Please don’t ghost me
A PSA to those who do this in business… please don't. And as a call to arms for all those who have experienced a client/customer ghost you… I feel your pain.
Don’t you just hate when you go to the lengths of outlining your services, estimating a project or even putting together a formal proposal and that client or customer decides to disappear from the face of the earth? As if you’d had some lucid dream that didn’t actually happen and you’re left with a shit taste in your mouth… that’s ghosting.
If I could describe it in several words, it’s:
- and really, just a kick in the guts
So if you haven’t guessed, I really despise the behaviour.
However, I’ve come to brush it off when I experience it as part of everyday business for my design service enquiries and it comes down to one realisation I learned a little while back from Chris Do from The Futur. Where Chris says something along the lines of, a client is not your client until there is a deposit in your bank account to commence your services.
So while it may sting to not hear back from someone that has enquired, it has become less of a mental burden as I don’t tend to get excited about a project now unless I’ve had that client sign on the dotted line and paid their initial invoice to kick-off a project together.
But this still doesn’t answer why this lack of business etiquette happens in business…
So why do people ghost?
Now, I’m no psychologist (haha here we go), but really I think we could all safely assume some of the reasons why an individual would completely disappear after engaging with you to enquire about your services. After all, ghosting is closely covered on business ethics. If it isn’t, it damn well should be!
Anywhooo… let’s list out some reasons why people ghost:
- Your price is too high
- They are shopping around
- They found someone cheaper
- They found someone better skilled
- The project is now not as important since seeing what that idea will actually cost to execute
- You weren’t as professional as they were looking for
- You sounded like a risky option
- You seem inexperienced
- You were too experienced…you’d be surprised
- They didn’t like your personality
- You didn’t have a big enough social media following… I can’t believe this actually happens, but it’s so very true
- They didn’t like your approach or process to achieve their goal
- They didn’t feel like you quite understood what they were looking for
Those were the reasons I think people ghost, but psychologically, why do we not even get the courtesy of a simple reply via text message, email, phone call, social media DM or even carrier pigeon?
Without the Dr. Frank title to my name, I suspect it’s a few of these factors:
- They don’t value your time
- They don’t have the time to reply
- They forgot to reply…let’s give them the benefit of the doubt with that one.
- They don’t want to have the awkward conversation of saying no and being talked out of ‘no’ as they fear pushy sales tactics due to previous experiences.
- They don’t want to hurt your feelings
- They have too much pride in themselves and they don’t want to look cheap, as you’re way beyond their budget
- They were looking for something specific but didn’t want to have to explain themselves again
- They don’t want to have to justify their decision
The list probably could go on, but I think those cover a few bases.
Here’s the thing. If you’re reading this and you are a business owner who enquires about my services as a designer, I honestly won't be offended, hurt or displeased about hearing ‘no’. Because hearing nothing at all is far worse.
It’s far worse because you haven’t provided us with closure. We won’t know what exactly was the reason we weren’t your choice and we can’t learn from that experience for our next potential job that comes our way.
I think that, quite reasonably, this is purely an exchange of courtesy. If you ask for an enquiry into my services and I happily oblige, taking the time out of my day to listen to your needs, understand your problems and objectives and provide you with an outline (no matter how brief or detailed). The courteous thing to do in return for that is to afford me with an answer at the minimum or even better, an understanding of why I wasn’t the right fit.
Because genuinely, for anyone that approaches me, I’d love to work with you and your business. But I totally get it if we’re not the right fit. I’m not expecting every lead to contact me to be a client I’ll work with.
However… I WOULD LOVE AN ANSWER TO YOUR ENQUIRY!
What could you do to combat ghosting?
For my own first contact communication with a potential client, it has become essential to do most of the following:
- Talk about a ballpark figure to gauge their comfort level with that price and directly ask how they feel about that price.
- I’m upfront by letting the client know that if I’m not hitting the mark for them as a result of our conversation or what they’ve discovered about me AND if they’re not comfortable working with me in any way (be it me, my process, my price, etc), that I’d rather them not work with me and for them to be upfront about it. Because there’s no point trying to force the issue and it doesn’t make for a conducive business relationship and project process.
- If they suggest they want to go away and have a think. I ask them that it would be greatly appreciated if they were to please get back to me, even if it’s a no. Adding that I’ll follow up if I’ve not heard anything for a week but after that and I hear nothing, then I’ll expect the project not be considered.
What you could also do is take a line from Chris Voss’ Never Split The Difference where his classic line to any potential client who ghosts you, is to send the following few words in an email with the subject line reading:
“Have you given up on this project?”
Now, I’ve never used this line myself. But a fellow designer mate let me know he’s used this line in his potential client communications and it has elicited a response on multiple occasions. Not to doubt Chris Voss but it’s awesome to know it works from the experiences of someone I at least know.
We’re not ghostbusters…but
A simple message will do. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so.
Why it’s important not to ghost is that it for us as service providers, it can be greatly beneficial for us to learn from our mistakes, improve our offering and understand of your our potential customer needs. We get it that we’re not the right fit at this time, but it’s not to say you can’t offer something in return for our efforts.
What I’ve focused on here is ghosting at the stage of initial contact. But it’s been known to happen mid-project or at the completion of the project, where for ghosting to occur in these situations, there are more likely to be other reasons for that client to do so. Such as frustration, unhappiness, etc.
Either way, no one likes to be ghosted after providing the courtesy of offering their services. Especially during these trying times we are all going through. So the courtesy in return would be grouse!*
*that’s Aussie slang for ‘awesome’
Ghosting, don’t do it.