I had a call recently from one of my preferred training partners, letting me know that a proposed project which had been put on hold some months ago was suddenly resurrected, and is now about to kick off. Awesome – I love that!
Sometimes client needs end up on uncomfortably longer-than-expected timetables, right? So, once a vendor-partner has had a helpful conversation to scope out a potential project, and they’ve submitted a proposal, how should they follow up?
I am asked this regularly by my partner companies, and here is my standard advice:
- Don’t panic. Initiatives, and even responses to inquiries, just get delayed.
- Don’t pester. By and large, clients dislike that. The follow-up process shouldn’t be punishment for expressing interest.
- Gently inquire as to the status on an occasional (and by this I don’t mean twice-weekly!) basis. Make it a very succinct e-mail or VM – not an extended sales pitch.
- For all prospects with whom you hope to develop a good relationship, occasionally forward interesting and value-adding resources and news items relevant to them or their company. No pitch – just, “thought you might like to see this.” It’s a valuable way to stay top-of-mind.
- If you’re going to be in the area geographically, offer to meet for coffee or lunch. Not a capabilities presentation. Just talk. And see if you can make connections and introductions for your client within your network.
I was on the vendor side for years, and carried plenty of sales responsibilities over the past 3 decades, so I know the pressure. But you have to take the long view. I cultivated a friendship with one individual whom I got to know a long time ago (2 or 3 companies ago for him!), and with whom I stayed in touch even though there was little or no immediate business. And then, a referral door opened up into a very large new business opportunity. Had I been a high-pressure pest, that likely would never had happened.
Add value. Not pressure.
Here was one client’s take recently: “I hate being oversold and told that they can do everything. Trying to hard to get the business. I also don’t want to get 100 calls and emails; my time is precious.”
That’s my take – now, what about yours, training professionals? What do you prefer, or dislike, as far as a follow-up procedure from a vendor? Add your input in the comments so that your vendor-partners can benefit from your advice!
(P.S. From the vendor side of the equation, this input): One helpful piece of feedback from a vendor perspective to clients: Please respond to the inquiry or follow-up. It is sometimes the case that a vendor puts in a tremendous amount of effort in developing a proposed solution to a stated need. In follow-up the client goes totally silent. The courtesy of a short email, such as “thanks for the follow-up and the proposal it is much appreciated. Priorities have changed slightly I will be back in touch in a few days/weeks/months” would be extremely helpful. Right now we’re seeing a trend toward shorter response cycles for more complex requirements, accompanied by very poor client feedback (or none at all).