There’s a cardinal rule in marketing that follow up calls are important. It’s something people pay lip service to all the time, but in my experience most companies don’t actually bother to follow that common advice. And so if you do, you’ll give yourself an edge.
Say a builder asks you to quote for some steel work, or joinery, or whatever. Once you’ve put your price in, don’t let go of it. Many subcontractors are too busy to follow up enquiries, or they’re not confident – perhaps they just don’t like making the phone call, if nothing else. So they don’t, and they throw away a major opportunity.
I work with builders and subcontractors, so I see this from both sides. The industry is very busy, and I know building clients that routinely ask for twice as many quotes as they need to make a fair comparison, because they know that half of them won’t even get round to responding to the enquiry, let alone follow it up. It’s not unusual for a builder to send out five enquiries for steelwork and get two or three back. The ones that don’t respond are out right from the start.
If you do respond, but put in your price and then stay silent, you may think you’re doing the courteous thing by leaving them to it. But what then happens is that the other two will talk to the builder and you’ll miss out, or perhaps the builder will assume that you’re not really interested. That happens time after time.
Let’s stick with steelwork as an example. You might submit a price of £10,000 for a job. You could be second – someone else has come in at £9,800. In theory, the company that has put in the lower bid is going to get the job, but that’s not necessarily the case. The subcontractor with the lower price might not follow up their quote. If you do, you can phone up and say “we want to work with you, what do we need to do to get the job?” The builder will realise that you’re serious, and may well say “if you can match £9,800 you’ve got it.” If you don’t follow up, you’re leaving it to chance and missing out on an opportunity to do a deal.
I heard about a ground works company that was sold recently for £10 million. The owner had taken it on, grown it and then sold it on. A friend who had been involved with them told me that a big factor in their success was to follow up every quote. That was 20 or 30 a week, but every single one was chased up by two members of staff who did nothing else but make follow up calls. If they were close but not quite first choice, they were often able to manoeuvre themselves into a winning position.
We do this as a matter of course for our clients. Actually, we’re starting with a new client next week to do this specifically. They’re currently sending out 10 or 15 enquiries a week, and all our sales agent will be doing is following them up. It’s unusual for us to come in to do something quite that specific, but we expect it to be highly productive.
There’s another aspect to following up a quote that is often overlooked. If you’re a subcontractor quoting for a builder who is themselves tendering, then they may not get the job and your chances are quite remote. We would always aim to find out who else is tendering and copy our price across to them too, dramatically increasing our chances of winning that work. So one enquiry from one builder can lead to two or three more quotes, and you’ll get the work whoever wins the tender. It’s a very effective way of selling, and it’s surprising how many subcontractors don’t do this as a regular part of their sales.
Finally, the other thing you want to consider is that chasing work is the best way to build relationships with work providers – as long as you’re doing it professionally and not being pushy. You’re showing interest, building rapport, making a personal connection. All of that will pay off. Even if you don’t get the job, you can be gracious and courteous, and ask about upcoming projects.
So really, why wouldn’t you follow up?
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