If you’ve never been ghosted by a prospect, client or contractor, you’re either new to the interior design business or extremely lucky. As unpleasant as it may be, having contacts you’re engaged with suddenly cease all communication has always been a hazard of offering professional services or selling. While you can’t prevent being ghosted from time to time, you can control how you respond and take steps to minimize the likelihood and impact of when a client or contractor ghosts you.
What is “ghosting”?
The term “ghosting” refers to when someone you have been in contact with stops communicating with you altogether. It came into vogue by users of dating apps to describe a situation in which a prospective romantic partner or current romantic partner cuts off all communication and is never heard from again. Ghosting has since entered the mainstream to apply to any situation in which one party ceases all contact and communication with another party.
Whatever term you choose to use—ghosting, rejection, disregard, going radio silent—this is not a new phenomenon. However, the internet, texting and social media have made ghosting more common and, in some circles, more acceptable. In such mediated exchanges, the relationship bonds tend to be fairly weak. The parties may have different views as to what level of commitment is being made. They may also have very different expectations as to what constitutes proper etiquette. Prospective clients may also view you purely as a business and feel they have no obligation to you.
Why do people ghost?
When a prospect, client or contractor ghosts you, the natural response is to wonder why. Even more frustrating than the ghosting itself is the realization that you probably never will know the real reason. The fact is, it could be due to any number of things. Something may have happened with the client, prospect or contractor that has directed their attention elsewhere, such as an illness or emergency. They may have changed their mind or come up against resistance from a third party. They may have decided to engage with another service provider. They may realize they don’t have the resources to pay for the services or products they want.
Often people ghost because they are reluctant to say “no” or “I’m no longer interested” to you directly. They may fear hurting your feelings or getting dragged into a conversation they don’t want to have. For some individuals, it may be a kind of power play. It may just be a case of bad manners. Or, the individual may feel that no answer is their answer and they don’t have to explain or justify why.
What should you do if you’re being ghosted?
No one likes rejection. Depending on the level of involvement you’ve had with the prospect, client or contractor, getting ghosted may hurt a little or it may hurt a lot. In any case, it hurts. So, the first thing to do when you get ghosted is to acknowledge the hurt. You may feel angry, sad, frustrated, betrayed, disrespected. Vent your feelings, but don’t dwell on them. Once you’ve identified them, let them go.
As well, recognize that you’re not at fault. It’s natural to think, “What did I do that this person no longer wants to have anything to do with me?” Most likely, though, the answer is, probably, you didn’t do anything wrong or hurtful. The fault, if there is one, lies with the other party. And you cannot control their thinking or behavior.
If you don’t want to give up on the prospect, client or contractor just yet, you can try to reestablish contact. Call them or send an email or text asking if they’re okay. Suggest setting up a meeting to discuss any questions, doubts or issues they may have. If more than one party is involved, say in the case of a couple, or a client and a contractor, offer to include the other parties as well. Allow time between communications to allow them to respond without you coming off as overbearing
When do you move on?
How long you choose to continue to try to reestablish contact probably will depend on how involved you are with the prospect, client or contractor. If a client or contractor has ghosted you in the middle of a project, you’ll want to make every effort to reconnect. If a new prospect suddenly disappears, the impact on your business may be minimal. In that case, you’re better off spending your time on more productive pursuits.
After you’ve made several unsuccessful attempts to reengage with the prospect, client or contractor, it’s probably time to cut your losses and move on. Some sources suggest six attempts over a period of several weeks are probably sufficient to give the other party time to respond. At that point, send them one final email in which you notify them that you are closing the file on them. This gives you a satisfying ending but also gives them one final ultimatum with a final chance to reply.
In the case of a contractor, you may also want to let them know that you will seek the services of another contractor to complete the job. If they have failed to meet the terms of their contract, you should point that out to them as well. Ghosting does not absolve them of their legal obligations!
How can you avoid being ghosted?
Social norms have changed. Many people do not consider ghosting to be an offense. It’s just a byproduct of doing business, making inquiries, doing one’s research, or shopping around. For them, the level of commitment is very low, and they prioritize finding the best fit or the best deal.
A first defense against getting ghosted is to screen or pre-qualify prospects and contractors before engaging with them. Provide them with some basic information about your services or your project and ask them to complete a brief questionnaire in return. The questionnaire should include questions about budget, timelines, scope of work, and other important points. This should help you determine if the prospect fits your ideal client profile or if the contractor is willing to commit to the project.
During the first meeting with the prospect or contractor, discuss how you will communicate with one another and how often. Gather as much contact information as you can (i.e., phone numbers, email addresses, website addresses). Ask if they have any upcoming travel plans or other commitments that might cause delays in communication. If they are reluctant or evasive, that’s a warning sign they aren’t ready to engage.
Every business owner or salesperson soon comes to realize that rejection just goes with the job. Acquisition rates vary by industry, but only one in ten prospects ever converts to being a customer or client. Accept that getting ghosted will happen once in a while. Have a plan in place for how you will deal with it. It’s hurtful to be ghosted, but you don’t have to be haunted by it.