Dear Prospective Prospect:
It's okay to call us just to explore an idea.
You do not have to pretend to yourself or to us that you have a perfect plan in place and are only looking for a consultant to execute it by the deadline. We wouldn't believe you anyway.
In fact, please do not pretend that you have it all figured out, even if your company's brand exudes, "We have it all figured out." Because we all know better.
Also, your implied omniscience will lead us to misread the entire situation, and very likely to spend at least a precious half a day issuing you a detailed proposal based on that misreading—and thus entirely missing a target you indicated was defined and fixed, but actually is nebulous and ambulatory.
You will be embarrassed—and inclined, after thanking us for sending the proposal and promising to get back to us, to ignore all our emails and calls forever.
DO NOT BE EMBARRASSED! Things evolve in organizations, we know that! Bosses launch urgent initiatives on Fridays that they can’t remember on Mondays. Ambitions are bigger than budgets. Good ideas on the telephone look like dangerous commitments in print.
We know that. GOD, do we know that. We are in the business of that! Don't think twice, it's all right.
We do not resent it when a promising project evaporates, for any crazy or pedestrian reason. We would like to know the reason, because as compensation for listening to you and thinking about your problem and writing (and formatting and editing and proofreading) a proposal designed to solve your problem, we think we at least deserve to learn something that will give us a better chance next time.
But EVEN IF YOU KNOW that it’s not us, it’s you, and that you inadvertently wasted our time, we are content to know that the project is kaput and that we can cross it off our list.
But we don't want to cross you off our list. We want to keep you as a colleague and a friend, because we are in this for the long haul and we hope you are too.
Every Decent Consultant, Living and Dead