Why Won't My Customer Call Me Back?

The cruel truth is that nobody is going to be in trouble for forgetting about your proposal.

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By Phil La Duke • Apr 4, 2017 Originally published Apr 4, 2017

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In our world is a cult of immediacy. Smart phones, instant messages, texting, email and whatever the evil Tech Lords will think up next keep us forever glued to our precious screens, as if we are super heroes waiting for the prompt to spring into action. Impatience (especially while awaiting a response) is the norm. Nowhere is this better evidenced than in preparing a quote for a new project.

Little is more frustrating than working long hours alongside coworkers who are starting to smell like cheese that has gone south to meet an impossible deadline, heroically delivering at the eleventh hour and then…nothing. Your team is primed and ready for action, and time is money, so you call your customer and leave a voicemail. A week later it's still radio silence.

Instead of screaming in frustration, sympathetically consider the most common reasons the customer doesn't call back:

Your contact doesn't have an answer for you.

I've been on the buyer's side of this equation. As frustrating as it is to not have your contact call you, it's even more frustrating knowing that you have multiple bidders chomping at the bit to get the work, and don't have an answer yet.

Unfortunately, your customer is often not the sole decision maker. While others may have sworn a primal oath to gods long forgotten and promised your contact an answer, life (or more accurately business) gets in the way.

Related: Why Customer Engagement Is the Future of Ecommerce

Your contact doesn't have enough funding.

Perhaps you have created the Great Gatsby of proposals. Perhaps your contact wept when he or she read it, but if your price is too high and they still want to use you, your contact will have to go back to the well, hat in hand, and beg the powers that be for more money.

Related: Is Your Staff Sabotaging Your Pricing Strategy?

Your contact is waiting for another bid.

Despite RFPs that spell out rules so restrictive that they sound like dialog from Cool Hand Luke, there are often exceptions made. For example, one bidder may have requested (and been granted) an extension to the deadline. It may not be fair but then whoever said it would be?

Your contact was pulled away to deal with an emergency.

A fatality at an Indonesian plant? A CEO has been indicted? These are just a few of the things that will take your contact's focus off your proposal and have them jetting halfway across the world to deal with a catastrophe.

Related: The 3-Step Emergency Plan Every Entrepreneur Needs

Your proposal isn't a priority.

I used to report to the CFO of a global automotive supplier. A colleague of mine would always bitterly complain that our boss couldn't make a decision. I told him that my top priority, the issue that I had a burning need for a decision, might not make the CFO's top hundred list of priorities. Sometimes what you're contact feels is a pressing need isn't all that pressing to others.

Your proposal was used to create a budget.

Yes, it's not a nice thing to do, but often we get asked for proposals because the client is just kicking tires or wants to get a cost figure for budgeting purposes. But don't call his parentage into question just yet -- when the budget is finalized you still may get the project.

  • You didn't get selected. They say that bad news travels fast, when in fact, it travels at glacial speed. It's also true that you can't win them all, and you won't. Sometimes customers won't tell the "also rans" until they have completed negations and have a contract with the winner before telling the others that their bid has been rejected. In this way, if they can't get the deal they want from their first choice they can begin negotiations with the next.

Some people will tell you that it's good to ask why you didn't win a particular bid, but I have found that to be a needless and often awkward conversation. Even in the unlikely event that the customer will tell you the truth, it's like an ugly scene after a breakup, they don't owe you an explanation and generally come up with some lame excuse that is neither convincing nor satisfying.

Phil La Duke


Phil La Duke is a speaker and writer. Find his books at amazon.com/author/philladuke. Twitter @philladuke

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