“It’s just not the right time.”
“We have a lot of other things on our plate at this time.”
“Thanks for sending the information that I asked for. Can you check back with me in 6 months? We have a lot going on right now.”
Sound familiar? Have you ever said any of these things – or something similar? It’s OK if you have. Many of us have – including me.
Let me begin by saying that contacting a service provider (or vendor) for “an idea” of what something would cost is absolutely fine. Perhaps you’re not ready to tackle the project at the moment but it is on your radar for the next quarter or possibly even later in that year.
That’s not what this article is about. This is about the interactions that occur (or that don’t) when an organization asks a vendor to put together a written or other type of formal proposal. Maybe it’s a new product. Maybe it’s training. Maybe it’s something else. The service provider takes the time to create what you asked for and sends it to you. But when the vendor asks for a decision or even an update, some folks employ stalling tactics or give excuses why they can’t proceed. (See above for 3 of the lamest.)
Now, this is certainly not being written to offend anyone. But it is important that business professionals understand the methodology by which the best service providers operate and why such methods are used.
If the service provider that you’ve contacted asks the following questions of you up-front, chances are they’re pretty good at what they do and are just as busy as you are. So don’t get mad – just be honest.
“On a scale of 1-10, where does this fall on your organization’s priority scale?” If it’s not at least a 9 or you “won’t be ready to do something for a few months,” don’t ask the vendor to create a formal proposal. Again, getting an idea regarding the amount of the investment is fine. That can be done during your initial conversation. And by the way, great service providers won’t just “mail you something.” They want to have a conversation with you.
“What kind of budget do you have for this project?” This is important to discuss up-front. Service providers need to earn money too. Of course, many will work to design programs that fit within the budget you have but please keep in mind that the extent of the services they will be willing to provide would be commensurate with the available budget. Don’t expect A to Z when only A to F can be paid for. And sometimes, the parties won’t be able to get in the “same ballpark.” That’s OK too. It’s better to know this at the start, isn’t it?
“Are you the ultimate decision-maker?”If you say no, you may be asked to conference that person in – again, that’s not to offend you. It’s to save time. Service providers don’t want anyone else talking about their companies and programs to decision-makers (especially people that don’t work for them.) Something may inevitably get “lost in translation” which isn’t good for either party. Also, if the decision-maker “is too busy” to get on a phone call, then the vendor will probably presume that the decision maker will also be too busy to review a written proposal.
IMPORTANT! Is it a definite deal-breaker if the service provider can’t talk directly to the decision maker? NOT AT ALL. Your honest answers to the first 2 questions above regarding priority level and budget will give vendors a pretty good idea as to whether the decision maker is committed to what you are looking to do.
So about the idea of the “right time.” Is it ever the right time? It must have been a high priority if you asked for a formal proposal. What changed? Is it the cost? Is it something else? Just be honest with the vendor so, if it’s a “no,” you can both move on.
Finally, I’d like to touch on professional courtesy. Instead of responding to the service provider when they follow up on the proposal that you asked them to prepare, many businesspeople simply ignore the phone calls or e-mail. Please don’t do that. Remember that those that work as vendors are professionals as well. Have the courtesy to respond to their inquiries – no matter what the response might be.
Here’s to a fantastic and productive 2015!