How to Follow Up with Potential Clients

This article originally appeared in The Art of Self Promotion.

Don’t you hate it when a prospect calls with a (supposedly) urgent need for your services? You drop everything to do an estimate, you begin to clear your schedule to make room for this new project, you submit the quote, and then you wait. And you wait. When you don’t hear back, you call to follow up and they say they haven’t had time to look at your proposal yet. You wait some more and, though you dread it, you call again. Or maybe you don’t. In any case, you never hear from them again.

This happens all the time — not just to you — and there’s little you can do about it. Here’s what it may look like from your prospect’s perspective: On the day they called, this project was at the top of their list; the next day, something else came along that took priority and kept pushing the project further and further away, until it was on a permanent back burner. They never bothered to let you know, probably because they didn’t have time. Or, more likely, they got caught up in their own world.

The reality is you can’t control your prospects, and it’s almost impossible to know in advance if a lead is a good one or if the project you’re quoting will go anywhere. On first impression, you can’t usually tell the literature collectors from the bona fide prospects. Sometimes you may want to say, “Tell me either yes or no, but don’t keep me hanging on like this.” But they can’t. Only time will tell.

What might help is to know the difference between what you think is going on and what is really go on.

What they say:
I have a project. Could you send your information?
What you hear:
They want me.
What they mean:
They’re gathering information on potential candidates.
What to do:
Send your info. Follow up in a week.

What they say:
Your info is here somewhere but I haven’t looked at it yet.
What you hear:
They chose someone else.
What they mean:
Other things have come up and the project isn’t as urgent.
What to do:
Ask when to call back and keep in touch.

What they say:
I’ve looked over your materials and they look interesting, but we haven’t decided what direction to take. We’ll be in touch.
What you hear:
They chose someone else.
What they mean:
Things have changed and the project isn’t as important anymore.
What to do:
Keep in touch quarterly for other possible projects.

What they say:
Nothing. No call back.
What you hear:
They chose someone else.
What they mean:
They’re busy with other things or maybe they did choose someone else. It’s not the end of the world.
What to do:
Keep in touch every few months.

 

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Posted on: July 16, 2008

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