How Business is Like Online Dating: A Different Type of Office Romance
Swipe left, swipe right. Maybe one of your colleagues set you up. Maybe they saw your LinkedIn profile. Maybe you met at a business function. Either way, they want you! You have a lot in common. You know a lot of the same people. You have something they want and need. So, you schedule a call or lunch. There’s synergy! Then, things go south. What went wrong? Everything seemed to be going so well!
Just like with dating, business relationships can be exciting and frustrating at the same time. There’s the ‘getting to know you’ honeymoon phase, and then there’s the “was it something I said?” phase.
Here’s the scenario: The initial call or meeting went great! As discussed, you send a proposal in a timely manner. It covers all of the goals, objectives, challenges, and budget guidelines the client prospect outlined.
A few days go by and no response. You send a polite follow-up e-mail to make sure they received your proposal, to see if have any questions, and to ask when is a good time to discuss. Crickets.
You give it another week, understanding people are busy. Maybe something came up such as an unexpected business trip, illness, family emergency, or last minute project. You want to respect the prospect’s busy schedule and not bombard them or seem desperate. Maybe your email with an attachment ended up in a Spam folder. You follow-up again via phone and leave a polite “touching base” message. No pressure, just checking in, offering assistance with any questions, and to let them know that you are still there for them and interested in working with them. Radio silence.
You begin to ask yourself: Did they meet someone else? Should I follow-up again? Was my proposal too high, or did it miss the mark? Was I too pushy? Should I ask a mutual business acquaintance to do a little recon? You phone a friend or colleague and ask for advice. You analyze and over-analyze what you’ve said and done since that initial meeting when the potential client seemed so smitten with your product or service.
Just like with dating, when it comes to winning new business, the lack of response can leave you feeling confused and insecure. It is also very rude and unprofessional.
We are all busy, even the one who is working to earn your business. Maybe you needed the product or service when you first met, but since then other priorities have been pushed to the forefront. Maybe your company is in the midst of a reorg. Maybe you still do need what they offer, but you don’t have the time to dedicate to ramping up a new agency, project, initiative, etc. Maybe you took the initial meeting or call as a courtesy to a colleague, or to test the waters to see if this is something you want to do in the future. Or, maybe you were equally as excited about the opportunity, but when the rubber met the road, you realized you weren’t ready to commit, or you don’t have the budget, bandwidth, or resources required to get the ball rolling.
You really liked the person who was trying to win your business. You liked what they had to say and offer. You feel bad telling them no. After all, no one likes rejection, and you don’t want to be ‘that guy’.
It’s time to put your big person pants on and suck it up buttercup. Do the right thing and tell them that you are not ready to move forward at this time for whatever reason. Get off the pot and send the dreaded “it’s not you, it’s me” email. Don’t waste anyone’s time. Rip off the band aid and allow them to move on.
If you are selling a product or service and anticipating a response- any response, there’s only so much you can do. This is especially tough for hard hitting sales reps with a quota who don’t (and really can't) take ‘no’ for an answer. You have to be careful to not come across as a stalker. At some point you need to cut bait. They’ve made up their mind that this is not going to work right now, or ever. They know how to reach you. It’s tough to say: “I’m just not that into you” so they don't. They are assuming, hoping that you will pick up what they are putting down and take the hint.
No one wants to feel like they are being strung along. After a few respectful, well-timed follow-up messages that a client prospect continues to ignore, I eventually take the bull by the horns for them. I let them off easy with a final note explaining that I understand they are not ready to move forward at this time and to feel free to contact me when things change. I usually receive an apology and excuse, but I am no longer in the dark, and I finally have a response, closure and can put this one to bed.
It doesn’t hurt to check in with them in a couple months to see if they dust has settled and if they are ready to pick up where you left off. Business, like dating is often all about timing. A client prospect may not be Mr. or Mrs. Right, or they may be Mr. or Mrs. Not Right Now But Let's Stay In Touch. Whatever you do, don't fear rejection and don't give up. The right client or customer will come along when you least expect it.