Why Managers Shouldn't Delegate This Task
I’ve received hundreds of calls from potential new clients. Most of them come from executives, directors, or managers—but about once per month, the person who calls for an estimate tells me that he or she is an intern for their company. Their boss has instructed them to call a few media training firms for bids; after receiving them, the boss will presumably screen the proposals and follow up with the companies they’re most interested in.
At first glance, that may seem like an efficient and logical approach. But it’s often counterproductive.
To be clear, I have enormous respect for almost all of the interns I’ve ever worked with. I’ve invested hundreds of hours in providing interns with responsibilities that help them grow in their burgeoning careers.
But in my experience—and through no fault of their own—the intern (or other junior employee) calling me usually doesn’t know some critical details. Sometimes, they lack basic information, such as the number of trainees or the purpose of the training. Other times, they’re unable to answer useful diagnostic questions, such as “What are the communications challenges the people you’re interested in training face?” or “Does your company already have a crisis communications plan in place?”
If the person has only been a part-time intern for a couple of months—or if they’re a full-time employee who’s out of the loop—there’s really no way they could possibly possess the historical background to be able to answer such questions.
But without such basic information, it’s difficult for any firm to write a smart, targeted proposal that truly meets the needs of the client. It’s tough to know how much time we should recommend for a session—or what type of follow-up work we should advise—without knowing their main topics of concern. And it’s impossible to suggest a tailored training strategy without having the context that allows us to develop one.
If we’re asked to provide a proposal while receiving only cryptic information, we’ll usually write one anyway. There’s no reason to rule ourselves out of consideration when an interested company representative—be it an intern or a top executive—contacts us for details about our offerings.
But I’d recommend that executives and managers take the time to place the initial calls themselves. Their description of their training need will determine the quality of the proposals they receive. Many times, I learn something through that initial call that significantly changes the approach I recommend, which will help the potential client make a more informed choice. Sometimes, I’ve even found that the potential client doesn’t fully know what they’re looking for until we speak; our conversation helps to solidify their thinking.
What’s your opinion? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.