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18 speculations on why there was so much silence during a bidders’ conference call with many law firms

Having just conducted a conference call for numerous law firms invited to respond to a lengthy Request for Proposal, I ruminated on why there were only a handful of questions. Some possible reasons came to mind, which I have listed somewhat in declining order of their likelihood as explanations.

  1. With only ten days to prepare, the firms did not have enough time to read, digest, and develop questions regarding the RFP.
  2. The participants did not want to give away their innovative and good ideas by asking a question.
  3. Everyone wanted to hear what others would ask but chose to hold their own cards close to their chest.
  4. The email questions submitted and answered before the call (more than 40) were sufficient.
  5. Too many waited until the last moment to read and think about the RFP.
  6. No one wanted to appear dumb before the prospect with an infantile question.
  7. No one wanted to appear dumb before their peers or supervisors who were also on the call.
  8. The presenters from the company did not give adequate opportunities for questions (despite almost pleading and enduring long periods of silence and praising questions).
  9. The callers did not know what other firms were on the call and that had a chilling effect.
  10. The mix of partners and marketing people on the call dissuaded both from opening their mouths.
  11. The RFP was so complete and clear that it required no significant clarification or amplification.
  12. The RFP was so poor – jumbled, fragmentary, poorly written, confusing – that the befuddled partners did not know where to begin with questions.
  13. Shyness quieted the group of 50+ partners and marketers.
  14. Those on the call did not trust the anonymity promised them.
  15. These major US firms, of which there were many, were not familiar or comfortable with the conference call format.
  16. People felt obliged to call in, punch in, but didn’t really care.
  17. The attendees deep down resented the demeaning process and their representatives refused on principal to legitimate it with questions.
  18. The callers could not figure out how to press the unmute button.