An agency owner asked me this question recently.
I reviewed the pricing options with my client last week, but I haven’t heard back from them. How long do I wait before I send a follow-up email?
The short answer is, you’ve driven into a cul-de-sac; there’s no good way out but to go back to the beginning.
When we’re selling creative services, it works best for the sales process and the subsequent project for you to maintain a peer position in the relationship. Follow-up, where I’m chasing the client, undermines that by placing me in a position of need. (I need your business more than you need my services.)
So, starting from the beginning, here’s how you make sure you never end up in a position of chasing a client.
Make sure you discover what “big, scary thing” will happen if they do nothing.
The most likely outcome of a conversation with any client is that they do nothing. That’s the default outcome. So, during the very first meeting, put that on the table.
“I can see the advantages to the project we’re discussing, but just for a minute, I want to play the devil’s advocate. What if you do nothing? What will happen if you don’t do this work?”
What you want to see is that folks immediately tell you about some dire peril to the company and them personally that will occur if they do nothing. The CEO is expecting change, or they have a tradeshow or new product launch, or they’ll miss their bonus or get fired!
Whatever they tell you next is your leverage to keep the deal moving.
Never leave a meeting without a date for the next meeting.
”As a part of my process, I want to talk every couple of weeks to check in, work together to move things along, and avoid the “big, scary thing”
You set the expectation that they will continue to have regular conversations with you throughout this process. It’s normal, it’s expected, and if they won’t agree, they aren’t serious.
What if they cancel or no-show?
Sometimes they will cancel that next meeting, or they won’t, but they just don’t show up. When that happens, immediately respond with:
“Things change, I get it. What’s going on? When should we re-connect?”
You are their partner; you aren’t upset – you’re there to help them avoid the big, scary thing!
If they don’t respond to that, “close the file.”
If they have canceled or ghosted on a meeting and don’t respond to your email within a week, it’s time to “close their file.”
I’m assuming your plans have changed, so I’m closing this file. Should you have an interest in continuing the conversation, let me know.
It’s a hail Mary, a long shot, but folks will sometimes reply to that message by saying – “No, don’t close the file. We just got busy; let’s reschedule.” OK, you’re back in the game.
But if they don’t, leave it lie for a while (like 90 – 180 days) and give the 9-word email a try.
How do you manage follow-up in your business development process? Hit reply and let me know!