Mention ghosting on any social media page and you’ll attract a stream of angry and frustrated comments. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the ghosting and many people seem to be plagued by it.

So what exactly it is?

If you’ve never heard of it, Ghosting is the practise of ending a relationship, without notice or reason, by ceasing all communication. One day you are in contact and all is well, and the next, your have been unfriended on Facebook, you can’t get a reply to an email, phone call, or message. It’s as if they just stopped existing.

This is not a new practise, and used to refer to more personal relationships. But more recently the term has been adopted into the business world. People will claim they have been ghosted when, for example, a potential client doesn’t respond to a quote, or feedback is not sent to job applicants, or an employee quits without quitting. But, is this really ghosting, just plain rude, or something else?

Unpopular Opinion Alert

For me, people are rarely actually “ghosted”. Ghosting is rooted in expectations, and in particular, the ghostees expectations! Only the person being ghosted can determine their expectations, and therefore decide if they are actually being ghosted or not. This does of course mean, that in many cases, they could choose to change their expectations and not be ghosted!

Consider these two scenarios…

Scenario one! You receive a request for information from a potential client, so you send out a proposal. You’ve put a lot of work into it, as you always do. You are excited about the project as you know you’d be amazing at it, and are looking forward to working on it. However, a day or two goes by and you’ve heard nothing back. Strange! They seemed so keen. So, you follow up with an email, maybe they just forgot to let you know if they’d be going ahead with the work! You check the diary, you have space next week, if they would get back to you you could book them into that time. But, after a couple more reminders, you still don’t hear anything – rude, right?

Scenario two! You’ve just applied for a job in the paper. You spent a lot of time on your application and you know you are perfect for the job. But, a couple of weeks has now passed and you still haven’t heard back from the employer. Maybe you should just call them up because you need to know if you’ve got an interview or not. If they would just get back to you, you would know whether to move on to a different job or not!

Both these people will say they have been ghosted! But, have they?

A reply would have been polite, no doubt about that. We all like to be acknowledged. But in order to have been ghosted a few things have to happen…

Expectations are the root of all disappointment!

The biggest cause of any conflict starts with expectations that haven’t been met. But, what if the expectations have been set too high. We talk about this a lot in business when we talk about creating a good customer experience.

Imagine two customers, you tell the first one you’ll be delivering their food in one hour, and the second, you tell 90 minutes. Delivery actually arrives with both customers after 70 minutes. Both had the same service, but one is satisfied and one isn’t. Why? Expectations.

What if the second customer didn’t ask for a delivery time, and instead, just assumed their food would come in 60 minutes. Now they are disappointed with the service because they feel like their delivery was 10 minutes late, but is that the fault of the business?

Is it really fair to expect a stranger to your business to reply to a quote, when no relationship or expectation has been agreed upon, and especially if it’s just to say they don’t want to buy from you?

If you change your expectations so you don’t expect a reply, you can’t be ignored, or ghosted – and your frustration levels can go back to normal!

You’re actually just strangers

In order to be ghosted, a relationship has to have been formed that is more intimate than that of “strangers that might do business together.” This intimacy usually doesn’t begin until you have both moved beyond “early interest” stage together. Only once both parties have showed solid and mutual interest in working together can you consider the relationship to have grown beyond that of strangers. But, even at this early acquaintance stage, it still may not be fair to assume you are bonded enough that the relationship can be broken.

It’s not a sale until it is!

Very often, a request for a quote or the submission of a CV, is mistakenly treated as a job that hasn’t been confirmed yet. But this creates problems, as it puts you into a limbo state while you wait to hear if the job is going ahead or not. But this is crazy. As you will see below, the competition for jobs is enormous, and very rarely will a potential client only request one quote. How many other businesses might your potential client have also approached for information?

I recently heard a case of a dog walker that was asked about availability and prices for mon-fri walks. The next day they were contacted by a different person who also wanted mon-fri walks. The dog walker was confused as to what to say to the second enquirer, because they hadn’t heard back from the first enquirer yet. They felt loyalty to the first client and waited until the next day to see if they would book in. Sadly, they didn’t, and in waiting they lost the second client to a quicker dog walker. They were so cross with the original client because they believe they cost them the sale, but did they really?

I don’t think so. Until there is an agreement, a handshake, an interview offer, or deposit paid, there is no job or booking.

Allowing yourself to be trapped in limbo like this should be avoided as it is so destructive, as you can from the dog walking example. If your subconscious assumes you have already won the job, then you won’t be fully invested in finding an alternative. If you switch this round and behave as if there is no sale, or interview, just an empty diary, then you will make your best effort with other options.

It’s just like when the England football team score an early goal in a qualifier. By half-time we have already planned their route to the final, and have (almost always) set ourselves up for a big disappointment!

Be happy!

In all these situations, the bar has been raised without any form of discussion or consent from the other party. They are oblivious of your expectations. So, is it really fair to say they have ghosted you if they don’t send you a “thanks but no thanks”?

What if you had no expectations at all? What if you just sent the quote or CV out as requested, and then just forgot about it, confident in the knowledge that you have provided all the info they asked for and they’ll be in touch if they want to go further or have questions? Doesn’t feel like ghosting now, does it?

Chasing rejection and fixating over a response you didn’t get, comes with a big side order of disappointment and frustration. It is such a negative way to work. By lowering your expectations, you can start to feel the joy of getting the job or work offer instead!

Also remember, that you can not control the actions of other people, you can only ever control your own behaviour.

Adjusting your expectations is the fastest route to your own happiness, in this situation.

It’s not all about you!

Sorry to say this, but people these days are busy and are easily distracted. How many times did you go online to buy something, get all the way to the checkout and realise your purse is in the kitchen. Before you know it, the laundry has been switched over, the cat has been fed, the dishes washed and the tea in the oven! But that purchase you were so close to completing is now ancient history!

And, how many people do you think have applied for the same job as you? Many roles attract hundreds of applicants, it’s very possible that the hirer didn’t even look at all the applications properly, let alone have the time to give feedback. Anyone that says they would go through each one thoroughly, and reply with feedback, has clearly never been faced with 300 application forms and only one job to offer! If you only spent 5 minutes on each one it would take around 25 hours, and given that in July of this year (according to CV Library) the average number of applications, per job, was between 500-600, with some jobs attracting as many as 3000, you can see how unrealistic that expectation is!

What about quotes, do you reply to every quote provider with feedback? Honestly? What about when you went looking at sofas, did you call the store the next day to let the salesman know you had changed your mind? They might have spent half an hour with you that afternoon talking about the options, did you just ghost that salesman?

Getting hounded

I recently advertised for a new website build for a Not-For-Profit I am on the committee for. I received 79 emails on the first day requesting the brief. They were all sent a copy of the brief. Around a third wanted a zoom call to discuss, some had questions and some submitted proposals. The brief clearly stated that the closing date for submissions, and it stated they would be passed to a committee for consideration and the date of that meeting.

Every submission was personally thanked and reminded that someone would be in touch if they had questions, but the next few days was a nightmare. While trying to run my business and serve my own customers I was hounded by follow-ups – most of which were automated or copy/pasted. It was impossible to respond to everyone, and quite stressful actually. Anyone that wanted feedback during that first week would have considered themselves to have been ghosted. The reality was that the committee hadn’t even looked at the submissions yet!

Some even stalked me online and tracked down my personal phone number so they could chase their quote. All these follow-ups were very intrusive, they were like a pack of wolves fighting for attention. Interestingly, the ones that didn’t chase were the ones that had a unique offer. Clearly they are used to clients coming to them of their own accord when they are ready to buy. Find out how to niche your product if you are interested in why.

And one final thought…

Only yesterday, I heard of a freelancer that felt he had been ghosted. He took to Facebook to rant about the rudeness of his clients for not getting back to him, how it is affecting his business and moral, and how selfish people like that don’t deserve to work with him. Later on he discovered that the customer in question had since been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I’m sure not all those that fail to reply have a story like that to tell. But, you never know what is happening in someone else’s life after you send that email, so just pause for a quick breathe before you judge.

Can you reduce ghosting?

If you do want to increase your response rate, as a business, here are a few tips that will help…

  • End your communication with a question that invites conversation such as “Did I answer your question? or, Is that what you expecting?” People may still disappear into the night, but it gives those that are on the fence a reason to answer you.
  • Don’t end an email with closed responses like “Let me know if you have any questions. Or, Get in touch if you want to proceed.” Those types of statements are conversations stoppers.
  • Review your ideal customer profile and refine your marketing so you don’t attract the wrong people. Concentrate on customers that have the means and desire to buy from you.
  • Do a competitor analysis and niche yourself so you aren’t trying to compete with such a large group.
  • Add deadlines to your quotes so your customers know what they have to do and by when. You’ll also know when it is safe to move on, but don’t give them too long.
  • Understand that most people need more than one contact before they will agree to buy, in fact the average is 8-13. Your sales funnel will help you understand how to nurture your customers and what those contacts look like.
  • Don’t send out constant reminders! If Your customers get one quote and 6 reminders you have wasted 7 contacts on your sales pitch and missed valuable nurturing time, and potentially lost a client. Plus, you risk being one of a pestering hoard.
  • Leave plenty of time for consideration. The more people that are involved in the decision making process, the longer it will take to realistically receive any response.
  • Make a personal connection if you can. People are far more likely to reply to you if you mention a shared interest, the name of their dog, sister, favourite café, or whatever – be creative!

If you want to feel better about your job search…

  • Use an agency! Let them deal with the system while you sit back and only hear about the jobs that might be going somewhere.
  • Use a platform like LinkedIn to make a personal connection with recruiters. Don’t be pushy, just introduce yourself, express genuine interest in the job and/or company, and wish them a great day. They’ll be much more likely to remember you.

How would you benefit from an experienced business coach?

You shouldn’t have to fight your way through conflicting and confusing advice. We’ll support and guide you so you can make clear, confident decisions.

Book a discovery call with us now and find out how we can help you find a clear path to your own business goals – aaand we can look at your communications to see if there is anything you can do to avoid being “ghosted”!