The Business of Hiding (behind emails and phone screening)

As a small business owner for 20 years now (wow, has it been that long?) I’ve seen a trend of unprofessionalism develop over the past 5 years or so that’s really accelerated in 2016. It’s the business of hiding (behind emails and phone screening.) Here’s the scenario, I’m sure all of you business owners have been through this.

New client calls asking to meet and discuss a potential project using my services, which happens to be media creation and creative design.

Meeting goes great, runs well past the original scheduled time, good discussion all around. I promise a proposal for the project.

Proposal is sent, client responds with thanks and……………. radio silence. Instead of telling me “no we’re not going to use your proposal” the company simply goes radio silent.  

Not only is this behavior unprofessional, it’s just plain rude.  You called ME. YOU asked me to come in and give you a proposal. Now that you have the proposal, the very least you can do is respond with a simple yes or no.

Many of my colleagues say it’s a result of the younger generation now moving into positions of responsibility that’s degrading the professionalism from companies.  In my experience, I don’t see that. This unprofessional behavior stretches far and wide from young to old, small / startup to multi-national, billion-dollar companies.  It’s now the norm to simply ignore a proposal rather than give a proper response.

Maybe companies are scared to deliver bad news? I really don’t know what started this level of unprofessionalism throughout the business world for such a simple task as responding to a proposal. But I’ll offer some advice to those of you who choose to hide behind emails.

Business owners are Ok with “No” or “Sorry we’re going with someone else.”   It’s part of doing business. All of us own “big boy” and “big girl” pants, we can handle rejection.  Besides, the sooner you give a definitive answer, the sooner we’ll stop annoying you asking for an update.

So stop hiding behind your email and phone barrier. Be a professional and provide an answer. I’d love to hear from others on their experiences.

3 replies
  1. Lisa Jacobi says:

    Hi Walter –

    As a long time web designer and developer (20 years now with over 150 current clients) – I encounter this same situation with potential clients. Sometimes you just can’t break through. But I find that with a second *follow-up* email that says right away, “I hope your project is not on hold and that you found the right fit with a web developer. This would be the best news! Would you let me know so I can send out a big high-five your way? Just hit reply real quickly. But do know, even with a new developer, if something seems unexplainable or murky, I’m always here to answer a question free of charge, because I want you to have the best experience with your web project and developer. Standing by to hear… thanks so much, { sig line }

    I’ve actually received solid referrals from clients who didn’t engage my services. Don’t let your frustration shine through your follow up conversations. I really do believe people fear letting others down, especially if you spent an hour on the phone with them, or drove RT to an in-person meeting, and hours drawing up a proposal. It is our cost of doing business, we just need to provide a trust zone for their “No thank you.”

    with love, your pal!

    • Walter Biscardi says:

      One thing I never do is show frustration to the client. As I mentioned in the article we all have “big boy / girl pants” and can handle rejection just fine. It’s the lingering silence that is the worst. I have used a variant of your email for a few years now. Even with that, there’s still the silence. This latest instance was a 1 hour meeting that turned in to 2.5 with a full tour of the facility, then 5 days preparing the proposal. That was back on Sept. 30th. 8 emails later….. Unfortunately that is the norm that I’ve found not only with my company, but with many of my colleagues. Glad to hear your note works well for you!

  2. Jim Gilson says:

    Usually, in my experience, the person is embarrassed that they don’t really have the funds to complete the project. Occasionally, the simply want my quote so they can show it to someone else and allow them to under bid (using my expertise to educate them on what is needed to complete the project). I’ve learned that if they really have the funds and know the workflow, if they want me, they’ll find me.


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