You wait by the phone all day. Alas, it never rings. When you cannot get a call back from a vendor, your product and business suffers.
And while we all have smartphones these days and no one really waits by the phone anymore, the imagery is still there. Waiting on a return phone call really highlights how important you are to a company; even when you want to give them your money in exchange for goods and services.
It might not be malicious. In reality, some of the businesses contacting an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or contract manufacturer (CM) are larger than others. There are priorities. Those same CMs and OEMs have realities to face. If they have 100 customers contacting them in a year, they might only have staff to respond to 80 of them. Of those, they might have a previous relationships with 20, which would give them priority. Of the remaining 60, they need to weigh the likelihood of getting business from that company and just how much business is available. All of these things add up to the occasional “no bid” on a Request For Quote (RFQ) and sometimes…just sometimes…you won’t get called back at all.
Sticking with it
Sometimes you have to keep fighting. Perhaps the CM in question has some key process that your product requires (ultrasonic welding, for instance). While you should always check your assumptions that they are the only provider (more on that later), let’s discuss how to keep moving forward with your chosen vendor.
Be more annoying
Consistency is key. Well, persistence. As alluded to above, sometimes you will be lower in the queue due to your company size or how much business they believe you represent to the CM’s balance sheet. If you’re a startup or just doing low quantity work at the beginning of a product cycle, you need to not only grab their attention with your contact methods, but also with your product story. You need to seem like a good future bet (more money on future work) and you need to continually remind the CM of your potential.
Find another way in
How did you find your current CM? Was it a warm introduction from one of their former clients? Were you referred by a distributor contact via email? Did you ping them randomly via a Google search? Each of these methods hints at how likely a CM is to respond to you. If you are dead-set on the particular CM, perhaps there’s another way to get in touch with them. Try them on LinkedIn, call the front desk, see if you can get another email address.If their business development manager is non-responsive, perhaps it’s time to elevate to a higher tier, reaching out to a COO or CEO. Depending on the size of the company, these individuals might not be very far apart on the org chart. Note that going over the person normally in charg of incoming leads could be detrimental to the relationship with that vendor.
Find a new vendor
The above methods sounded pretty bad, right? Sometimes you need to accept that you will not be working with a particular vendor and spend your time seeking a new one.
Find competing services
The example above mentioned a CM that could do “Ultrasonic Welding” and the assumption that they are the only one who could provide that service. Sometimes it’s possible this is a truly unique service, but let’s check that assumption. If we search “Ultrasonic Welding” on SupplyFX (a marketplace for OEMs and CMs offering goods and services), we see the following:
The map alone shows that there are 25+ suppliers capable of this process all over the world. In fact, this is a common plastic joining method. However, before checking our assumption, we might have assumed that the CM ignoring us was the only one capable of doing it.
Nothing beats face to face interaction. Even after the quoting process is done, it can be difficult to maintain interest from a particular CM (ie. getting a call back when ready to move forward). This is especially true when the CM is many miles and time zones away from your operation. Being able to sit in a conference room with their business development manager without first sitting on a plane for 12 hours will solidify your connection and relationship and ensure timely response to issues and orders. And when issues arise (they always do!), it’s much easier to keep lines of communication open.
If we decide to search within 100 miles of Los Angeles, we can further narrow the field of vendors that do “Ultrasonic Welding”:
Any time you decide to seek out quotes for your product or project, it’s possible to feel some vendor “heartbreak”. You believe you have a design that will be mutually beneficial and more importantly, you just really want to get your product built. Spending time finding responsive and possibly local suppliers will lower the risks of your product design cycle and allow a smoother development process.
We’ll write more about getting products built and finding suppliers. If you’d like to start finding suppliers today, try signing up and searching on SupplyFX.