So You Have a Prospective Client, Now What? How to Create a Follow-up System that Saves You Time and Frustration
Once you have a prospective client interested in hiring you, it is crucial that you have a system to manage your follow-up with them.
When I first started as a copywriter, I didn’t have such a system in place. Every time I had a potential client, I had to stop what I was working on and figure out how and when to follow up. Often, I couldn't remember what my last interaction with them was.
If I was busy with a project, I shied away from pursuing clients simply because I knew the follow-up would take up too much time.
The worst was when I took a lot of time to speak with a potential client, spent hours on a proposal, sent it off, and then never heard from them again.
Not having a system in place makes things chaotic, stressful, and frustrating—especially as you get busier and have more clients. It also means things can fall through the cracks.
These days, I’m more on autopilot with a steady stream of work flowing to me and low stress when it comes to pursuing potential clients. About 95 percent of the time, I hear back from clients. The ones I don’t hear from … at least I know I’ve done everything I could for them to make a decision. Plus, because I have a system, follow-up doesn’t take much time, making it less frustrating when I don’t hear back.
Below is the Interested Prospect Follow-up System I put in place for managing a prospective client, including how to continue following up to get an answer.
1. Send an information package.
This includes questions and answers to common questions about your experience and skills, testimonials from clients, a partial list of clients, an "About Me" section, a description of how you work, samples of your work, and a form for prospects to fill out describing their project. This packet is designed to pre-sell your services and showcase what you can offer.
2. Ask prospects to fill out the project form.
To save time and help clients self-eliminate if they aren’t serious yet or don’t have the budget, ask prospects to fill out the project form in your information package. This gives you the basics, such as what type of work they need done, company information, goal for their project, budget, etc. This also helps you know the type of questions to ask, what samples to send, etc. in the next steps.
3. Send specific samples.
After a prospect completes the form and sends it back, immediately send an email thanking them and attach a folder with samples that specifically match their project request: autoresponders and a landing page, for example. To cut down on my time, I keep folders already assembled with my best samples grouped by type, such as emails, articles, and web pages.
Also in this email, include two or three dates you are available to discuss their project and ask which is best for them.
4. Thank them for their time.
Following an appointment, immediately send an email thanking them for their time with a short message about what to expect next. Here’s an outline: “Thanks for your time today. Per our discussion, you can expect to receive a proposal for your [insert the project type] project by [date].”
I generally try to have a proposal back to a client within 24 to 48 hours.
5. Put together your proposal.
My proposal template consists of seven sections and is usually only two pages but never longer than three. Proposals include a headline and sections titled:
- Client’s areas of concern (where I bullet point the problems or challenges the client is trying to solve, such as “generate leads” or “increase revenue by implementing an email campaign”)
- Objectives for project
- Strategy outline (note: I don’t list specifics here)
- Cost estimate (with a la carte and package options)
- Implementation plan
- As well as an addendum with an “About Me” paragraph and my guarantee
6. Send proposal & set up meeting.
The next step is to send the proposal and set up a time to discuss getting started. This is done through an email or phone message. If one doesn’t get a response, try the other. Be sure to leave a time you will follow up by phone if you don’t hear back from them first.
7. Follow up if you don’t hear back.
If you don’t hear back after a couple of days, you’ll want to start a series of emails and phone calls. These messages use assumptive language that suggests they want to use your services and are interested in scheduling a follow-up meeting to discuss starting their project. Spread messages out two to three days apart for the first two messages, and then follow up weekly after that.
Leave a message saying you’ve sent the proposal and that if they have any questions, to call you or email you with any questions. Also say you’d like to schedule a time to speak to them about your proposal within the next day or so.
If after leaving a message or two by phone and email, you still haven’t heard back, don’t jump to conclusions. People are busy and the project you are discussing with them often is not their priority. I’ve found some of my clients respond much better to texting than anything else, so at this point, you might just send a casual text asking if they’ve received your proposal.
8. Change your message to let your prospect off the hook.
If you still don’t have a response, move to a new type of email message. In this message, you’ll want to say things like, “I just wanted to make sure my messages haven’t ended up in your spam or junk folder. Would you mind confirming receipt of my proposal?” This lets prospects off the hook in case they are embarrassed by not returning your messages.
If that doesn’t work, send another email that says, “While I don’t want to be a pest, I do want to make sure you have received the proposal you requested. Please confirm by indicating the most appropriate answer below. I will be sure to update your client folder so that I’m following up with you appropriately.
a) Your emails have been landing in my junk folder. Please call me to schedule a time to discuss your proposal.
b) Let’s get started! Send me an agreement for option ____.
c) I’ve been away and haven’t had a chance to review your proposal yet. Please check back with me in ___ days or ___ weeks.
d) I’ve had to table this project for now. Please check back with me in ___weeks or ___months.
e) I’ve already hired someone to complete this project, however, I’d like to stay in touch for possible future projects. Please add me to your free e-newsletter list.
f) I’m no longer interested. Please remove me from your follow-up list.
Then follow their instructions. If someone isn’t interested right now, you can follow up by sending them articles from time to time and/or adding them to your email list.
9. Send agreement.
If your prospect is ready to get started, then send them your agreement. To see how to create this, look at Pam Foster’s The Web Copywriter’s Clear Path to Profits. A whole chapter is devoted to this, including a sample you can emulate.
One of the keys to success as a freelance writer is to spend the majority of your time doing what you love and what makes you the most money … writing.
Since I put a follow-up system in place, closing new business has become second nature to me. My success ratio has skyrocketed and I no longer dread the process. And best of all, I consistently eliminate non-billable hours and have more billable time to work every day.
Having a system can do the same for you.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance
At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »