This one’s been prompted by a recent experience that stuck long enough for me to contemplate longer than I usually would… long enough to want to share anyway.
For the first time ever, we were ‘ghosted’ by a prospect which was interesting, if somewhat strange. What is Ghosting? On investigating (thanks Google, Fred and Wilma), we discovered it’s not uncommon, so much so that there’s literally hundreds of pages on it. Including tips on how to avoid ghosting and some theories on why it happens. And despite popular misconceptions it’s not always Old Man Withers from the haunted amusement arcade.
Basically, the short version is that ghosting, as it’s been accurately termed, is when after several positive interactions, a hot prospect tells you they are 95% committed to you on a project. Naturally, you get excited, but then within hours, you’re completely cut off by them, stone dead, like you never existed. As if the whole thing was a figment of your imagination. Maybe it was? Ehhh?
Obviously, when this happens your natural curiosity and quest for answers mean you try to get them. But frustratingly your efforts from all sorts of angles just melt away into nothingness. Such to the point where you continue to question your own sanity that’s saved only because colleagues were there, with you, and can corroborate everything as you saw it, heard it, felt it.
Thoughts then move you to interrogate your approach, every little detail and component that made up every sentence of every conversation, down to the font size you used in the proposal. Drawing a blank there too, you then explore lots of hypothetical scenarios that might otherwise explain it like; ‘the guy must have been pissed’, ‘he was an alien’, ‘he wasn’t the decision-maker’, ‘he’s gone elsewhere and not got the balls to tell us’, ‘bloody weirdo’. Your emotions go on a ride through some dark places until in the end you get a grip of your senses and settle for ‘he wasn’t right for us anyway’ and move on.
That doesn’t mean your mind doesn’t occasionally drift back to the moment you fire the imaginary rifle and serve notice on ghoulish time-waster (650 yards with a 9mph crosswind). Yes, the injustice takes a while to come to terms with, especially when your entire business is built on integrity and fulfilling purpose for others because you do actually give a shit.
And so, to overcome this and invest only in the right kind of people who value what you do, and won’t waste your time, you need to expose the wrong ones from the start. But sadly, you can’t, it’s not an exact science, and there’s no Ghostometer we know of - certainly shooting them isn’t the answer. People behave in mysterious ways and become ghosts for all kinds of reasons that you’d never figure out, especially having only met with them or spoken a couple of times. We consider ourselves to be reasonably selective and perhaps sensible enough to see the dodgy ones a mile off (further than we can aim). But not on this occasion. If this case is anything to go by, you’d need to have been Sherlock Holmes to have seen it coming. One minute the geezer is all over us like fur on a bear and the next he’s vanished into thin air, done a Lord Lucan (I’m drifting again!).
The secret to being valued, enjoying what you do and getting damn good at it, is to only pursue clients that are right for you and be honest about the ones that aren’t, right from the start.
Two tips for avoiding disappointment:
1. Overeager prospects could be ghosts, nail them on integrity, or get outta there.
2. Before you take on a new client, ask yourselves “Will they shat on our fun?”.
Be careful out there and keep it real.