So, you just submitted a quote form online for the product or service you need for your business. Now what?
You might be dreading a handful of phone calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize, and having to speak with salespeople. Or maybe you expect to soon get some emails from different suppliers, giving you their prices. But really, what you’re probably hoping for is a compact list of exact prices from the best suppliers, letting you choose without speaking to anyone.
What many buyers don’t know when they’re filling out a quote form is the importance of real, open and honest communication with suppliers. Even if it’s easier, choosing a supplier based on a simple price quote with no direct communication is a bad idea. Why? Well, for starters you have no idea about the quality of the product/service, customer service, or how they’re coming up with that number without first knowing your needs. Secondly, by speaking with a few suppliers, you’ll gain a better understanding of the overall market rate for certain items so you know you’re getting the best deal. And third, most high-quality suppliers don’t offer price quotes without hearing from you first!
There’s no need to fear calls with suppliers! We have a guide to help you get the most out of your communication during your phone calls:
1. Pick up the phone when they call
The most common fear among prospective buyers is “too many calls.” This results in them ignoring the calls, which leads to even more calls and making no progress on their buying experience!
It’s important to understand that most high-quality suppliers do not offer quotes right off the bat, or based on just a few simple questions (if they do, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t trust it, or should seek further details!). While those questions can put you in touch with the right suppliers, you still need to have a conversation to reach an understanding about who you are and where you work, your need, purpose, budget, among other essentials. If you ignore the calls, you’re actually setting yourself up to have less control over your buying experience, because you’re allowing suppliers to put a price on your product/service without first understanding you and your needs.
Remember that the salespeople reaching out to you are just doing their job, and they usually have good intentions. After all, you’re looking for a product or service, and they can provide it. It can become a win-win partnership if communication is direct and honest on both ends. Plus, if you tell them you’ve found a service, you’re not interested, or you’ll like them to stop calling, they will listen – and you’ll avoid either of you wasting any more time.
2. Clearly communicate the reason for the product/service
The best way to start the conversation is to explain the reason you feel the need for this particular product or service, as well as any problems you’re experiencing you want them to address. For instance…
- Are you currently experiencing an issue with your current copier (“it keeps jamming and it’s brand new!”) and you need to replace it (“I don’t want to make the same mistake again!”)?
- Are you concerned about not having an office coffee service yet (“we’re a small company; we haven’t had the need before”), and want to boost employee morale as you do more hiring (“we’re growing, and now we have a need!”)?
Whatever the reason for the product/service, remember that they are professionals in this field and chances are, they understand the ins-and-outs from years of experience. For example, if you originally filled out the form thinking you needed one product/service but your needs and concerns indicate another would be a better fit, save you money, or prevent problems down the road, they can let you know before it’s too late.
3. Specify your need(s)
After expressing the reason for needing to buy, explain what you have in mind. For instance, maybe you think you’re sure you need a multi-functional printer (MFP) because you really want to streamline all your printing tasks into one convenient place. Maybe you know your team, as well as your budget, are small, so you really want to stick with a smaller, traditional coffee pot for now – and coffee shipments below $100 per month. Whatever the specifications are, try to communicate them clearly – it helps for you and the supplier to get on the same page.
Next, let them know about the urgency of your need to buy:
- Urgent (“I need it ASAP”) – 0 – 2 months
- Important (“I need it soon”) – 2 – 6 months
- Considerable (“I’m flexible”) – < 12 months
Even if budget is a big concern of yours, don’t forget the old saying “you get what you pay for.” Many suppliers are open to communication about pricing. But, if you try to negotiate “too low,” you might not be satisfied with the quality of the product/service. Remember, this transaction is a two-way street! Suppliers need to think about money, as well. You want to build a good rapport with the supplier, especially if the service is ongoing or you plan to buy again. Let them know your budget respectfully, and actively work to reach an agreement. Plus, if they ask for a budget or “target price” during your call, it typically means they care about your sensitivity to budget and want to help you meet that goal.
4. Explain your “must-have’s”
Getting suppliers on the phone is your chance to be proactive about your buying experience – let them know what your expectations are and what your highest priorities are. Filling out a quote form online can only communicate so much to the supplier – the phone call can reassure you that the supplier will be able to deliver on your priorities. This is also why it’s a good idea to make a list of your highest priorities before you fill out a form, so you can emphasize them when you speak with the suppliers you’re choosing from.
After sharing those priorities, fill the supplier in on your “must-have’s,” and what you would need to see from them in order to do business with them. For instance, is it a “must-have” for you to keep your budget below $100 monthly? Do you need included maintenance every other month? Do you need to try samples of coffee to make sure the quality is up to par? Or maybe you want to see real-time photos of the storage container before renting. Whatever is at the top of your list, make sure they know so you can both get the most out of the business relationship.
Go through these steps with the different suppliers your quote request service puts you in touch with. 3-5 different comparisons is a great place to get started. Create a chart or jot down some notes about the way each supplier responds to your questions and concerns – as well as how effectively they communicate and seem to care about your needs, in general – so you can easily evaluate the pros and cons when you’re done. By the way – 360Connect connects you with up to 5 suppliers, so that you’re not juggling too many phone calls or faced with a difficult decision. You can stick with only the top suppliers that can service your needs.
Remember these conversations are extremely valuable when buying! Speaking to a person over the phone makes it more likely that your basic needs, concerns, and problems will be heard and solved as best that they can. Rather than relying on the Internet or yourself alone, phone calls save you time in the long run, prevent a great deal of confusion when trying to decide what to buy, and set you up for high satisfaction after you’ve completed the purchase. You want to try to find a win-win solution, where your needs as well as the supplier’s needs are met, so you can enter into a healthy and mutually beneficial business relationship.