Startups: be good at relations


I wanna tell you a story. I’m not going to give names of the protagonists here, or of the company because I don’t like outing people and because I don’t want to associate my name with them.

I was contacted on may 30th by a company asking me about SEO consulting and stuff. I’m new to this world, and I think I have a lot to learn . So, instead of bullshitting them, I proposed a chat via Skype in order to understand if I could help them. I asked around about how much an SEO consultant of my level could charge and thanks to all the amazing SEO’s who helped me to understand pricing, deadlines, and more about the consultant process.

So, we conversed a bit via emails (they are never on Skype, so what’s the point to say “yes, we are gonna chat on skype”) and they said “we are gonna evaluate things and let you know.”

YEAH! I was excited.

On June 1st I sent them my proposal, saying that I could work for a weekend and let them know exactly my next moves would be. I said “is it ok?”


On june 4th I sent a follow-up, and again on June 7th, simply asking them to say something, even if it was a NO, any response was totally cool, I mean, there are people better than me, but you know….”I would like to know because I have tons of things to do and it’s called respect”.

So, on june 7th, they answered me that “The CEO’s need to look over the proposals before I can hire anyone”. All right, perfect, but why didn’t you just say this sooner? Why do I need to be sending you emails every other day waiting for a one sentence response? The mis-alignment is that I expect others to respect me the way I would respect them. This is not always the case. The email they sent back said “but tomorrow we have time set aside to sit down”.


On June 18th I had not yet received a response, so I sent a quick inquiry email.


Then finally, On june 27th I wrote them:


this is ridiculous.
It’s ok a NO but give me an answer.
You know first thing about SEO? great cool relationships.
something that maybe you have to fix soon.
good luck with everything.

and they IMMEDIATELY answered me back:

Hi Alessio,

I don’t appreciate your email or your tone.  We haven’t had a chance to figure it out since our CEO’s left for an unexpected conference and I thought I emailed you about it, if not I am sorry.  However, you were still in the running until I just received this email.

So, because of your “uncool” response and email we will not be going with you.

So you just literally talked yourself out of a job.

All the Best

THIS IS SO FUCKING INCREDIBLE. I I immediately answered them back (oh, wait, maybe I should have wait 10 days like them):

no problem really.
but you cannot let people wait. an email saying: “you know what? we are gonna let you know in 3 months” could have been totally cool with me.
I sent email, no answers.
and now you are talking about my tone? yeah. let’s talk about respect, allright?
anyway, good luck with everything, REALLY.

You can be a startup, or a company, or GOD. When it comes to human relations, there are no titles, just respect for the others.

Really, good luck guys. Because now I’m seeing exactly why your SEO is a semi-disaster. To me SEO is about punctuality and creating real human relations..

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45 Comments Startups: be good at relations

  1. Chris Gilchrist

    Hey Alessio,

    Like lots of things in life it’s just a numbers game. The more times you make toast the more likely you’ll burn it. The more times you help random strangers the more chance you’ll get someone who’s ungrateful and throws it back in your face. The more quotes/pitches/outreach you do the more you’ll encounter people not getting back to you.

    Don’t take it personally, it’s not, and whilst you might not beleive it right now eventually you might end up being the one not replying to people yourself when you are hugely successful and have 10000 emails to answer but a family who needs you around that week so the emails rightly take second place 🙂 Yes you’d probably apologise when you did reply but you get the idea.

    Things I actively do when I produce quotes for our website design work to avoid this same situation:

    1. Ask for a timeline for their decision making and explain why they should tell you. IE Can you please give me an idea of when we could expect to hear back from you to allow us to plan our resources and other projects?

    Very often people will give you a date. Thank them for letting you know. Don’t follow up before that date but do follow up straight after it. This shows you are respectful but keen.

    2. Ask to be told even if you are not successful. IE I really hope we get the opportunity to work with you on this project but so I can plan my time and resources would you please let me know if we are unsuccessful this time round?

    By asking you encourage an answer. Once they commit to letting you know they are more likely to do it than if you just say ‘please let me know’ (statement) and they haven’t had to acknowledge the request or agree to comply.

    3. Even if they say they will get in touch, if they don’t then you can assume you didn’t get the work. Don’t waste your time and energy chasing it up or piss them off pushing for a confirmation email.

    Instead you could say something like; I am aware I haven’t heard back from you since we last spoke and would love to hear from you if you are still planning on going ahead with this project. If you have put the project on hold or selected to work with another agency on this occasion I wish you all the best and please feel free to contact me again in the future.

    If the project is on hold you are in good standing. If they went elsewhere you might get a call if the other company falls through.

    4. Once you have 100 quotes all live at one time it’s impossible to remember when all the dates are due for each quote and follow up so start using a CRM now to manage it all so you are familiar with it before you get too busy. Some free ones are good and some paid ones are very cheap.

    Sorry if this was quite long just wanted to share what took me a long time to refine but saves me hours each week and lets me sleep much easier 🙂


    1. Alessio

      what can I say more ? thank Chris for this comment! much appreciate it.

      That’s why I wrote this story: to learn more from people more into this kind of thing.

      Thanks again!

  2. Michael J. Kovis

    I may always be late to the party, but I never miss one!!!

    After taking the time to reflect on your article and read the comments, I’ve got to say that I don’t blame you for your actions, but I do feel that it was handled a bit less professionally than it could have been handled.

    Before I explain why, let me say this…

    I am a huge proponent of punctuality when it comes to answering or responding to emails. In this day and age, with all the technology and social networks, there is absolutely no excuse for emails to stack up the way many let them. None. Especially when business professionals have the ability to be access their email with smartphones and tablet PC’s from virtually anywhere they have service.

    That being said, I do understand that upper management of large corporations can become very busy. Yes, it can be hard to keep their inbox tidy if they receive hundreds of email correspondence per day, but the majority of the time we are not communicating with these people. You cannot tell me that they don’t have a few seconds to notify you that your email has been received and they will be in touch with you when they free up some time. Absolutely unacceptable if they cannot. No one person is above another. Regardless of salary, position, or reputation (unless you’re the CEO of Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc).

    Now in your case Alessio, you have simply called out this horrible practice and brought it to surface. I like that in you. I don’t blame you for doing so, but as mentioned earlier it could have been handled more “professionally.” Instead of being as blunt as you were with them, I would have re-written that email to not come off so ignorant, but still get their attention just as effectively.

    Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can catch more flies with sugar than with salt?” I don’t believe you were wrong to respond the way you did by any means. Honestly, taking almost 30 days to respond to your emails is absurd. People like that, you don’t want to work with.

    As Joel mentioned, it sucks, but we have to get used to situations like this. They will happen. I’ve dealt with my fair share over the years. All I can do is say that before we drastically respond a situation like this, that we think it over before we act.

    All in all, I loved this post. Its you. You are real and not afraid to call it as it is!

    1. Alessio

      well, WOW!

      thanks a lot for your comment Michael! you know how important is to me!

      next time I’ll let you know how I will react! 🙂

  3. Vlad

    Dude, nothing really to add, there are some smart answers above.

    I think we all know what it’s like to be contacted about work and not hear more about it. Generally I just play it by ear. Like a lot of things if someone wants my attention they will be in touch 🙂

  4. David Cohen

    This company probably did you the biggest favor by not hiring you. In my experience, when people respond to consultants, freelancers, or outside contractors this way, they typically don’t like their job or their company, so they don’t want to positively represent the brand/business they are connected to because they just don’t care. Their heart is not in it.

    1. Alessio

      Thanks a lot David for your comment, I really appreciate it!

      I feel exactly the same, and that’s why I did this post: Their heart is not in it. and it’s sad.

      thanks again!

  5. Gaz Copeland

    Wow Alessio you turned up the crazy on this post man.

    I’m glad these guys didn’t get back to you as quickly as you’d have liked, they might have hired you, and it would never have worked. Sure it’s got you mad now, but it saved you bags of problems further down the road.

  6. Giulia

    Dear April,
    you know what?
    Losers like Alessio work even on weeekends (as you said)
    Losers like you send anonymous messages.

    Take care.

  7. April

    Never said I live outside Germany, have I?
    And send me an email, I will reply to you, I promise. Or you’ll get mad.

  8. April

    STALKER. This is what you are.
    Friday June 1st, oh.. no answer till Monday June 4th?
    Losers like you work even on weeekends. Maybe they have a private life and better things to do than reply to you. We are talking about a company or an agency, not the “rural seo” in the countryside who is not busy. Hiring processes take time and in case no one told you before, respect is also about respect other people’s timing.

    1. Alessio


      good comment, thank you very much APRIL.

      it would have been more cool if you used your real name, a real email and stuff. but no problem. Have a great life in Germany, you and your contract with Alice 🙂

  9. Joel

    Alessio, I like you and I agree with you in principal, but having worked with clients of all shapes and sizes at this point I can honestly say that this is more or less something you will have to get used to – especially when you work with bigger clients who have more red tape. Businesses should run like well-oiled communication machines, but they rarely, if ever do. That’s not about to change any time soon.

    The more C-level execs you go through, the longer your wait time and the more sporadic your communication. There’s no getting around that. You are not the company’s number one priority; even if they are yours. In reality, “shit happens”. Companies will set deadlines, things will come up and get pushed back and often the people you’re in contact with are juggling SO many balls that their inboxes look like Unread: 3,601. Does it take long to send a one sentence reply? No. But often they have bigger, more pressing fish to fry.

    I can see why the company might be frustrated by your responses; I can see why you would be frustrated by their lack of response. But I don’t think either of you handled things the right way here (if I can be blunt).

    Should they have contacted you? Absolutely.
    But, your response was quite abrasive and you made it personal, not business (opposite of the Godfather!). Patience is a virtue, especially when trying to land a job.

    1. Alessio

      Thanks Joel!

      the good thing about this I have people like you, Aleyda…. who are actually TEACHING me something. And I cannot even tell how much I appreciate this.

      thanks again, Joel!

  10. Aleyda

    Hello Alessio,

    I’m sorry to read you had this experience 🙁

    Unfortunately this is much more common than you think in the life of an SEO consultant or agency. Sometimes you even stay up late at night preparing a presentation or proposal because you have been told is an “urgent” need and then nothing, no answer. It has happened to me.

    I have also experience on going to a potential client office (which was also very far from me) for a sales meeting (after having talked over the phone), they made me wait for an hour and then during the meeting they acknowledged that for x or y reason they were not really looking to hire an SEO.

    I’ve also heard many times similar stories of other colleagues, so I think that unfortunately it will not be the last time you face this situation but I can tell you that these experiences will make you be more selective about the projects you pick from the start, always validate and communicate well before doing any work (even a proposal for which you need to do some previous analysis is already work) and of course, these make you even more aware about how important is to be respectful for the time and work of others 🙂

    1. Alessio

      thanks Aleyda!

      I really appreciate your comment because it has a lot of value and I need it to grow as SEO and as a person.

      I’ll keep sharing about this stuff because I think that if only just ONE person is going to think about the whole situation and he’s going to do something cool out of it, I am satisfied.

      Thanks again Aleyda, you’ve been amazing with me and you are. So glad to be in contact with you.

    2. Zeph Snapp

      Bingo. You have hit the nail right on the head. This has happened to me more times that I care to count. Being a consultant means knowing that there is no sure thing, you can be fired at anytime without cause, so be prepared.
      On the other side, there are many clients out there that are really involved in the process and invested in what you do. But if I only worked with the people I really like, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills.

  11. Giuseppe

    You’re right but not all the people that hit you up are interested in you as a person; there’s also who’s just looking for services. You or another provider is the same for them. They’ll waste your time to optimize theirs. They’re doing business and writing back costs (time). Unpleasant, but they won’t be the last, I bet 😉
    Anyway, you’re doing great with this blog and outside there. Keep it up, mate! 😀

    1. Alessio

      thanks Giuseppe.

      I even know about other providers involved. I hope, it went well for them 🙂

      about back costs: well, they knew I have already a full time position, so….sorry, but I have to look at my costs too 😉 Plus, let’s stop this bullshit thing: since I am the big company I can treat you like shit. Again, naive? maybe. But I prefer to be like this rather than defend someone just for the title he has and not for what he’s doing.

      thanks Giuseppe for the compliments. really appreciate it .

  12. Giuseppe

    This is not unusual, Alessio. I get any kind of requests from my websites (on them I sell banners, buy content, deal with press offices, collaborators, readers; besides SEO stuff) and 3 times out of 10 things just stop somewhere in an email exchange and never go on. I’ve learned not to care about. The more you’ll get exposure and the more you’ll get contacts, also from time-wasters. What’s important is that you’re a professional, and they’re the ones losing the great opportunity of having you working for them 😉

    1. Alessio

      Thanks Giuseppe!

      thing is:

      I’ve learned not to care about.

      sorry, it doesn’t work for me. I care about things, and I wanna share them with my readers, in order to have comments and see their reactions, that are helping me to become a better person, in a way.

      thanks again for the comment!

  13. nex

    Respect should be in both directions 🙂
    Companies have priorities, and sometimes things are procrastinated if not in the priority list. You can’t require a planning from a customer! I’ve never heard this, and I can bet what you want that no company will give someone a job with this approach.
    A delay can have 1000 justification, but a arrogant reply like yours is really “uncool” as they said.

    1. Alessio

      Thanks a lot Nestore!

      happy we think differently! I’m seeing a lot that when someone who wants a little bit of respect (since YOU contacted me and wanted me) it’s called arrogant.

      Thank you very much for your comment.

      1. nex

        Not answering is not a lack of respect: it can be lack of time, CEO that had something more important to do, unexpected problems to solve, etc
        Your answer is without doubt a lack of respect.

        1. Alessio

          again, thank god we think differently.

          I mean, if you wanna write the same thing over and over, feel free.

          For example: accept different opinions is respect to me.

          Your answer is without doubt a lack of respect.

          at this point, I take this as a compliment.

          1. nex

            Do you really think that you can teach something like: “Startups: be good at relations” ? I think that you have something to learn in this field (unless this post is just a joke) 😉

          2. Alessio

            It’s not a joke.

            I’m not teaching. I’m just sharing things. It’s my blog, you know how it works right?

            Feel free not to read my shit, or anything. I don’t force. And happy to learn new things about startups and in general.

            Maybe you wanna start teaching me something? Write what you think, and I’m gonna publish it on my blog.

            But til now, from you, not learning anything. 🙂

          3. nex

            Alessio, are you able to write 2 sentences without being arrogant or offensive? I think that this is a good starting point for being good at relations.
            Do you REALLY think that giving this image of you can be a good think for your professional life and relations?

          4. Alessio

            arrogant or offensive? I’m saying… I can learn something from you but you have to start. that’s all. We can even meet and talk if you want. I mean, I’m not arrogant or offensive, otherwise I would not even publish your comments.

            That’s all.

            I am just saying: you expressed your comment, I thanked you for that….is it arrogant or offensive?

            take it easy. really.

          5. nex

            I think that in relationships a silence is always better than a bad word. If you don’t answer, and after some month or years you meet the same people or company, everything can start again. If you send a mail beginning with: “this is ridicolous”, this company will put a flag next to you name and will remember about you even after a lot of years.
            This year I closed 3 contracts with people that didn’t answer anymore at one point of the process, like it happened to you. I kindly tried a couple of times to contact them, than I put them in the waiting list. With one of them I had the last contact 2 years ago, then after 2 years he decided to work with us. I think that this approach can be useful in professional life.

          6. Alessio

            Thanks Nestore!

            Now this is something I can bring with me for the future. I mean I know I am a “testa calda” sometimes 🙂

            I appreciate your time on this. That’s why I’m sharing without any claims, because I wanna hear what the others think in order to “improve” my skills and stuff.

            I’m like that and for sure I need to learn a lot more about this. But I even like to think I can change something. For people like you I’m arrogant and offensive, for others maybe not. That’s life.

            Thanks again.

          7. nex

            I also appreciate the fact that you really want to improve and that you like to talk also with people that have different opinions .
            Thank you too.
            P.S.: I’ve read your about page and I found something in common: same musical tastes 🙂

  14. Ralph

    Sad to read that, Alessio. Even though that’s quite common in companies (as such, they tend to forget companies are not powerful than people), there’s no excuse for not being direct and honest from the first moment.

    For me, in my opinion, whenever I read something like “we are gonna evaluate things and let you know”, that means a No. Would be waaaay better to be clear, but somehow there’s an implicit point of view in many companies behind those words, stating clearly which is their priority: and definitely it’s not people.

    Quite a nice company, that one.. Did they know you already have a full-time job? Because such an answer could only go to somebody really “desperate” to work, who would be in the position of allowing such a crap. And not even then would be morally acceptable.

    Sounds quite like a German company 😉

    Laugh about it. You’re not there, and they have to stick with themselves for the rest of their lives. You win 😉

  15. Julie Joyce

    I hope I have not been guilty of this, as I try very hard to get back with people but sometimes things do slip by. However, I can also totally understand your frustration with a situation like this. I also deal with this with potential clients at times, ones who are happy to run me around for a month or longer. I’m busy as hell too but if I failed to respond to someone, I’d consider myself to have been disrespectful.

    1. Alessio

      Hey Julie,

      thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it. I totally understand people not answering me. NO PROBLEM. I mean, I don’t get it, but it’s ok. They have tons of thing to do, and I’m the last person who they’re thinking of.

      It’s like my Meet your SEO series: you know how many people didn’t answer my invitation? again , no problem. AMEN. But here there is something more. YOU contacted me, YOU wanna my advices, and moreover it’s something about WORK.

      So I can understand that “meet your SEO” is something funny and many people don’t even like the idea, but here it’s WORK and MY TIME on something serious.

      Thanks Julie, and you know how much I admire you.

  16. Anthony Pensabene

    Alessio, I understand we all have to make money; but, I empathize with your frustration and genuine response to them. Sure, things come up and it’s necessary to ‘play things cool’ when you’re waiting on someone else; but, you hit it with ‘respect.’

    Making you wait for a response when you are also a professional with things to do is not cool at all and does express a lack of respect. I especially don’t dig the response they gave to you “literally talked yourself out of a job.” I respect the way you responded back to them. I doubt they’ll ‘get it,’ but at least now you get their ‘brand’ of doing business. Good message here.

    1. Alessio

      thanks Anthony for the comment.

      Things has to change in order to make a better world. Naive? could be. but if I don’t fight to change something shitty, then I would feel terribly guilty. So yeah, here is matter of human relationships, respect and be humble and saying “I’m not able to get to you but in a month or something”.

      thanks again!


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