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I recently spread the word around in my network about the requirement for a technology consultant who can take care of all the backend IT work for my company. I even posted the requirement on a couple of business networking sites.
I received about a dozen responses and was taken aback by the poor quality of some of the business proposals and the sloppy effort in dealing with a prospective client. Being in the consulting business myself, it was truly a lesson in 'what not to do with clients'.
Being sluggish in responding to clients
I called and e-mailed three consultants recommended by a close friend. I did not receive any response from them for two days. After sending two of them a reminder mail, I gave up, thinking that if they don't care when I am still a prospect, I am not sure what kind of service will they provide when I am their client.
Lesson -- Always respond to clients immediately. It's best to get back to a client within 24 hours of the request. If you are not available, set up an auto-responder for e-mails or leave a voice message. It's your responsibility to make it easy for your clients to get in touch with you.
Mind your language
I received an e-mail from a consultant with the subject line -- 'purposal as reqested by you'
While he was responsive, his e-mail did not create a great first impression. The e-mail had many spelling errors as well. I am sure he could have easily avoided it by spending a little more time. I lost confidence in him due to his lack of attention to details.
Lesson -- Do a basic spell check and grammar check before sending out a proposal. Ask a colleague to edit your proposal and provide feedback. Bad spelling and grammar send a message that you're sloppy. Keep in mind that you are communicating with a potential client.
One consultant called about four times in one day just to check if I need any more inputs or information. While hiring a consultant was an important task for me, it wasn't the only thing that kept me occupied. Often consultants forget that their clients are busy with other key deliverables as well. The worst part was that he did not even do his basic research about our company.
Lesson --Make a follow up call after you have sent your proposal and wait for a response. Provide your contact details in your proposal and guide the prospect to your web site for more details. You don't need an elaborate web site -- just a basic one with the company's background, services offered and contact details.
Not doing your homework
One consultant, who called, asked me "What does your company do"? He was calling me after reading a post of mine on a networking site where I had mentioned about my company's background and our requirement.
Lesson --Learn more about the prospect and do a basic online search about them. You want to be sure whom you are dealing with. Make sure that your proposal is customised to the needs as stated in the advertisement.
Claiming that you're the cheapest
I certainly want great value for my money but at the same time I want quality as well. It's a myth that price is the only decisive factor. I have often paid more when I felt that the value derived would be greater. One consultant kept stressing about his rock bottom prices being his company's key differentiator.
Lesson --You don't want to be bracketed as a low cost, low quality service provider. Focus on other key strengths that will add value to the client. The consultant who kept stressing on low price actually made me think that there was a reason why he is so 'cheap'.
Deeksha Singh heads business development at W.C.H Training Solutions and can be reached at email@example.com
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