Client Ghosting and What To Do About It
Halloween has passed, but maybe you’re more concerned about not hearing a ‘Boo’ from one of your prized clients in a while.
Joking aside, there is a real phenomenon in the business world that uses a term more usually associated with the TikTok and Insta generation. That’s right, ‘ghosting’ doesn’t just happen in personal relationships or the dating sphere. It happens in business relationships too.
What Exactly is Ghosting?
The blunt way to put it is that you no longer hear from that person or business you had an existing relationship with. Typically this applies to relationships that had some gravitas to them. You wouldn’t necessarily apply the term ghosting to someone you met the day before and then never heard from again. No, this cuts deeper because the relationship, whether personal or professional, had some legs.
Or you can understand it in the Oxford Dictionary way:
- the practice of ending a personal relationship with somebody by suddenly stopping all communication without explanation
You can understand why it’s painful in a personal relationship, but it’s also painful in a professional one. Because let’s face it, all relationships are personal at a base level.
When someone you used to have professional contact with on whatever regular basis was appropriate for your line of work suddenly goes mum and fails to respond to all forms of communication it can be deeply affecting.
Often we can question what it was we did wrong. And while in many cases we may not have done anything explicitly wrong, it can have a resounding impact on our self-esteem or make us question the reasons why they are suddenly in avoidance mode. The blame game can eat you up inside pretty quickly folks.
So Why Am I Being Ghosted?
There is never a definitive answer, but there are some things you should consider and review with yourself if you find yourself on the receiving end of a client ghosting.
Some consistent reasons do involve our behaviour. But often it can be a higher authority making decisions that may mean cutting off interactions whether it be for financial, ethical, or any number of alternate reasons.
Here are some of the most popular reasons clients might choose to ghost their business associate.
Lack of Prior Communication
If you haven’t been in touch consistently and then out of the blue begin to badger them with communication, they may feel like they were an afterthought. Just a client to get in touch with if things get tough. Like they weren’t worth being in touch with the rest of the time.
Consistent communication is a huge part of business relationships. If you have an initial meeting always schedule a follow-up contact and book that next date in the diary. But don’t skimp on light communication in between.
It’s one thing to be silent between scheduled meetings or be that overbearing nosey neighbour, so take the cues from your client about how they like to be communicated with. This includes how often. If you have clients who regularly respond and engage, and who get conversational, then do so. Others might be all business and won’t want to hear about your pets and the trip to the vet.
If you’ve ever dropped the ball, missed a major deadline, or been slow to respond to difficult to contact they may feel like your work ethic isn’t aligned with theirs.
Ever had any past disagreements? Perhaps didn’t deliver on your promises that may have seemed small to you. It might come as a surprise that it wasn’t to them.
Sometimes acknowledging past errors go a long way towards repairing a ghosted relationship.
Pushing Too Hard
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have clients who think they are getting pushed into a response or a decision.
Nothing that smacks of desperation, harassment, or bullying is going to win your client’s attention.
Setting reasonable intervals between communication requests is your best approach which avoids making clients feel uncomfortable or pressed.
Sometimes It’s Nothing To Do With You
Sometimes budgets evaporate. People get moved around within an organisation and your existing contact is no longer relevant to what you do. Or for any number of other reasons it might just be that nobody bothered to let you know that you’re no longer needed or reached out to inform you of a personnel change.
How you handle it is more about acknowledging your own stress levels over the situation. If it was an extremely lucrative client, then yes, it is a cause for concern. But if it was a prospect you thought would lead to new business, possibly less so. Sometimes things just don’t fit or the timing isn’t right to move forward.
When To Let It Go
If you can hand on heart say that you ask the right questions, practice active listening, avoid competing on price, are consistent and trustworthy and focus on client goals that matter then you are well on your way to having a great client relationship.
If you get ghosted knowing you do those things, it could just be a chemistry thing. A budget thing. Or any number of things that aren’t personal to you, although it is easy to take this personally. Very easy.
Try not to be overtly eager, maintain a respectful persistence and you never know when the time might be right for a response. If all else fails know when to move on gracefully!