When you are waiting on a new client or lead to say ‘yes’, it can be a tense time. Are they serious? Have you won the work? Do you have the resources for the work? Will they answer your calls or emails? That’s the problem. You know you need to follow up, but what is the right way to do it? In this article, I explore exactly that. How to follow up with a potential client or lead without making a nuisance of yourself. This is what greeted me when I opened my email this morning:
How do I follow up without p*ssing my potential client off?
Good question. One which has vexed many professionals for many years. You know the scenario: You have an initial email exchange, which goes well. You arrange a phone call or to speak in person. The conversation goes well, and you are invited to submit a proposal. Then it all goes very, very, very quiet. What next?
What does the silence really mean?
It can mean only a handful of things:
- They have chosen to work with someone else, but not yet told you this.
- The work you have quoted for has slipped down their priority list.
- They may not be able to get sign off for the work internally.
- They have taken a long holiday, leave of absence, or sabbatical (this has actually happened to me).
If you can’t contact them to find out, you’re rather stuck. This means that when you follow up with a client, you need to be able to keep the lines of communication open. Even if you progress the conversation just to be told “no”, that is better than wondering whether or not you have won the work.
How to stay in touch without overwhelming them
There is a fine line between being proactive and staying in touch, and putting their back up. Here are some ideas to keep you on the right side of the line: 1) Ask your potential client when and how it’s most appropriate for you to contact them again. This means that you are not being pushy as they have given you permission to follow up. In this way, they may welcome your contact as a reminder rather than resenting it as an intrusion. 2) If your potential client is active on social media, make sure you engage with them there. I’m not talking about directly asking them about the potential work – just retweeting their content, liking their updates, commenting on their discussions, or answering their questions. Keep yourself in the forefront of their mind. 3) If you’ve not heard anything after a week, then send a quick e-mail to ask if they have made any decisions yet, or whether there is anything you can help them with to get to a decision. 4) Pick up the phone. If they don’t answer then leave a voicemail. However, after the 3rd voicemail, change it to a message saying that sounds like they are ‘very busy’ and you will assume that they don’t want to progress unless you hear otherwise. 5) Move them into a ‘keeping in touch’ status. That means, every 4-6 weeks send them something which you know they will find valuable and useful. Keep doing this until they come back to you and are ready to speak again or to buy – or until they tell you to stop! What other ideas would you add?