"Dilemmas" is designed to stimulate conversation between and among fellow consultants, our clients and prospects, and others who wish to leap in.
Consultants, let's discuss what you would have done. You may post your comments and observations at our Web site by linking from http://www.techmanage.com/dilemmas or send me an e-mail, letting me know if you'd like it posted if you can't get to our site.
Many years ago a potential overseas client asked me to create a proposal for analyzing a particular industry. It was so long ago that I don't even remember the industry. What reminded me of this prospect was an experience a younger consulting associate of ours has had recently. The details are similar, except that the prospect's request came via Internet rather than by fax or mail.
Basically the issue is this. An unsolicited request for proposal, complete with referrals and other details to be included, arrives via e-mail. The work to be done fits your background and expertise exactly. You acknowledge the request by return e-mail and follow up the lead before the end of the day with a brief courtesy phone call. The person you called is glad you took the initiative to call, gives you additional background information and asks you several qualifying questions. All very professional.
Your associate gets to work, outlining a course of action (in general terms, of course) and otherwise presents a decent proposal package, all by e-mail. A response comes back the next day, a good sign. Questions about certain aspects of the work. Another good sign. All very professional.
Your associate makes another long-distance call, because e-mail's interactivity can carry you only so far. Another half-hour discussion. Request for more information. All very professional. (You do know where I'm going, don't you?)
You guessed it. Except it's not that they're going to do the work themselves (that's the road I traveled ‘way back when). It's that they were looking for a commissioned sales rep. No work for hire here. At all.
I don't know about you, but we get our fair share of seemingly-serious inquiries via our Web site Guest Book, some from very large companies and organizations you would all know. We dutifully and courteously respond via e-mail in "Real Time" as McKenna suggests (book reviewed above). Sometimes we even follow up with a phone call. Over the past six months, however, the number (and percentage) of complete non-responses from the people who made the original inquiry has increased significantly.
Now, this is not a complaint. We've been blessed with a great deal of work that had originally arrived over the (electronic) transom. We're delighted that our Web site is attracting attention from the very organizations we'd like to serve. And we're not about to tattle on those whose behavior reflects badly on their high-profile organizations...although it's certainly been tempting.
A couple of questions: are YOU seeing an increase in idle inquiries? If so, what do suppose are some of the causes? Regarding our associate, he now knows about asking qualifying questions. Sadder, wiser, and fortunately a pretty inexpensive lesson compared with preparing a fancy, leather-bound proposal.
Please visit our Web site to reply or send an e-mail to the editor, with "Once Burned?" in the subject line. By interacting with each other on issues we all encounter, we'll all learn. Looking forward to your responses!
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