I guess we’ve all more or less been there: We met some very prospective potential client at a trade show or during a business trip. He or she has been showing great interest in our products and services. We followed up without delay, quoted, discussed a few critical points, submitted an even better offer, followed up…, no sign of life…, followed up again…, silence…, tried to call…, left a first message…, left a second message… but no reply. Maybe we even chased our contact on WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Facebook – but still no answer. “What’s going on?!”, we are wondering. And even more important: Where the hell is our order?
Well, I personally do not use WhatsApp with prospect clients and I am not on Facebook, so I cannot tell you for sure. But from what my clients, i.e. international companies trying to do business with Germans, tell me – and the documents they let me analyse – this is a quite common scenario when the selling party is going through stages of insecurity, frustration, or even desperation.
Also I cannot help you with any “universal buying parties’ expectations” and how to fulfill them. I doubt that such a concept exists. What I can do is share my thoughts on what could be the matter in case we are looking at decision makers in Germany:
- Let’s face it. Sometimes people are taking advantage of us. There never has been interest in our products or services. The person we have been talking to just needed our quote to put pressure on his or her existing supplier. So just forget about them.
- Have you ever been on a date, where the other person got up abruptly, claiming he or she had to feed the cat, water the neighbour’s plants (my favourite…) or telling you he / she had forgotten that the mother-in-law was coming to visit? Well, sometimes people just ask you to send them more material in order to get rid of you. Maybe you have totally misperceived the situation and there has never been any interest in your offer at all…?!
- I would say, in most cases people are seriously interested to get your quote. What I have seen very often is that although there was a personal meeting, prospective clients receive follow-up e-mails starting with “Dear Sir” (from a German perspective that sounds very impersonal. Better: “Dear Andra…”). Quite often, people are very generally referring to a great meeting, which sounds like some standard copy & paste text. Many would attach whatever material Marketing has created since PowerPoint has been invented. While doing business with Germans, you should be very specific: We are not easily impressed with the manifold capabilities you might have collected under one roof. Our thought process is as follows: We have discussed a specific problem, for this we need a solution. So, summarize what has been discussed, present your solution, add a price-tag and give us a deadline until when you expect to hear back from us.
- Germans in general put great emphasis on formal communication. Although in e-mails, people sometimes tend to get a bit more “casual” in their writing, too casual can be perceived as “sloppy” or even “rude”. My advice is that you make sure to always properly greet the person you are addressing, and to take great care of the language you are using, especially with a new client or prospect who does not already know you very well. Avoid abbreviations (like “4” for “for”). Take the time to sit down on your computer, re-read your message once or twice before you send it instead of hastily typing and sending a message from your mobile phone.
- I am not quite sure whether WhatsApp should be used in such cases or not. Texting somebody who has not replied to your (various) e-mails, and who you have not yet established a good relationship with, is maybe not such a good idea. Even more so, since you might catch the person at an inappropriate time (when they are not in the office for example), so they might not recall the background of your request, and perceive your message as spam.
- Another thing I have seen is sending follow-up e-mails in German, or at least what Google Translate or DeepL offer as a German translation of your former communication. Please promise me: Do not do that ever! It might read like “Where to cuckoo is my mission…?!” (“Wo zum Kuckuck ist mein Auftrag?!”).
- Overall: Don’t get too pushy. If you do not hear back, there will be a reason. If you press too hard, chances are high that people put you on black lists, and avoid you in the future, although you might be the perfect match!
But what to do if your boss or your family are telling you to try even harder?! You spent so much money for your trip to Germany! They had been so happy to hear about the deal which was about to happen very soon?
What I recommend is that you let a local person analyse the situation. Let him or her even give your prospect a call. I do this quite often for my international clients, and so far the bottom-line has never been: “Yes, we want more follow-up-mails! Please try harder!”