Answer your damn phone!
June 23, 2011 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Tips for getting business emails/phone calls returned in a quick manner?

I am seeking RFQ's from a number of contract manufacturers for a nutritional product. For almost every company I call, it takes way too long to get a first response, and once contact is established, it often takes days to get replies to follow ups. My instincts are to keep calling, sending emails and leaving voice mails simultaneously, but I am wondering if there are any more nuanced strategies than pure persistence. Already tried: I make a point of emphasizing my seriousness and provide a link to my company's professional web site.
posted by blargerz to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're pretty much at their mercy. Assuming you meet the criteria to become a dealer/distributor, unless you personally know someone inside, there's not a lot you can do (assuming you don't come off as completely incompetent). I have dealt with Asian manufacturers in a similar capacity, and they very much work at their own pace.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 9:36 PM on June 23, 2011

Response by poster: This reminds me to mention that all the manufacturers are domestic, if that makes any difference.
posted by blargerz at 9:47 PM on June 23, 2011

You're after quotes? Then give them a finite deadline, as well as suggest that you already have something in the bag. "We have a quote from manufacturer X that we're pretty happy with, but my boss said that before we hit the deadline of Y I should call a few other places in case somebody can do a better job. If you could provide this information by Z that would be great, otherwise we'll assume you aren't interested and will go ahead with our original choice."

Better still, find an actual contact at these places. That is, a name. You get these names by networking and trade shows and by just generally being observant. You can also get these names from competitors: "Oh, yeah, Frank over at Frank's Manufacturing is the guy I use, give him a buzz."
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:24 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

As others have said, it probably isn't a game you can win, but if possible, you might try getting in touch with someone other than the flak-catcher. If the phone number ends in 00, see what happens if you dial 09 by accident. If you get a phone tree, you can sometimes get right to someone to help you by cursing loudly into the phone (it's true, believe me), or by just pressing 0 repeatedly, or by not selecting anything at all. If you do end up talking to someone, play it as dumb as you can. For whatever reason, people like to help kind, stupid people, and like to put off smart people who are just trying to get their work done.
posted by Gilbert at 10:25 PM on June 23, 2011

I like to include in my first message a politely worded threat to harass them again. "Hi! I'm looking for a quote on left-handed frambulators. I'll need about 375. It's 2:30 on Wednesday the 22nd now; if I haven't heard from you by 10 AM on Friday the 24th, I'll give you another call. Hope to do business with you soon!"

Sometimes just stating a date makes people feel like they have a deadline.
posted by KathrynT at 11:02 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say you're trying to emphasise your seriousness by providing a link to your website - 1. are you sure your website is any good? 2. Are you indicating your budget for the project?

I'm in a different industry but when I get requests for quotes, if I don't respond its because either I'm fully booked (which I imagine is even more important in manufacturing - if the moneys good I can squeeze people in by working overtime) or because the RFQ doesn't seem like they could afford my services.

Maybe you could put your website in your profile and we could take a look?
posted by missmagenta at 12:02 AM on June 24, 2011

There could be a number of reasons:

-if you're a new entity and/or have no history in industry, people aren't sure how seriously to take you and if you're worth the time.

-if this is a new aspect of your business and you don't know the terminology used in this industry, you could be closing doors by using the wrong lingo.

-if your job is small by industry standards, the big guys aren't going to be interested - it isn't worth their time. If your job is a brand new product, the small guys won't be interested because your job will take too much of their time.

You're probably going to need to do more research and find a niche company.

Send your request in writing & address to the president of the company. Send a fax first and include: Product you want, Quantity you need, Time aspect (you will be shipping # of product every month, quarter, yr etc) your company info, your complete contact info, need this quote by: July 7 (give them 2 weeks to reply) If you haven't heard anything by July 7, send a follow up letter. Putting it in writing creates a paper trail that will get more attention. A phone call or voice mail is easier to ignore.

You could also look at trade shows and see if you can attend one - if your product is edible, there are 4 or so major trade shows you could research. The Fancy Food show is in DC next month and here's a list of the vendors.

You don't have to attend a show to find a vendor but meeting a lot of people in person might give you a better shot at finding the right vendor for you.
posted by jaimystery at 4:49 AM on June 24, 2011

You aren't the only person contacting these people with RFQs.

And, not knowing the complexity or details of what you are requesting a quote on, I'll just say that stuff takes time. This age of instant communication makes people expect others to hop-to when they want. Sometimes, it doesn't work that way.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:23 AM on June 24, 2011

It took me a long time to realize this: Things Take Time.

People are inefficient, busy, vacationing, getting divorced, married, sick, drunk, etc. Prople have way too much email, and, if they're me, the "to be responded to" folder sometimes gets way out of control. Be cheerful and persistent, and emphasize that you are a potential source of Money.

Ask if they use email so that you can send details in a manner that may be more convenient for them. Ask is there's a format they need to respond to RFQs. Make sure that your communication is precise enough and Easy to respond to. On the 3rd contact, ask, Would you please let me know if you have no interest in our project? We want to move forward with a highly skilled, quality producer like you, who has the time and capacity for our project. You may be too busy, in which case we'll congratulate you on your success and remove you from our contact list.
posted by theora55 at 9:54 AM on June 24, 2011

This may just be me, but I would be annoyed by someone who called and e-mailed, and then sent multiple follow-ups before hearing from me.
posted by grouse at 10:07 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If people aren't getting back to you or aren't getting back to you in a timely manner they are probably either rushed off their feet, in which case you're not going to get a very good service if you did business with them, or they aren't all that interested in doing business with you...may be a case of spreading your net very wide before you get what you need.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:39 PM on June 24, 2011

I've had a lot of success reaching business contacts, especially senior ones, directly at their desks a good bit before their company's business hours officially start, like between 7:30-8:00am (specific times may vary by industry).

Bonus: it's easy to break the ice and quickly gain a sense of familiarity with gentle "oh-you-must-be-a-workaholic-too-ha-ha"-type chat.
posted by mauvest at 6:33 PM on June 24, 2011

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