Heya! Today, I have a guest contribution from Karen at MakintheBacon, and she is going to share her tips to follow up with prospective clients. Karen helps small business owners with blog, brand, and social media strategy.
The dreaded F word. Or F-U word.
Love it or hate it, it’s a fundamental part of owning a business and necessary in order for you to get business.
You may feel that you’re being pushy or annoying but in this day and age, you need to be following up on a regular basis. There is so much noise out there and it can be difficult to sift through it all. Everyone needs reminders now and again. They’ll most likely appreciate the follow-up because it shows you have an interest in working with them and you believe that you can provide value of some sort.
At first, I used to be so afraid of following up with people. Then I realized because I took the time and effort to schedule a meeting, learn more about their business, and create a proposal, I should follow up with them. If I hadn’t taken the time to follow up on a regular basis, I wouldn’t have any clients.
If you don’t ask, then how you will know?
As the Nike saying goes, JUST DO IT.
Initial Meeting At a Networking Event
If you met someone at a networking event and want to connect with them further, ideally you’d want to reach out to them sooner than later. Entrepreneurs have many meetings and many coffees. More often than not, it’s easy to forget who this person is, when and where you met them.
I’ve received emails several weeks later after I’ve met someone and spent several minutes trying to recall who they were and where I met them. Needless to say, I wasn’t as interested in meeting up with them.
It’s best follow up in a couple of days so that the memory of you is still fresh in their minds. Suggest a coffee date – several dates, times and locations. Not only does this give them options, it also helps reduce a lot of back and forth. If there is no initial response, follow up after a week. If there is still no response, follow up one more time and move on. Or if you really would like to have coffee with them, make a note to follow up with them again in a month or so. Maybe now really wasn’t the time.
The initial conversation – if you find out they’re not ready yet or don’t have the funds for it yet – don’t ever dismiss these prospects.
If they have expressed interest in one way or another, take note of that as well. No sense in following up with someone who has expressed no interest what so ever and has not responded to your emails.I know it can be a pain but it’s important to be persistent. They deserve at least a few follow ups. The main thing is that if they’re responding to your emails, then that’s a good sign. You want to keep the conversation going. Be sure to give them space if you’re still in the initial stages of following up. Don’t forget to be friendly, polite and patient in your messages.
Have a Follow-Up System in Place
As Michelle mentioned in her post, How To Land Your First Client, having systems in place is key. I believe you need to have a system for following up as well.
The way I’ve broken it down is:
- Who they are
- Where and when you met (networking event, Facebook group)
- What they are interested in
- Initial follow-up date
- Then label columns as 1st follow-up, 2nd follow-up etc. You can put the follow-up dates in ahead of time. Within these columns, I also include additional notes if applicable.This definitely comes in handy when you are pursuing multiple prospects simultaneously.
With the people who ended up being completely cold, I filed them away in an ARCHIVED tab. There’s no sense in wasting time with someone who doesn’t respond at all. Silly as this sounds, some people are just too afraid to say no and would rather not respond, which I think is even worse.
With the people who aren’t ready right now, but might be in a few months, I file them away in a tab labelled something like follow up in Q4 or 2018. A good way to look at this is, wouldn’t you rather work with someone who is ready and willing to work rather than a client who is unresponsive or takes forever to respond to your emails/in a timely manner?
If you already had coffee and you’re going to write a proposal, that’s awesome! Be sure to have a specific timeline in the proposal. Let them know you are going to follow up with them in a few days.
When the proposal is close to expiring, follow up with them again just to let them know. For this particular case, I would do a couple of follow ups at most.. Again, if you are getting no responses at all move on. I know it sucks because you spent time creating a proposal, but you can’t waste your time following up with someone who doesn’t have the common courtesy to thank you for the proposal and say no.
You also get an idea of how much of a priority the project is to them. Priorities and timelines can mean different things to different people.
When it comes to signing contracts and invoices, this is where you can be a bit more aggressive because you want to book them in your schedule and of course get paid. I would put emphasis on how this needs to be done within a specific timeframe in order to book their spot or else they could lose it. I’ve learned from other business owners about how creating that sense of urgency helps.
The process of following-up can take time, but if you demonstrate patience and persistence it can be worth it. Keeping track of your follow-ups by having a system in place will help you stay organized and prevent you following up too soon or too frequently.
Do you have any additional tips for following up? What has worked for you in the past?
About the author
Karen Swyszcz is the founder of MakintheBacon. It began as a personal finance blog back in 2012. She now provides consulting services for small business owners in the areas of blogging, branding and social media. Karen is also a group fitness instructor with GoodLife Fitness and an instructor at Sheridan College for Social Media Writing.
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