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Is one of your suppliers taking too long to respond? No matter what you do are they ignoring your requests? Here are some ideas to get them to respond in a speedy manner.
The event industry moves at a fast pace and deadlines and lead times are often short, putting pressure on the event planner to gather information in next to no time. Whether it is putting in a fee proposal, sharing ideas with your client or confirming final details with the venue quick responses are often vital.
If you’ve ever spent significant time with a child you know one of the ways they get attention is by calling your name over and over until you’re so frustrated you scream “WHAT IS IT?” While this isn’t the way to deal with your suppliers, it is an effective way to get noticed.
But what do you do when your suppliers “aren’t paying attention” to you or prioritizing your requests? Call their names over and over? Not likely. Here are a few better options:
- Place Read Receipts on Your Emails or Texts
When you place a read receipt on your emails or texts, it underlines the seriousness of your message. This is something you want to make sure they received so you place a read receipt on it. You’re telling your supplier, you can bet I’ll follow up on this one.
- Don’t Make Vague Requests
Often out of politeness we talk about what should be done but not who will do it. For instance, we might say or write, “We’ll need to circle back on this and see where we are in a week.” This leaves the supplier in a passive role. Who will circle back? Who will see where we are? How will we get there? The supplier doesn’t have an assigned role. If you expect something to be done, you need to give assignments or ask for them.
This is especially true when your emails are sent to a list of people. Recipients will assume someone else on the list is getting you what you need so be specific about what you need from whom and when.
Stress It’s not a One-Off Working Relationship
If you present the relationship as one of “we’ll have to see how it works out” you may not give the supplier much cause to be interested in continuing things in the future. On the other hand, if they see you as an event planner who will provide them with future work, and lots of it, they may be quicker to respond.
If it is a supplier you work with regularly one of the criteria of this relationship is probably that they are reliable, respond quickly and help you out in times of need, such as urgent deadlines.
Get the Details Right
If you’re communicating via email or leaving a phone message, make sure you have your supplier’s name right. In a business relationship, they should still answer even if you mix up an “a” and an “e” in their name but it makes them feel less important and speaks to your inattention to detail.
State What You Need in the Subject Line
If you’re sending an email request, tell them what you need or the info contained in the email in the subject line. For instance:
“Final headcount for Smith Event 5/20”
Not only does that tell them why they should open the email, it will also make it easy for them to find if they need to reference it again. If your email if about information you need from them, use an email subject line like:
“Response needed for final headcount by May 8.”
If you’re calling and leaving a message, give the important info right after you identify yourself and repeat it again at the end. If it’s info you need, tell them what it is and when you need it by. Reiterate the info at the end again.
Give a Reason
If you’re familiar with the old copier study that people were more likely to allow someone to “cut” in line for the copier if they provided a reason, even if it was a nonsensical one, then you understand the power of the word “because.” In order to drive action, try giving them a reason such as,
“I need to know your pricing because I’m putting together the budget.”
Don’t Add a Lot of Fluff
Fluffy niceties are nice but people don’t read anymore. The more words you put in an email, the less likely the recipient is going to read the important stuff. Don’t let your request get lost in the words. Get right to the point.
Think about emails like the old telegraphs where you paid per word. They were brief and got right to the point. No one wanted to pay for: “Hi, How are you?” Keep your emails short and they’ll be more likely to notice the important stuff.
Practice Strategic Follow Up
After your initial email, set a tickler to ensure you’ve received a response by a date that is in line with your deadline. If you haven’t heard back by the date, send a reminder email with “reminder” added to the subject. Copy or forward your original email along with any necessary attachments. Make it as easy as possible for them to respond to you. Don’t make them hunt for the info even though you know they have it. Email productivity tools can help you keep track.
Emails only go so far and if you’re not getting the needed response it’s time for a call. Make sure your call comes after you’ve given them adequate time to answer your email. Adequate time is 24 hours unless it’s an emergency. (and if it is emergency maybe you should have called in the first place!)
When you call and leave a message, be brief about your needs and let them know (again) when you need the info. Leave your phone number (again) even though you know they have it. People pick up their messages from all sorts of places when they’re in the middle of other activities. Providing all of your information each time you call or email may seem excessive but you want to make it simple for them to respond.
Make Someone Smile
Okay, so I advised not to clutter up emails with niceties but there is one exception in emails and phone messages - humor. When you can make someone laugh, they are more apt to help you out. In a 1981 study conducted by O’Quinn and Aronoff, they divided participants into buyers and sellers and asked them to negotiate the price of a painting. Half of the sellers were told to use the line, “My final offer is ___ and I’ll throw in a pet frog.” The buyers who heard that line were willing to pay significantly higher prices than those who were part of traditional negotiations. Humor breaks down walls and helps people trust and want to help others.
Getting urgent responses out of suppliers can be difficult but if you construct your emails and phone messages strategically, you’ll have more success. If these things don’t work, you may have to contact a higher up or someone who has some influence on the person. But if you’re going to go this route, it likely will affect your future relationship so keep this in mind before escalating to that extent.
Still, if you have a supplier who fails to yield a response, your future relationship is in jeopardy anyway in the fast moving world of events. Walk away from them and don’t involve them in future events. But ensure they know why you’re making that change.