You know the feeling, you get a new prospect, you have a meeting, and everything seems to be looking positive.  But then after a few weeks of getting back to them and the occasional email, you get the impression that things are no longer very positive at all!  Oh sorry, they have just popped out, oh sorry, they have literally just picked up another call…. So why are some people so bad at saying “No, not interested?”

1. We can’t be bothered?

Really, is it that bad..?  The potential client asked for your help remember?  They invited you in, you took time out, incurred costs, and then probably spent ages providing a quote, and perhaps even some ideas?  Let’s try and “be bothered” and save us all some wasted time.

2. You don’t want to offend anyone?

The meeting was so positive, everything was followed up really well, but at the end of the day, the proposal or quote just didn’t quite make the cut.  But as the client, you are genuinely disappointed, so think it might be easier just to ignore the follow up requests.  Please don’t do this.  Have the courtesy to be honest, and don’t give people false hope.  And if there is something the potential supplier can learn from, do please tell them.

3. You didn’t have the authority?

Sometimes people go off on a tangent to find a new supplier, or a cheaper price.  But even when there seems every good reason to make a change, the potential client finds out they can’t actually implement the change. Perhaps due to a national agreement, or a contract.  As a potential supplier, you need to ask the right questions “do you have responsibility to make this change” but if as the client you find out there’s a barrier preventing the change from happening, just be honest and tell the supplier how and when this can be overcome.

4. You were just curious?

For businesses trying to grow and expand, this is perhaps the most frustrating of all dangled carrots.   As the client, you really had no intention to change your supplier, you were just curious to see what some potential competitors were able to offer, or, you were doing your own market assessment of your own competitors.  Please, if you are doing this, just stop the sales process as quickly as possible once you have the information you need.

5. Something changed?

It can happen.  The client started off with good intentions but as the process continued, something changed.  The client found a different solution, or budgets got cut, and the project had to be cancelled.   Again, just be honest, and tell the supplier as quickly as possible that this has happened.

Does it matter…?

Yes, it does!

  1. Lost time chasing prospects that will never ever come off
  2. Loss of reputation. A potential supplier could become your next customer as they change jobs, or get talked about in networking meetings.

What can potential suppliers do about it?

1. Ask appropriate questions. Who is the final decision maker, and how does your contact get involved in that?  Are they just collecting information, or do they have any influence on the outcome?  What are the timelines?  When will the decision made?

2. Don’t give away too much. It’s a fine balance between proving your credentials and giving away great ideas and not losing all control of your intellectual property.  Sometimes it is worth considering a charge (for an audit for example) that could be taken off the first piece of contracted new business.

3. Follow up, as requested. Don’t follow up too soon, and don’t follow up too late, and follow up as requested (by email, or by phone).

4. Vent. Up to you on this one.  That said, before you hit “send” on that email or text, or “post” on social media, walk away, and come back to it.  If when you return you are still incensed and want to vent, then again, it’s up to you.  The phrase “don’t burn your bridges” comes to mind though, and you might just be better moving on.

So let’s all try and make business more effective.  If it’s a no, just let us know, and if you can offer advice on why it was a no, please do.  We can all learn a lot from failure.

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