It’s like “busyness” has become an excuse to dispense with common courtesy. It says, “My time is infinitely more valuable than yours.” Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned, and expect more. I can’t say for sure if it’s a younger/older thing, but maybe?

Ever had a prospect vanish without a trace after multiple calls/discussions about a project that had gotten to the quoting stage?

Did you do anything?

What did you take away from the experience for the next time?

Have you ever reacted in a more in-your-face fashion after such an incident (figuring you had nothing to lose at that point)?

Do you see it happening more with younger than older prospects, or is it universal?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy Miller July 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Boy, are you opening a can of worms, Peter. ;-) I’m sure you will get many, many stories. To answer your questions.

Ever had a prospect vanish without a trace after multiple calls/discussions about a project that had gotten to the quoting stage?
More than one. I’ll share just one story. I received an email from someone inquiring about my services. I tested the waters to see if this was a tire-kicker or serious prospect. After multiple emails, he gave me the green light to invoice for the deposit on the project so we could move forward with the project. NEVER HEARD FROM HIM AGAIN (despite several follow-ups).

Did you do anything?
After a few follow-ups, I stopped pursuing it. I hope that something didn’t happen to him (like an accident or worse). If he was simply being rude, may his business dry up. ;-)

What did you take away from the experience for the next time?
I remind myself to let it go. The issue is theirs. Like I said, I hope he (or any of the others who have gone silent) did not experience some unfortunate event. I ask myself my Miller measurement question – Is this worth the energy? So far, I have never answered Yes. ;-)

Have you ever reacted in a more in-your-face fashion after such an incident (figuring you had nothing to lose at that point)?
I can’t say that I have. I have developed a line that is pretty good in finally getting a response. I ask if they are still interested in my services or have they decided to go another route. It almost always evokes a response. It gives them an “out” and I at least get closure.

Do you see it happening more with younger than older prospects, or is it universal? My experience is this is an equal opportunity offender. Age doesn’t discriminate. A rude person is a rude person.

Peter Bowerman July 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Thanks Cathy,

Yes, I figured I’d probably be opening the floodgates with a question like this one… ;) Thanks for your detailed reply. Sounds like you’ve been through in a number of times.

And, just to be crystal clear, as noted in the story, you need to have gotten far down the path with a prospect, before they vanish, not just fielded a call from someone looking for a price and then never hearing back. Those happen all the time!

Cathy Miller July 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I sent the invoice for the deposit after the scope of services and fee had been agreed to, so this outcome really surprised me.

Peter Bowerman July 8, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Got it. My second comment (which obviously wasn’t crystal clear…), was a general one to all readers. Your situation definitely qualifies!

Ron Roberts July 8, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Recently, I created a good two page resume for free for someone I only know through Facebook. We had great communication all the way up to the day I sent him the finished resume. It was good. He supplied all the information, and I cleaned it up and modeled it after a professional resume in one of my books. I’ve never heard a word from him, again. He didn’t even acknowledge it.

Rick Middleton July 8, 2014 at 7:55 pm

It’s hard to know what is happening behind the scenes. It could be that the Creative Director loved you and wants to get started on a project, but her boss said something about a possible spending freeze and now everything is on hold. The Creative Director should give you a courtesy call and tell you that things are fuzzy right now, but sometimes they are just too embarrassed to do that, especially if they made it sound like things were a done deal when in fact they weren’t. I’ve had freelance jobs and also job offers which have been excruciatingly delayed, or even evaporated, because of the intricate red tape of large organizations. And very often they are accompanied by that confusing and frustrating silence; the person who contacted you no longer knows what to say, and so they avoid you.

Holly July 8, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Yes, I’ve had this happen. Like the person who wrote you I did appreciate the experience but outside of that I agree it’s rude and unprofessional. In the end I usually tell myself I rather not work with someone like that anyway. It spans all ages and demographics.

Jennifer Mattern July 8, 2014 at 8:16 pm

I’ve been there too. Such is life when you freelance. I can’t recall ever acting out about it. My general policy is to follow up no more than twice. After that, I kindly let them know that I can refer them to someone else if the gig is still open but they don’t feel I’m the right fit. Similar to what Cathy said, it gives them an “out.” And I’ve landed quite a few gigs later on after giving prospects referrals they were happy with. They usually appreciate that I cared enough about their needs to bother, and they remember that when their budget increases or they have a project that might be a better fit.

I disagree on one point. I think it’s overreaching to say the prospect “owed” the freelancer anything at all. A few emails and a single phone call are a far cry from any kind of entitlement.

There are a lot of legitimate reasons a prospect might not get back to you as quickly as you’d like:

- They took time off because they were ill.
- They went on vacation, or they’re busy catching up after returning.
- They left the company (not always their choice), and no one new was hired to pick up their work load and contacts yet. I’ve noticed this much more in the past few years.
- They’re still making the case to hire you to their bosses, and might not be allowed to say much until word comes down one way or the other.
- They might have been unimpressed after talking to you on the phone or meeting with you for the first time.
- They might have had concerns about your personality (maybe you gave them a reason to think you wouldn’t take bad news well, or maybe they found you to be too pushy for their taste).
- They might have gotten quotes from several people and they don’t want to respond to anyone until they’ve been able to evaluate them all. And they might not want each freelancer knowing they’re comparison shopping, so they aren’t sure what to tell you in the meantime.
- They might consider all the repeated follow-ups to be more stalker-ish than professional. I sure as heck wouldn’t respond to someone who was so impatient that they contacted me 3-4 times over a couple of weeks, which is the impression I get in the post. To me, that would cross the line into unprofessional territory.

This is just a reality of being in business. There will always be tire kickers. There will be people who don’t operate on our ideal schedules. And there will be people who simply don’t like us or want to work with us for whatever reason, whether they want to share those reasons or not. It’s our job to put on our big girl / big boy pants, get over it, and move on. It’s better to spend our time seeking other prospects who are a better fit.

Peter Bowerman July 8, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Thanks, all!

Ron, you were paid, yes? There was no mention of that… If so, then, at least you did the job and got paid. Expecting a reply (as much as, yes, they should have done so…) after you finished certainly isn’t unreasonable, but again, for a finished job that you were paid for, they really don’t owe you that…

And Jenn, thanks for your comments, as always. I guess we could debate the “OWED” part. I hear you on the first story of the woman who wrote me. I’d say, sure, it wasn’t mandatory, but it would’ve been nice. In my case, I’d say he definitely owed me (and my contact, given his reaction to the story, basically agreed).

Given that there were multiple meetings, including an in-person lunch, AND a request for a quote, I say he did owe me the courtesy of a reply.

And yes, I think as an overarching comment on all this, none of these situations are tragedies on the order of famine, war and pestilence, but it just seems to me to underscore a certain degradation of civility in the business world.

One man’s opinion!

PB

Cathy Miller July 8, 2014 at 9:23 pm

I so agree with you, Peter, on the loss of common courtesy. I do not understand how someone justifies a lack of response of some kind (unless they were hit by a Mack truck). ;-) But, as I said, the issue is theirs, and I’ll simply hang on to my courteous ways. My parents raised me that way. ;-)

Jennifer Mattern July 9, 2014 at 7:05 am

I agree that your situation was different Peter. You were at the point of having a face-to-face relationship with someone, you had a mutual contact who connected the two of you, and as you said, he’d pretty much agreed to move forward already.

There’s a big difference between that and a few emails and one phone call. And I don’t see the first situation you talked about as a courtesy issue at all on the prospect’s side.

She mentioned a quote, a call, and then an email with a few days to a week in between each. That means between three contacts less than two weeks had gone by. As someone who not only freelances but also hires plenty of freelancers, I’d be extremely put off by that. And if someone wasted my time like that due to their impatience, I wouldn’t waste any more of it responding to them.

I just don’t like the idea of assuming someone is “rude” or “uncivil” or lacking courtesy without knowing the full situation.

Exactly how much time went by between all three of those contacts? Exactly how in-depth were those emails and that initial call — what kind of a relationship actually existed at that point? The prospect is just referred to as a “company.” Who exactly was the freelancer dealing with? Was it the person making the hiring decision? Was it someone who would need to get approval on everything before getting back to her, in which case a longer response time would be perfectly normal? Was it someone who may have been suddenly let go (in which case they’d immediately lose access to their company email and voicemail, and there’s no guarantee anyone would check it promptly)?

There are so many situations that explain a lack of response over a couple of weeks. Things like this all matter before jumping to conclusions or passing judgment or assuming the problem is necessarily on the prospect’s side (or even an example of a larger issue in the business world, which might very well exist).

Bob Dixon July 9, 2014 at 8:57 am

I’ve taken a pretty aggressive stance after being burned a couple of times. I had one situation where I was a bit more than halfway through a project that turned out to be more work than the client or I expected. But I had a contract. One day, they just stopped communicating with me. No retuned phone calls, no responses to my emails. Frustrating, because I had worked with the person who initially contacted me about the project several times. So I billed them for the balance of the contract. I’m still waiting for a check or a response. If I screwed something up, I’d like to know about that, too; I’d have offered to make it right on my own nickel, of course. I do a lot of work for an IT consulting firm, and finding the point where an initial meeting becomes ” free consulting” can be a slippery slope. So it happens in other industries, too.

Robin Halcomb July 9, 2014 at 9:26 am

Professional courtesy appears to going the way of civil courtesy. That being said, this sounds like a situation where you just thank the Lord for unanswered prayers and say to yourself, “Whew! I’m glad I don’t have to deal with him as an actual client.”

In my other life in B2B sales, one thing that you watched out for was the ” prospect” who was always calling for quotes, but never buying. What they were doing, of course, was using my prices to beat down their regular supplier. Needless to say, after the second or third time that happened, I had a lot of fun supplying outrageous pricing just to hear them sputter and protest.

I was starting to think that had happened on a recent series of emails that resulted in sending a quote, followed by dead silence for over a week. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case this time, and I got the project!

Good times.

Melissa Breau (@MelissaBreau) July 9, 2014 at 9:33 am

Unfortunately, I think this kind of thing is just part of being in the business. In fact, I’ve got a form letter for this type of situation (based on one from Win Without Pitching — shared here:http://www.winwithoutpitching.com/make-money-today) that basically says “I haven’t heard back from you on [project/opportunity] so I’m going to assume you’ve gone in a different direction or your priorities have changed. Let me know if we can be of assistance in the future.”

I feel like even if the prospect was unprofessional and uncourteous at least I know *I* did things right.

Lori July 15, 2014 at 8:40 am

It’s happened so much it had started to erode my confidence early in the career. Now I realize it’s just rude people who don’t know how to act professionally.

I had a situation slightly worse. We’d talked several times on the phone and in email. In the last call, he asked my rate. I told him. He said, “Well, I need a proposal to present” and went through the parameters. I provided it within 24 hours.

Silence. Four days of utter silence.

So I wrote back. I asked if he’d received the proposal and if he had questions. His response: “No questions. Good luck to you. Your pricing is outrageous.”

Huh? He knew the price before I wrote the proposal.

If this had been my first time at the rodeo, I’d have taken that hard. As it was, it was unsettling that someone would act like such an ass (calling it as I see it) in a professional setting. What’s wrong with saying “Your price is well above what we can afford”?

I had one prospect disappear the second I sent her the contract. Up to that point, we’d discussed projects and she’d sent me something and said “What can you do with this?”

That, to me, signals a contract moment. I sent it. Nothing. I followed up. Twice. Nothing.

I made note of it on my spreadsheet and I moved on. I still send her emails every three to six months (it’s been almost two years) and she’s still not responded. But I don’t write her off entirely. I had a client who didn’t respond for eight months. When she did, she hired me and increased my income that year by $23K.

You just never know.

What I take away from these experiences is that not everyone can afford a writer, nor do they necessarily know how to work with us, or if they even want to. I’ve learned to pay attention to the vibes and the underlying tone of their notes and conversations. And I trust my instincts. If they’re getting all weird or quiet and I’m feeling the invisible wall, I let go and move on.

Have I reacted in an in-your-face fashion? I have once or twice, but only when the client did the opposite – argued. I had one case where the editor wanted to hire me, but as he talked, things started feeling weird. He wanted to pay me for only the words he ended up publishing (and he wanted $2K words each time). Also, he “rounded down” the payment to the nearest ten dollar increment. Huh? And when I said, “I’d feel much more comfortable if we could put this all in writing” he refused, saying in all his years of publishing (eight) no one has ever not trusted him.

Red flag number 30 or so (I’d lost count at that point). So I spoke up — I told him in all my years in the publishing business (fifteen), I’d never had anyone A) round down, and B) refuse a contract in which he himself could define the terms.

I don’t see it happening with any particular age group, but in general people are busier and they use it as an excuse to forego common courtesy. I have to say I’m somewhat guilty myself. When I was senior editor, I would get slews of emails from PR contacts offering their experts for this or that article. When the emails per story exceeded 10, I just couldn’t keep up. These days, though, I make sure to thank them for the effort.

Daryl July 17, 2014 at 10:20 am

One potential client contacted ME after seeing one of my guest blog posts.

He was the owner of a home improvement related business, and wanted content for his blog.

I told him sure, sent him some ideas. We emailed back and forth about 3 times on the specifics of what he wanted (blog posts and a step by step guide) all of which fit in the price range that he had outlined.

Then suddenly

Silence.

Never heard back from him, despite two follow up emails immediately after, and one follow up email some time later.

You win some and you lose some.

Peter Bowerman July 19, 2014 at 8:17 am

Great stuff everyone! (Sorry for the delay in responding, but I’m on vacation and trying not to work that much… :-)

Jenn, you make some great points about the number of contacts she made after submitting the quote. I’ve certainly been there, and wanted to get some resolution – one way or the other – but I can understand, from a client’s point of view, that that kind of impatiens could be a turnoff.

And, I still say that, given that they’d exchanged several emails and had a phone conversation, and the client requested a quote, yet the common-courtesy thing to do on their part, would have been to reply in some form or fashion. But, as we all know, what we think is right, and what usually happens, are often two very different things.

Thanks, Lori, for that very useful and instructive tale. Plenty of lessons there. As for his “outrageous” comment about your pricing, yeah, early on, that can rock you back on your heels a bit. But after a while, as we all come to realize, there are clients at every fee threshold.

In his case, he was obviously used to dealing with writers who didn’t mind giving it away. Fine. Plenty of those out there for him to work with, and maybe, just maybe, one day, he’ll realize that there’s a big difference between different kinds of writers, and that paying more for a good one will give him a return far greater than the amount he invested.

But, in the meantime, we just move on.

Thanks Daryl, for your story. Yeah, who knows what happened there? But again, as all these stories illustrate, it’s a pretty common tale.

Anyone else?

William Reynolds July 23, 2014 at 11:38 am

One of the unfortunate side-effects of self-employment is the necessity to grow a bit cynical about human nature, especially where business transactions are involved. These days I take very few inquiries seriously unless I actually see money arrive. I give away the initial consultation as a gesture of good will and an opportunity to network; I may even follow up with a phone call or email. Then I move on.

It’s true that some folks simply don’t value writers enough to interact with them as professional peers. That said, I’ve learned to be careful about jumping to conclusions. One of my regular blog clients went silent on me for a long time — and when I finally called the guy’s office to find out what was going on, someone working there told me that he’d died. So THAT’s a reasonable excuse for the cold shoulder. But listen, clients: If you can fog a mirror, either return my inquiries promptly (as one would hope you do when someone “important” calls) or don’t contact me in the first place. I’ve got stuff to do.

Woody Quinones July 27, 2014 at 12:14 am

Peter,

Let me preface my comment below with this: I’ve owned and operated 5 different businesses in my lifetime all very successful. The experience teaches a business owner a lot about buyers and your billable time.

Those who do not know how to monetize their time, have it wasted. With that said my approach is below.

I keep the process simple. I chase no one. If I get an inquiry I’m very brief and I keep it brief. When I call or email them the first time and they do not respond within 72 hours, I move on.

If and when they call me back and want to know why I didn’t keep in touch I advise them, “I waited 72 hours. You did not respond back. I move on.”

Is it blunt? Yep. I get right to the point. If I want to dance I take my wife out.

Some reading this might be very shocked, but understand, you have to quickly remove time wasters at the beginning. Life is to short and if you can’t bill for your time you are not conducting business.

That’s my spin, take it or leave it. I’m still getting paid.

Mark Dungey July 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Not an isolated phenomenon to the freelancer.

While struggling financially after receiving my writing degree I applied to jobs both in and out of writing. Anything and everything was fair game; ad agencies (which continues to be a goal), content writing, book editing, all the way to service positions at a certain chain coffee shop and a high end chain grocery store.

To my dismay VERY few even acknowledged my submissions and applications. Yes, that includes the large chains where one might expect a form email. When attempting to follow up HR departments seem to make it as difficult as possible to even get an acknowledgment. That said, even when an acknowledgment IS received, one may wait, and wait, and wait….and wait until the simple rejection, in any form, is an improvement.

It may be me, but when a rejection is an improvement, something seems very wrong.

I could go on about my theory of how electronic communication and the internet has impersonalized exchanges, personal and business alike, to such an extent that people view web based correspondence as an extension of the screen on their desk–not a living, breathing, person with aspirations, goals, and feelings.

Sad for a job seeker. Sad for a person. Very sad for the business owner who’s lack of attention to such courtesy may forecast a lack of attention to their business in general. Attention to “busyness” rather than business is tantamount to saying I don’t take doing business seriously.

I understand they may be spread thin, so am I, yet I find the time to follow up and be courteous.

Michael Scully July 28, 2014 at 7:18 am

Indeed, taking care of “busy-ness” is NOT the same as “taking care of business.”

“Having a lot of things to do” is a challenge for many. Alas, the response is not always “productivity.”

Star July 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Yes–the old no-answer answer. The “I guess if you didn’t hear from us, we don’t want you” thing. I do think the younger managers and editors do not know how to buy creative services. They don’t think of another person’s time–some of them. They want bids they can compare to each other–one person gets the callback. Back when I did more commercial, I would ask how many writers are you talking to. They would say a dozen, or some ridiculous number, sometimes. That’s 11 people who can’t get their time back. Oh, well, I do go on.

Lori August 4, 2014 at 8:03 am

Oh Star, I think you’re exactly right with the “They don’t think of another person’s time” notion. How many phone calls have I sat in on — that many of us have — that go in circles, come to sort of a conclusion, but invariably end with “let’s schedule a call next week to finalize.”

Just make a decision and let me get the work done. Sheesh.

I get it, though. Having worked in offices (and having temped in some of the more buttoned-up establishments), I’ve seen people trying to stand out without sticking out. They want to be seen as making sound recommendations, brainstorming, but not blaming or saying the wrong thing that will piss off the boss and be mentioned on a review. So, they waste time.

Someone I know was part of a group that had met for a year and a half to discuss the same thing. The person who mentioned it said he just went ahead and did what he needed to do, behind the scenes and without telling anyone for fear they find out and halt the work. When they finally came to a decision, he’d already done most of the work. Good thing — they wanted results yesterday.

Martha Retallick August 5, 2014 at 7:27 pm

@MelissaBreauk, thanks for the link. I just used it as the basis for e-mails I sent to people I’ve previously contacted. While they had expressed interest in doing business, they went into hiding when I tried to follow up.

Well, one woman wrote back and she was steamed. She didn’t like the tone of my e-mail, and on and on she went.

Guess who was promptly removed from my list. She’ll never hear from me again.

As for the other people, well, if they don’t respond, off the list they go.

Peter Bowerman August 5, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Thanks everyone – great stuff!

@William – I hear you. And just to clarify… When you say, “But listen, clients: If you can fog a mirror, either return my inquiries promptly (as one would hope you do when someone “important” calls) or don’t contact me in the first place,” are you referring to when they’ve reached out to you, and you’ve replied back, and then they don’t respond?

Don’t mean to be dense, here, but I only ask because you refer to “my inquiries.” If I reach out to someone, unsolicited (i.e., a marketing call), I’m certainly happy to hear back from them, but I definitely don’t expect or demand it. Just making sure…

@Woody – I like your attitude. And all of us can see the fundamental self-respect in your comment, and that’s what it often comes down to. And, for those less experienced who might be reading, Woody’s referring to scenarios where clients have reached out to us, and we’ve replied back.

It’s never a bad idea (IMO) to keep in touch periodically with any client who’s expressed a general interest in your services, even if they don’t have any pending projects. You never know when that day will come (OR when they’ll encounter someone else who needs a writer, and they remember you because you’ve stayed in touch), and periodic investments of brief emails or 30-second voicemails over time can definitely pay dividends.

@Mark – Thanks for weighing in! And yes, it can seem mighty impersonal these days. And yet, I’m thinking (and this is a general comment, not directed to Mark specifically, but in response to some other comments here), I could be wrong, but I’m not so sure it was so much better before, with people much more personal, considerate and responsive.

But, even if it was, I do certainly have more sympathy for people, given the “overwhelm” factor these days. People simply have way too much to get done in way too short a time, and as such, only the most essential things that cross their field of vision get addressed. I say it’s less about rudeness and lack of consideration or civility, but rather…triage. And we’ve all been in that place. Sure, no fun being on the receiving end of…nothing, but, sadly, I get it.

@Star – and I get what you’re saying as well; there is less thought given to others’ time. Yet, obviously, bidding on projects IS part of our process. If we landed every gig we bid on, we probably wouldn’t be making the money we do! ;)

@Lori – Oh, yes, that’s the corporate world for you, in all its dysfunctional glory. Sheesh, if you set out to create an environment ideally designed to bring out peoples’ worst sides and least appealing qualities, you really couldn’t do a better job than much of today’s business world.

@Martha – Good luck with the prospecting. And yes, if someone’s not happy being contacted, best to let them go. That said, just a suggestion, per all the above discussion (especially about how busy people are today): just because someone doesn’t reply to your outreach (assuming it was unsolicited) isn’t a reason to take them off your list.

Many non-responders eventually turn into clients or (as noted above) end up referring others to folks like us, even if they personally haven’t worked with us. And that’ll only happen if we’re on their radar on a regular basis…

PB

Star August 6, 2014 at 10:11 am

I read a book called HEADS IN BEDS by a veteran employee at luxury hotels–they have a system–money. The people who get the service, the treats, the upgrades, the everything hold out their hands in friendship–with money in them. A brick is a hundred, a baby brick a twenty. I wish we ahd a system where we could hand over a brick and say, make it happen. But sadly, we do not. and we are back to this human relations thing again. (You do know I am kidding, I hope.)

Dennis Briskin August 13, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Dear Peter,
You can chalk it up to his rudeness or selfish inconsideration. Or something deeper and invisible.

Everyone has an unconscious mind, including your impolite prospect. Perhaps he did not respond, because he could not face, or did not know, his reasons for not closing the book deal.
Who KNOWS what went on inside him? No you, not your shared friend and probably not him.

In my 30-plus years in Silicon Valley, I have found that if the answer is “No” or the person has nothing to say to me, the response to messages of all kinds is often silence. I believe the thinking is, as you suggest, busyness; too busy to waste time saying “No.”

Demian October 9, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Of course it’s maddening. We’re professionals and we expect to be treated with the reasonable common courtesy that are a part of the “social contract” in business dealings. Alas, that is not the world we live in and is becoming increasingly less so. (The whole “decline of civility in modern life” is a whole topic in itself.)

Putting aside a prospective client’s lack of civility — along with the use of the all purpose excuse of “being busy” as a rationale for not showing common courtesy — there are just so many things going on behind the scenes that we cannot know. Other comments have addressed such things: maybe the prospect died, is sick, left the company, etc.

Other than the above, there are just so many behind the scenes political/cultural/personality issues going on that we simply cannot be privy too. Sometimes our contact person has been tasked with finding a writer, but not only are they not the decision maker, but often there has to be “buy in” from multiple people/departments within a company for them to move forward. Until they do that, we just float in limbo.

A good book on this subject is by sales trainer Sharon Drew Morgan in her book DIRTY SECRETS THAT SELLERS DON’T KNOW. It describes the challenge (and how to address) the off-line, behind the scenes internal buying process, how to mitigate and facilitate some of this dynamic to the degree which we can.

Some things are just out of our control and part of being a professional is dealing with it and moving on. As Michael Corleone said, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”

Would it be great if everyone communicated with us in a timely manner? Of course. Can we expect it? Unfortunately, no. Anymore than we can expect that people are going to use their turn indicators when making a sudden turn, clean up after their dogs, not talk loudly on their cellphone in a restaurant, not constant text while they’re having a dinner date, give up their seat to a disabled or elderly person, and so on. You get my drift.

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