One of my cardinal rules in new business development is to remember this one thing
The prospect does not owe you their business – but they do owe you an answer.
So with that in mind, let’s set the scene.
You have invested time and effort in sending a crafted message or proposal over to a prospect – how do you follow up so that you don’t annoy them, what timeframes are appropriate, how can you ensure you are remembered – but not as a nagging irritant?
Why do prospects not answer?
There are many reasons but the main ones are
- your offer is not of interest, and not compelling enough to warrant a reply
- they are too busy doing other things
The first tends to relate to SEO companies sending spammy offers by email; the second is the one we need to laser in on – because it does not mean your offer is not of interest, it’s just not as pressing as other things at this time.
The aim of your follow up email is to filter out which one applies to you.
Writing Follow-up emails to prospects
Rule number 1 – keep it short.
Whatever you say, enable the reader to glance at two or three sentences and get your full message.
This is not an opportunity to add to your earlier email content so don’t be tempted to re-iterate your pitch.
Rule number 2 – communicate the bare minimum
Remember we are trying to find out whether they are interested or not.
If they are interested – it could just be the timing is wrong… so your ultimate answer is ‘possibly’, in this case.
The message needs to say who you are; why you are chasing and a reminder of the services.
I always start with a summary of the situation in the email subject line. So even if they don’t open it, they can see the context.
Following up on our meeting to discuss …………….
Creative Agency Secrets marketing proposal submission………
So, now to the body – here are three possible sentences for you to copy
Thank you very much for your time meeting yesterday. The actions agreed were…..
We discussed your objective of ………….The topics worthy of more investigation are………..
As agreed we sent you a proposal and could you confirm that you’ve received it?
Rule number 3 – write with grace and if you can, humour
Nagging may work with your spouse or children, but I think it’s bad behaviour in business. You want to set the tone for your future relationship here and so getting off on the right foot is key.
Use phrases like “My recollection was….” or “I think we agreed that you would do….” So that you are reminding them without sounding hectoring.
Rule number 4 – give the recipient an easy get-out
Even if they don’t give you business today, you don’t want the prospect to write off your company as inappropriate for future projects. And so thinking about how you can enable them to quit with grace is a good tactic.
Try this one where we were passed from the CEO to the Marketing Director
I waited on X and then emailed him directly. Is it possible he doesn’t know what we discussed and that you, suggested we meet?
Don’t want to push if this is inappropriate, so could you give me some advice?
See that last line? Asking for advice is a great way for you to put the boot onto the other foot – get them to advise you on how to pitch their colleague. I love this and use it quite a lot. They know their firm and the characters better than you do.
Rule number 5 plan one, last, follow up after this one
The final, final thing to do is to then write a last message telling them that you won’t bother them again if they don’t reply but you would like them to confirm that they aren’t interested at this time.
This then allows them to write back saying ‘no’. And for you to thank them and say that you’ll stay in touch. This way the conversation ends and closes off the dialogue and you’ve got an answer rather than just a nothing void.