March 24, 2011
It’s incredible that you can now do business with anyone on the globe. It opens up amazing possibilities for all of us.
It also creates some new challenges.
We launched a very complex and challenging project with a new vendor recently. It was complicated by the fact that it’s outside our area of expertise — but we still needed to drive it from a project management and brand perspective.
What we needed was very specialized and there aren’t too many proven choices out there. So we selected a vendor who clearly had the skills we needed. We contracted with them and the work began. Then, this sequence of events happened.
- They sent us an e-mail, outlining what they needed from us.
- I sent an e-mail back, admitting that I was nervous about the project due to our lack of knowledge — and could we please talk it through on the phone.
- They wrote back and said they preferred to do everything via e-mail so there was a record and no details would be missed.
- I said… I was all for capturing the details but I have some overarching questions and want to give them a better sense of what we’re trying to do, big picture.
- They wrote back — great, e-mail us your questions and tell us about the big picture.
- I did this to the best of my ability — which I believe wasn’t all that hot. I just didn’t know enough.
- They asked us how we wanted to handle a technical issue. I said…I have no idea. We need your recommendation.
- They gave us a recommendation and we took it.
- 2 weeks later — it turns out their recommendation was wrong. Had we talked on the phone and explored the project together — they would have made a different recommendation.
- We have to make a change, based on a new recommendation.
- Oops…turns out their 2nd recommendation was also not quite right, because they didn’t know enough about what we were trying to do — and I didn’t know enough to tell them what they really needed to know.
- 3rd recommendation is fine. Project is complete. But…they had to do a lot of extra work and take a lot of extra time that they could have saved — if we’d had that initial phone call.
Every project should begin with a phone conversation. I don’t care how tech savvy you are. I don’t care how simple the project.
Do not hide behind your computer with the excuse of capturing details or efficiency. I don’t care how much you prefer e-mail — when a client asks to talk to you on the phone — talk to them. They are no more interested in chatting than you are. You will learn so much more in a phone conversation — because you can ask questions, and based on those answers — ask more questions.
Even if it’s just because the client is worried — talk to them.
It sounds pretty basic doesn’t it? But it’s happening more and more. I can hear you in the comments section now — “duh, Drew. When they wouldn’t talk to you on the phone — big red flag.”
I know it. I knew it then. But, I kept trusting their process rather than that nagging voice in my head.
My mistake is your marketing lesson. Don’t do this to your clients and don’t do business with anyone who does it to you.More