Follow up without seeming desperate
You know the story: you get a solid referral for (what seems like) a great new client on a project that is right in your wheelhouse. You energetically pitch why your agency is perfect for the work. You tout your key differentiators, and wax on about all the great work you’ve done for other clients.
On the introductory phone call, you really connect with said prospect. You find common ground, share a laugh even. You talk about how the project would take shape. You speak in action verbs, present tense: “We’ll do this.” “You’ll see that.”
Fortunately, these clients are local, so you offer to meet in person to review your proposal, knowing firsthand the value of making an in-person connection.
The work you’re pitching really is right in your wheelhouse, so pulling together a proposal and related samples is easy. The pitch meeting goes well, they loved the proposed game plan, appreciated the work samples and found the price tag right on point.
You leave the meeting pleased. I mean, it’s not a done deal, but you know you put your best foot forward and feel confident that you would nail the assignment (if it were handed to you), and happy clients is what you’re all about.
The next day (or week, or whatever timeframe you agreed upon), you stay tethered to your email. Well, you’re pretty tethered to it anyway, but you stay hyper-tuned and eagerly expectant of the note you feel pretty sure you’ll receive: “We loved everything we heard, and we’re pleased to hire you.”
But radio silence ensues.
Stalking or neglect?
Here’s where I deploy a communication strategy that I’ve used often, with a high degree of success. I write a follow up email, usually this is the second, third or fourth follow up I’ve sent, without a response. (I pulled this language directly from an email I sent last week, and the client responded the next day).
I’m checking in on your proposal review. I want to neither stalk nor neglect you, but I realize you may need time to review this with your stakeholders.
We have a team in place, the perfect team in fact, and we're ready and eager to get started and move quickly, or continue the conversation, any time. As I mentioned, we're also available to hop on a call to answer questions, provide additional samples, or make any necessary revisions to the proposal that may be needed."
In case you’re wondering, the client in this case responded with this, the following day: "Sorry for the delay in getting back to you about the proposal. We all think it is well done and will present it to our investment partners when the appropriate time presents itself. It has been difficult to bring this piece of business to the forefront with so many major structural and regulatory challenges to address. I have mentioned it to our managing partner ... but it has yet to reach priority status. Please be patient."
Because I’ve spent many, many years (more than I want to report out in this blog post) on both sides of the client/agency table, I want to point out that pitching and proposing new work with clients is a two-way conversation, and whenever one person in a two-person chat goes dark, it doesn’t feel good.
I know I’m guilty. And I regret the times I let a lead grow cold that I should have properly responded to. And this post isn’t intended to shame anyone or make them feel bad.
Selling is hard. Pitching is hard. It’s difficult not to take it personally. And you give up all control when you pitch work, you hope it works out, and often it does. At the end of the day, I thrive on making and creating and dreaming up solutions, things, products, platforms, conversations, or whatever. I follow up diligently, and the stalk vs. neglect option often prompts a response from busy clients. In the end though, my payoff is a happy client and a satisfied creative team who feel they got to do their best work.