I follow up with a slide presentation that outlines the whole
process, plus generic time and cost estimates.
The carrier representative asks for some clarifications, which
he gets and seems happy with. By now we are talking about
possible start dates and I am thinking about resources.
A few days later I get an email: Thanks, but “we have decid-
ed to go another direction.”
End of story.
My reactions were fairly predictable—frustrated, disappointed, etc. Not only did we not get the work, we don’t know
if our competition did, or whether the carrier will go forward
at all, or whether this
was only a “fishing
trip.” So, not only did
we “win” nothing,
we didn’t even get to
We humans are
curious creatures, we
like to know what
is going on; we like
to understand why
things happen. If we
didn’t, we would still
think the earth is flat.
So, did the carrier
representative “owe” me anything; at least an explanation? The
answer to that depends on your viewpoint and role in the professional landscape.
If he got what he needed and his boss was satisfied then who
cares about the finer feelings of a vendor? Vendors live and die
by the sword. If you don’t like disappointment, don’t be a vendor.
All true and fair enough, except we are missing an important fact.
How would I react to that individual, or someone else from his
company, if he contacted me again? How would I describe him to
someone in my network if they asked if I know him?
We are back to the self-interest of altruism. If the guy had
taken the time to call me and offer even a minimal explanation
and thanked me for my efforts, I would have felt much better
about responding to him again in future. One last comment
on the illustration: I am in the lucky position of not having to
explain myself to a boss; I am the boss.
Suppose this situation happened to a salesperson who spent
time and energy and got the same response. When it comes
time to explain to their manager what happened they have
nothing to offer. The salesperson looks like a fool for having
wasted the company’s time and money on a wild goose chase.
Oh, and by the way, knowing the inquisition that was coming
the salesperson predictably would have spent time calling and
following up trying to get an explanation so they could tell the
boss something meaningful.
What many carrier people fail to realize is vendors (espe-
cially successful, industry-leading vendors) are busy, rational
people who make choices based on their assessment of how
organized and serious carriers appear to be. So, as a carrier rep-
resentative, a little altruism goes a long way with vendors. Not
only is it nice to be nice, it is effective and efficient.
So, how should a carrier treat a vendor? Well, here is my 10-cents
worth based on years of being a vendor and dealing with vendors.
1. Be organized: Figure out what you want, why you want it
and how you will recognize and measure it when you see it.
2. Be open: Tell the vendors who they are competing with, tell
them what your criteria are, and tell them when and what
the hurdles are that they must clear in order to win.
3. Communicate: Keep the vendor informed as to what is
happening and how they are doing. If one vendor asks a
question that all should know the answer to, tell them all. If
your criteria or timeline changes tell all the vendors as soon
as you can and tell them all the same thing at the same time.
4. Help them learn: When a vendor fails, tell them as soon as
you can and tell them why—specifically why they washed
out. Give them the chance to learn and gain something for
5. Understand there is no silver medal: The worst place for
a vendor to finish in any selection effort is second. That
means they committed the most time and resources and got
nothing for it. The best place to be is the winner; the second
best place to be is first out the door.
6. Say thank you: If you ran the process right you learned
something useful from each of the vendors, and they put in
significant effort. Thank them. It costs you nothing and it
wins you huge amounts of good will.
As a carrier representative, you should have a specific objective that coming out of a selection process every vendor (whether
you would want to or not) would want to participate in another
similar process with you in the future. Trust me, vendors these
days are largely partnership-oriented organizations and people.
All they want is to be treated fairly and be given an honest shot.
If you give them that they will work hard to win your
business, and the winner will work hard to prove you made the
right choice. If you don’t keep up your end of the bargain (and
it really is a bargain) then over time it may harm your effectiveness and the industry’s view of your employer. As we said at the
beginning, altruism is self-interest. Oh, and it makes you feel
good, too. ITA
George Grieve is a popular writer and speaker on the subject of insurance technology solutions. He is the author of
a book composed of a popular collection of his columns,
“Shop Talk” and is CEO of the consulting firm CastleBay
Consulting. The views and opinions in this column are
those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
views of the ITA.
have a specific
coming out of a
would want to
participate in a
similar process in