Don't Give Up Too Soon

Cindy Cyr here, continuing my week as guest writer for The Writer's Life.

When my son Dalton was 4 years old, he was head over heels in love with a girl named Lexi, who was roughly the same age as him.

Lexi was the sister of Skyler, who played baseball with Dalton’s older brother. So at every baseball game, Dalton would try to get Lexi to talk to him.

Week after week, month after month, she met his attempts with the same thing …

She’d stick her tongue out at him and run away.

The last day of baseball season, Lexi started circling Dalton and looking at him.

Finally, she decided to talk to him.

As they sat under the bleachers talking, Dalton asked,

“Does this mean you like me now?”

The little girl shrugged and said, “Yes.”

Then Dalton said, “But earlier when you ignored me or stuck your tongue out at me—you didn’t like me then—right?

As a copywriter approaching potential clients, it’s easy to feel like a potential client must not like what he sees or isn’t interested …

Especially when they don’t return your calls, emails, or voicemails …

 … and weeks, even months, go by without hearing back from them.

In fact, you may feel like you are getting the proverbial tongue stuck out at you.

However, I’m here to tell you it's important not to give up too soon.

You see, my son taught me a valuable lesson that season of baseball … persistence pays off.

Over the years, I’ve found it more common than not for me to have to follow up consistently and persistently to get the business I want.

Recently, I was reminded of this lesson in a big way.

You see, I landed a dream client for a marketing consulting gig. Or I thought I did anyway.

I went in for my first day of consulting, came home, and created my marketing diagnosis.

I sent my report off to the client.

And waited …

Not a peep. Not even so much as an email or text confirming he’d received my report.

The next week, I followed up with a phone call to his cell phone  … “Just checking to see if you received my report okay and are ready to talk about next steps …”

Again, no response.

The following week, I sent an email with a case study showing how some of the ideas I suggested had helped another client increase profits.

Still nothing.

Week three, I called again.

His phone just rang and rang.

Week four, I sent another email saying I was planning my schedule for the following month and wanted to give them priority in my schedule—were they ready to start on the next step?

By this time, I admit I was bummed. I worried that they didn’t like my proposal or that there was something wrong with the way I presented it.

Finally, on week five, I got an email response that said, “I’ve been out of town all week. Call me Monday to discuss.”

I eagerly called the company phone number on Monday and got the CEO’s assistant. But he was in a meeting, so I left the message that I was calling as requested. He didn’t call me back.

Week seven, I sent another email, “I haven’t heard back from you, so I'm wondering if my messages have been caught in your spam folder …”

At last, I connected with the CEO. It was this seventh message that got the ball rolling again.

The most interesting thing is that the CEO had not received most of my messages. My emails were caught in his junk folder. In fact, that's where he found my last email.

I was mainly calling his cell phone and it turned out he had a new phone number and wasn’t getting my messages. The only message he'd received from me was the one I'd left with his assistant.

On top of our "communication problem," it turns out a whole host of events occurred which had taken his focus off “my project. ”

When we finally spoke, he thanked me for following up and apologized that he hadn’t gotten back to me sooner.

Imagine the message I would have conveyed to him had I not persistently followed up …

It would have been like saying he wasn’t important or that I had lost interest in his company. Not to mention I would not be continuing my work with them today either.

To avoid giving up too soon, here are some tips for following up …

Realize that your project might not be the most pressing, top-of-the-mind priority for your prospects. Emergencies, other more pressing deadlines, and a myriad of other things could be happening that you don’t know about.

Use different methods for following up. Get creative with your follow-ups. Don’t just send emails or just call their cell phone. Call different numbers at different times and send multiple types of emails. Some can be customized messages; some might be autoresponders. By varying your methods of follow-up, having different “reasons” for contacting them, and spacing them out appropriately, you’ll demonstrate persistence instead of peskiness.

Tip: Try to tune in to or ask your prospect what he will respond to best. For example, I have one client who never answers emails or phone calls but always replies to my text messages. Another prefers Skype. Finding their preferred method increases your chance of success.

Make sure you always include a benefit to your prospect or client in your follow-up message. Don’t fall into the trap of saying something meaningless like, “I’m just touching base.” Instead, always remember to remind them of the benefits you bring to the table and how you will help them boost their profits.

Never assume the answer is “no” until the prospect tells you, “No.” Until you actually know what your prospect is thinking, you’ll want to follow up. Oftentimes, what you perceive as a no is really a “not right now.”

Be persistent. Follow up regularly, but don’t call them multiple times in one day … you don’t want them to think they have a new stalker! Always space out your follow-ups and contact them when you say you will.

Create a plan for follow-up. Determine in advance how often you will follow up, what benefits you will discuss, and how you will deliver each subsequent message. Develop scripts for phone messages, emails, and more that you can customize easily. By doing so, you are more likely to consistently follow up because you won’t need to spend time figuring out what to say. Plus, when a plan is in place before you make your first contact, you’re less likely to quit or get discouraged.

Follow up more than a couple of times. Popular business speaker Tim Wackel cited a study by the National Sales Executive Association in a recent presentation. He said the study found …

  • 2% of new sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of new sales are made on the second contact
  • 5% of new sales are made on the third contact
  • 10% of new sales are made on the fourth contact
  • 80% of new sales are made on the fifth contact

This means if you stop after two or three or even four contacts, or as you can see in my case—seven follow-ups—you could be missing out on a lot of opportunity.

Brian Tracy says, “Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it longer than anyone else.”

Our first inclination is to think our prospects aren’t interested when we don’t hear back from them, when it could be just the opposite. Once you take the initiative to follow up persistently, you are committing to a plan not to give up. Stick with this follow-up plan and you’ll soon find clients circling around you, ready to do business with you.

Do you have any successful tips for following up with potential clients that have worked for you? If so, please share it with me in the comments below.

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Published: June 30, 2011

14 Responses to “Don't Give Up Too Soon”

  1. Cindy, Awesome reminders and plan for all of us to use for following up with elusive clients! I am using this today.
    Best, Janet

    Janet GrosshandlerJune 30, 2011 at 10:26 am

  2. Cindy,

    do you have an exact source for these statistics?
    • 2% of new sales are made on the first contact
    • 3% of new sales are made on the second contact
    • 5% of new sales are made on the third contact
    • 10% of new sales are made on the fourth contact
    • 80% of new sales are made on the fifth contact

    I'd like to use them in a presentation but can't find the actual source of the study.

    Thanks!

    Hannah

    Hannah in OregonJune 30, 2011 at 6:35 pm

  3. Hi Cindy! Really good suggestions! Even though I'm still working in corporate America, I can see where some will definitely be useful! One question for you - When Dalton said, “But earlier when you ignored me or stuck your tongue out at me—you didn’t like me then—right?” What did the little girl answer?
    Thanks! Quinn

    Quinn EurichJuly 1, 2011 at 10:29 am

  4. Cindy, Thanks for this article. It really is true. When I don't hear from people, I do get bummed. Yet I know myself that when people try to get me, I may have 10 other more important things happening and I have 3 phone numbers AND I just changed my email. So this article just makes so much sense to me right now. Thanks for it.

    JanJuly 4, 2011 at 10:11 pm

  5. Excellent information, Cindy, and very true. Thank you for the great statistics and the link. Love the story about Dalton and Lexi! Anyone with children can relate.

    Kellie CraftJuly 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm

  6. Cindy, great reminder to be persistent, not pesky, with clients. I've made this mistake with a Job Fair client last year...never again.

    Love the idea to use autoresponders for follow up...thanks!

    Jerry

    Jerry BuresJuly 5, 2011 at 4:36 pm

  7. Cindy,

    Persistence is KEY to your business! Too many times people feel they're being ignored, and that's not the case at all. This article was a GREAT example of all the things that can happen.

    Sometimes a potential client could be testing you to see if you will follow up.

    I love that fact that Dalton learned a great lesson at such an early age!

    Thanks Again,

    Tonimarie

    Tonimarie MarreseJuly 8, 2011 at 4:42 pm

  8. Cindy,

    It's great advice I've used in my own career. Applied for a gig on DirectResponseJobs.com on December 10,2010 (almost a year ago), and finally starting the first project with this client.

    Enjoy your articles, have a very Merry Christmas!

    Brian OchsnerDecember 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm


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