An Epidemic of Unprofessionalism – Part I

The big story in the economy this past week was the Dow Jones Industrial Average returning to the 10,000 mark. Some say it might be a sign of an economic turnaround.

After nearly three years with “our own firm,” Don and I strongly believe that no turnaround will be possible without a change in business psychology. While the past few years have provided countless financial challenges nationwide, we believe the legacy of this recession will be how it has led to worse business behavior than we ever envisioned. We can’t see anything changing significantly until the pendulum of behavior swings closer to where it was, say, five years ago. We feel so strongly about this subject that both of us will blog about it in the next day or so.

This isn’t a trend – it’s an epidemic.

We aren’t talking necessarily about corruption or greed. It’s a lack of professional respect, stemming apparently from fear and/or extreme risk aversion – much of which we believe is irrational. Case in point – the unacknowledged proposal. This is happening multiple times each month in our company and cuts across age, gender, geography and industry.

It goes something like this:

We receive a phone call or email from someone interested in our services, usually because of a referral from a satisfied client. They typically need to meet “right away” because of their “urgent” communications need. Don and/or I take time out of our schedules to meet with them and learn about their business and their needs. Then, they ask for a proposal, so they can have an idea, for internal purposes, of potential scope of work and costs. They promise a quick review.We then prepare the requested proposal and meet the deadline set by the potential client.

Then we never hear from them again. Literally.

Often when we try to follow-up and get some sort of answer, we are treated like door-to-door salespeople, met with unreturned phone calls, unanswered emails or gatekeepers who won’t let us near our original contact. Never mind that they called us!

We aren’t the only ones noting what’s going on. Check out this article from a candid national sales expert – who has encountered similar experiences.

So what does this mean? For one, it’s an early warning system. Anyone who acts so unprofessionally, with no respect, is probably not going to be a Tanner Friedman client. But there are likely some good people exhibiting bad behavior, because of the circumstances surrounding them. If nothing else, it’s represents a slap in the face that is extremely frustrating and costly to our business. And it’s a sign that things are not getting better for business in America.

If you have a proposal sitting on your desk, especially one that you requested under a process that you initiated, act on it. If it’s too expensive, then say so. If situations or priorities change, then say so. If your gut tells you to do it, then do it. Whatever the outcome, communicate it. Right away.

Don’s comments will follow as we call attention to this disturbing behavior.