A prospect contacts you about using your services, but wants to learn more. You send him or her the requested information, and then you don’t hear from them. Do you shrug your shoulders and chalk it up to a lack of interest on their part, or do you follow up with them and help sell yourself? Hopefully it’s the latter.
With the New Year upon us, companies are giving more thought to investing in their employees’ professional presence. As image and etiquette consultants, we can help. It is up to us to help a prospective client make the leap from “thinking about doing training” to “taking action.”
Following up when someone asks for information about your services is a must. Here are a few tips:
Think about the next step. When I send a prospect my quotes or details, I like to include an action request. For instance, rather than emailing a document and saying “let me know if you need anything else,” I’ll let them know that I will be in touch with them to follow up. Or, I’ll ask about their availability so we can schedule a brief phone call that same week to go over any questions they might have about what I’ve sent them. This way I keep the momentum going and my email isn’t languishing in someone’s in-box for all eternity.
Schedule reminders. I like to ask the prospect when they will be making a decision on the project. Then, ask the date I should follow up with them. Once you’ve sent a prospect your information, make a notation or schedule a computer alert to remind you to follow up on the agreed-upon date. I generally find two weeks to be a reasonable amount of time. In my follow-up email to the prospect, I remind them that they asked me to follow up in that time frame. I then ask, “Is the project still under consideration or have you picked another vendor? I am looking for an update. If you have picked another vendor, please let me know so I can close your file.” By asking the question about another vendor, it helps you to know the status of the project so that you don’t waste your time if the project was awarded to someone else. It’s also helpful to keep a database (such as an Excel spreadsheet) that keeps track of your prospect status, such as when you sent the info, the person’s contact details, and any notes on their needs or schedule. Sometimes, they will email you back and say they haven’t made a decision yet. That’s good; you are still in the running. Ask once again when they would like you to follow up with them.
Don’t be pushy. There’s a fine line between following up and being forceful. You want to come across as attentive and helpful, not desperate or demanding. Sometimes prospects are indecisive or need more time to take the next step, which means you should give them some space while still keeping them in your sights. Pushing them to make a decision before they’re ready or chasing after them without any response can easily scare them off. If you’ve followed up after two weeks and received no response, try back again after two more weeks. If you still don’t hear anything, it’s probably best to move on.
Explore other options. One way to encourage a swift decision is to offer a limited-time discount with an expiration date. This will oftentimes spur prospects to sign on quickly so that they can save a little money. But if a prospect ultimately chooses not to enlist your services, there are other ways to keep them “in the pipeline.” For instance, if a prospect doesn’t have the budget for my services, I thank them for their consideration and suggest they sign up for my newsletter or read my blog. These are both free services that offer advice and will help the prospect remember my business. They may forward it on to another division within the company, look me up again when they have the budget, or simply just boost my web traffic. Either way, it’s not a total loss.
It’s easy for you to overlook the importance of your follow up – especially if you have a hard time handling rejection. By being proactive and following up with prospects, you’ll run less risk of dropping the ball and likely usher in tons of new business for 2011!
©2011 Professional Image Management If you would like to use this article in your newsletter or blog, you may do so. Please include our credit information: Written by Juanita Ecker, Professional Image Management. © Copyright 2011. I would also appreciate it if you would send us a copy for our files.
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