5 Steps For Setting The Tone With Clients During Quoting
I’ve been thinking recently about which projects I enjoyed and regretted the most in 2015. The ones I enjoyed the most were generally ones where I played a proactive role during the quoting process and the ones I regretted the most were the ones where I played a more passive or careless role.
By passive, I mean responding to an email that says “How much will it cost and how long will it take to translate the attached file?” with a one-liner only answering those two questions. By careless I mean not looking very carefully at a complicated file before quoting a project price based on a standard word rate. I should have realized it would take longer than the usual document with that number of words and quoted higher.
By proactive, I mean calling or emailing existing clients to see if they have anything in the pipeline, finding out they did and getting proper advance notice for it I might not otherwise have gotten. I also mean setting up an in-person meeting or a phone call to gather loads of information I used to create a more customized quote, which also happened to be higher than what I probably would have quoted if I had responded passively to the initial inquiry.
The rest of this post will deal with these aspects as they apply to direct clients throughout the quoting process, but you can certainly be more or less passive or proactive in certain aspects of relationships with translation agency clients too and I will cover that in a future blog post. These pieces of advice are partially based on my own actual experiences, experiences I have heard of from fellow translators and what I think would be a better idea in lieu of mistakes I have made.
- Set up a good time to talk
If the client emails you or calls you up at a time that catches you unprepared, set the tone by setting up a good time for both of you to meet in person or call back. You will feel more comfortable calling the client when you know they are available and you won’t be caught off guard if you are the one making the call or setting up the meeting. Even if the matter is urgent and you are simply calling them back in ten minutes, it will still allow you a moment to collect your thoughts and remind yourself of what you need to ask the client. The client is setting the tone if they get you to reveal your hand before you are ready to lay your cards on the table, so don’t make unprepared price estimates on the spot! Remember that you want to gather information and throw in some selling points first before you mention a price and submit your quote.
- Don’t make unnecessary assumptions
Don’t make assumptions about things like what the client means by “urgent”. Pick up the phone and ask them! You might quote for delivery of a small text within 24 hours, only to find out that urgent in the client’s mind is within one week. If you hadn’t asked, you might have been in an unnecessarily big hurry and quoted rush charges the client didn’t need. Making assumptions is being passive.
- Get the information you need to submit an informed quote
Send some of your questions by email and follow up with a phone call, or start with a phone call right away. Find out how urgent it is, how the translation will be used, the target audience, get a briefing about the client’s business etc. Find out how important the translation is to the client as well. You can bet that clients will be willing to pay more for something that is absolutely critical to their business than something that would be nice to have in language x.
I have found that clients enjoy talking about their businesses, and that is a good thing. Get them talking and you will get a lot of useful information and build a strong relationship with them. However, don’t forget to keep setting the tone and asking questions that will lead to them telling you what you want to know.
- Throw in some selling points after getting info
It’s being passive to assume that the client will ask if they want to know more about you, what makes you different from competitors, how you work etc. If your quote includes revision, make a point of specifying that. You can even describe your workflow from first draft to final delivery. This way your quote can be differentiated from cheaper quotes that do not include this type of revision process. And don’t hesitate to throw in a few more selling points with your quote and/or on the phone or in person. But hold off on the selling points until you have gotten info from the client first. You want to tailor your selling points and your quote to each specific client and situation.
- Don’t leave the ball in the client’s court for too long!
Follow up on questions you have submitted by calling. Follow up on written quotes you have submitted by calling. If you fail to follow up on a written quote, you might never know why the client chose someone else. Or you might have never found out that there was only a minor hurdle you could have overcome by addressing their concerns or doing some extra selling. Follow up on the phone promptly after submitting an important quote to ask if the client has any concerns with it. It’s being passive to sit and wait for too long.
It should be noted that you will naturally be more passive if you don’t want a job very badly or don’t perceive that the client would be particularly lucrative. However, being proactive with clients you aren’t that interested in is a good way to practice for important clients where more is at stake. You probably won’t be as nervous and you might feel that you have nothing to lose.
I hope you find these tips helpful and I hope I manage to take my own advice in 2016!