We should deeply understand that maintaining follow-ups with clients is not any easier than acquiring new clients; in fact, it can be even more challenging.
Effective follow-up is not just a matter of simple responses or reminders; it requires skills. For example, many foreign trade professionals would send an email to the client asking if they received the quote, and if they need the product. The client response they are waiting for their company's confirmation, which will take some time. The salesperson is at a loss for words, and after a while, they send another email asking about progress. The client doesn't respond, and the salesperson asks again after some time.
This kind of follow-up often leads to the client not responding at all. Is this really follow-up, or does it look more like pestering? Some foreign trade professionals resort to saying, "Free samples could be sent on request." after several rounds of follow-up with no results, This approach is better than nothing, but it doesn't make a significant difference in developing the business.
Below, I will share a real-life customer follow-up case in the hope that it can provide insights on how to improve follow-up practices.
This case took place around April 2017, when I met several suppliers at a trade show. One of them specialized in manufacturing safety gloves, and I inquired about a product similar to what we were already selling. I waited for a few days and sent some follow-up emails during that time, but I didn't receive any response. At that time, our existing supplier was relatively stable, so I didn't pay much attention to this matter.
However, it wasn't until November that I suddenly received an email with the following content:
I hope this message finds you well. My name is [Name], and I represent *** Factory, a dedicated team of 200 skilled workers committed to delivering exceptional value to our clients.
We take pride in offering highly competitive prices without compromising on product quality. Our factory is conveniently located near [Address], providing us with easy access to [advantages and features].
At *** Factory, our guiding principles revolve around "Good Faith, Innovation, and Mutual Benefit." Our core belief is to create products that not only meet but exceed expectations, focusing on [vision].
With an established presence in markets across Europe, America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, we've cultivated strong relationships with numerous satisfied customers. Our commitment is to work harmoniously with our clients, fostering a genuine "win-win situation" for all parties involved.
We are eager to explore potential opportunities with you and your organization. Your response is greatly anticipated.
When I received this email, I felt somewhat puzzled and unsure about who this was and what products they were selling. Since our previous interactions didn't leave a strong impression, I initially thought it might be spam. Therefore, I didn't pay much attention to it.
The second email arrived about a week after the first one and read as follows:
Very glad to receive your reply! My boss gave me your name card. My name is Rocky.
I have sent the email attachment to you with some pictures for our product XXX. Do you have interest? How many quantities will you buy? What package will you select?
After receiving this email, I got a rough idea of who they were. However, I was still puzzled about why they hadn't followed up in the several months since the April trade show. They mentioned having attached pictures in the previous email, but there were no attachments in reality. So, I replied as follows:
No attachment. Please send me the photos again for approval.
I have to check the price in advance. A color box is suitable for us. What about the MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) for this item?
This time, they responded quickly and attached relevant product photos. However, the images were quite small and became blurry when enlarged. So, I sent another email:
The photos are not clear enough. Please send me clear photos in high resolution.
Please send me the offer sheet with the price in US dollars, not RMB (Chinese Yuan). MOQ means Minimum Order Quantity.
By this point, I was starting to lose patience. However, because I had made initial contact with this supplier at the trade show and they had mentioned being relatively new to the business, I decided to maintain some patience.
Later, their responses became more professional compared to the previous ones, likely with some guidance from their more experienced colleagues. I asked for samples, and their response was as follows:
We're very glad you have an interest in our product. I'm so happy to serve you!
We're very happy to send you a sample. The sample price is $20 USD. Here is our boss's bank account.
*** (Bank Account)
Please send us a payment slip after you finish the T/T (Telegraphic Transfer). We will send you the sample soon.
Looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you very much!
The sample price was 70 cents, but we needed to pay 28 times that amount for shipping. It was challenging for me to justify a $20 sample cost to the company. I was also gradually losing patience, so I didn't respond further. As a result, over the next week, I received 4-5 follow-up emails, which I eventually marked as spam.
Business is a two-way street, and clients won't be forgiving just because you're new. Often, if problems arise, not addressing them or discussing solutions with the client but instead incessantly pestering them will only make the client feel pressured and resentful. It's important to note that building a cooperative relationship requires effort and patience from both sides.