How often do we make a pig’s ear of listening?


Recently, I’ve been involved in an email exchange which has left me variously perplexed, amused and frustrated.

Someone I met whilst networking a few weeks ago sees me as a prospect.

Whilst I like to keep an open mind, in this case I’m pretty sure that I am not a prospect, and that it’s highly unlikely I ever will be.

I’ve been polite. I’ve explained that I’m already aware of their organisation. That, as a consumer rather than a business, I’m a customer, and that I’ve already declined opportunities to further the relationship. I’ve stressed that my business focus lies elsewhere.

The latest reply suggests that my options are:

i. be blunt to the extent of saying ‘I have NO interest in this’,

ii. block, or ignore, future communications.

Neither of which feels comfortable. And ii. feels downright unprofessional.

Would you agree?

Even less comfortable is the realisation that I may have put one of our own potential clients in a similar position.

It was a different scenario, in they had actually approached us asking for advice. And I did listen very hard to what they were telling me about what their business needed. Unfortunately, what they needed wasn’t what they wanted.

Having thoroughly digested all the information they gave me, my certainty that they needed ‘B’ (when what they were asking for was ‘A’), may have caused me to close my ears to what they were telling me they were ready to buy.

My dilemma was to either:

i. quote for, and provide, exactly what they were asking for, even though I knew that, on its own, it wouldn’t achieve the results they wanted,


ii. write a proposal recommending an approach that delivered what my experience told me they needed, even though I knew they were unlikely to make the additional investment.

I chose the latter. They understood what I was getting at, but still just wanted ‘A’, and got a bit frustrated when I wouldn’t sell it to them.

Having listened to what they wanted, but heard what they needed, taking their cash to deliver something that I was sure wasn’t going to work would have felt wrong. We didn’t get the client that time, but we have had some positive subsequent conversations, and we’re still on good terms.

What would you have done?


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