Have you ever sent an email or left a message with someone and only heard crickets? How about that proposal you wrote at the request of a prospective client? You sent it on time and followed up with emails and telephone calls, only to receive no response. How did it make you feel—angry, disrespected, ignored, offended, or a combination of the above? There is nothing like being ignored in business, or in life! But let’s just focus on business here. It seems that ignoring people in business communication today has become the new normal. Why People Ignore People in Business To better understand how to manage ignoring people, first let’s consider why people ignore people in a business context:
- We are too busy—whether perceived or actual.
- We are inundated with emails. We cannot possibly read, respond to, or return every message—it feels like all we would do.
- Avoiding conflict or saying “no”. Big company asks Small Company for a proposal. Small Company spends hours working on a proposal to solve problems, and then submits the proposal. Small company calls Big Company, no response. Small company emails Big Company, no response. Big Company would rather avoid the awkward conversation with Small Company than tell them that their proposal did not meet expectations.
- Low priority for the person receiving the communication, relative to other priorities.
- Annoyance—the person reaching out to you annoys you for some reason.
As the years go by, human communication in business frustrates me more and more because people meet face to face less and less. Are we becoming more introverted? As a natural extrovert I struggle at times to completely understand introverts, including my introverted friends and family members. Sometimes I suspect that introverts might be taking over the business world slowly. How? By preferring to minimize talking or meeting with people, introverts force extroverts to behave in introverted ways in the name of efficiency. I have observed a growing trend for business people to prefer to communicate more by email then by telephone, and definitely to communicate less in person. My personal favorite communication slight is when I leave a telephone message for someone and they respond by email. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I also get frustrated by slow-to-no responsiveness in business communication. Not only because of my extroverted communication preferences, but also because unresponsiveness or ignoring people seems unprofessional, discourteous, and slightly rude. I understand the “I am too busy to deal with this” argument when ignoring people. I find myself in that mode sometimes when I have a deadline and an unsolicited salesperson wants to speak with me. Being Ignored When You Are Selling We all sell something as business owners. Sales and marketing inevitably become one of the most critical and actionable parts of our business plan. In my book The One-Hour Business Plan, sales and marketing is the second business-plan cornerstone for a reason. Your offering must be marketed and sold to your customer target market. It’s what drives your business. As we sell our product by sending emails, making telephone calls, and attending meetings, the person or company we are targeting eventually ignores us and our product. No returned telephone call, no email reply, or no response at a meeting. What do you do? Marketing research concludes that a prospective client needs on average between 5 and 12 contacts before converting to a customer. That means the average salesperson or marketer can expect to be ignored between 4 and 11 times before making the sale. The point to remember is to not give up. Being ignored is part of the sales and marketing process. Before You Decide to Ignore Someone How about when the tables are turned and you are the one being pursued with business communication that you want to ignore? Let’s face it; people will continue to ignore people for the aforementioned reasons. However, it might help to lay out some guidelines for ourselves to be the business people that we want to be. Here are some suggestions:
- Be aware that continuing to ignore people eventually reduces or even terminates a business relationship.
- Establish some rules and guidelines for when to ignore business communication.
- Be conscious of ignoring people in business communication to protect valuable relationships.
- Declare your communication preferences rather than ignoring someone.
- Understand the consequences of constantly ignoring people—some people inevitably become angry to some degree. Make sure that you are OK with that.
Do you have any suggestions for managing people who ignore you during the sales process? Do you decide beforehand who and what to ignore? Let us know. Don’t forget to share this article with someone who might enjoy it!