You’ve had a sales conversation with a prospective customer.
The conversation went well, and they are very seriously considering becoming a client. You did a great job doing what I call “building a bridge” so that there’s a clear next step that someone specific agrees to take, and they’ll complete the step by a specific date. All that’s lined up, communicated, and agreed upon. Excellent!
You part ways, whistling a happy tune because you probably just acquired a new client! WOOHOO!
And now you wait.
And you wait some more.
The agreed upon date passes. Tick tock.
There’s no response from the prospect.
Do you follow up? Do you give them more time? Are you rushing them? Are you being pushy?
What if you send the follow up email and they don’t reply to that? Do you follow up again? When? How soon is too soon? Will they think you’re panicked? What if you pester them? Maybe they just need more time?
Do you need to send a follow up email? When? And, how often? And, for how long?
This phase of the relationship can bring you enormous anxiety and occupy way more of your attention and focus than necessary. “I don’t want to burden them with a thousand emails!” Oy. I promise, you won’t send a thousand. And, following up will not feel like a thousand to your prospect. They wanted your service!
All the time you spend worrying is distracting and counter-productive – you can feel it! Instead of developing the relationship with the prospect, you’re sitting idle, worrying. That’s not helping you or them. It’s coming from a place of caring, but it’s also getting in your way!
I wanted to share some of the practices I’ve used and suggested to clients that have worked very well.
Whatever is useful for you from the information below, I encourage you today, as you read this article, to make some decisions. Decide on a follow-up email policy that you can lean into. When you find yourself asking, “I wonder if I should send a follow-up email?” you simply review your policy and follow the guidance. No thinking necessary.
All of this works best if you build a bridge.
In every meeting, every call, every interaction with anyone who is important to your business, I want to encourage you to build the skill of “building a bridge.” What does this mean?
Building a bridge means that at the end of every interaction, all parties are crystal clear on:
- The next step (call, email, letter, pantomime, etc.)
- Who is going to take the next step
- What date will the next step be taken (no later than)
- What happens if the next step isn’t taken by the due date
If you do this at the end of every interaction, it will give you so much space and ease when it comes to following up. Why? Because you’ve gotten what I like to call “permission in advance,” so everyone is expecting you to follow-up. Soooo much easier, and waaaay less worry.
This conversation is usually pretty straight forward. I invite the client to help support the process, if they wish, and I usually try to take responsibility for following up.
This is important… let me say that again: I usually try to take responsibility for all follow-up.
Why would I add more work to my plate if I can delegate that work to the prospect?
Because I know without a shadow of a doubt that I will follow up. I can’t count on the prospect to follow-up. Is working with me one of their top priorities in life? Probably not. However, growing my business and being in service for people is one of my top priorities They’re usually well intentioned when they offer to get back with you, but it’s just not a sensible thing to rely on them to do.
If the client insists, I don’t push it. But I do say something like (point 4 above), “Okay, that’s fair. I’ll look forward to hearing back from you by X date. And, just in case something happens, and it falls off the radar, or whatever – you know, life happens – don’t you worry. If I don’t hear back from you by X date, I will go ahead and reach out to you via email the following day. Fair enough?”
The Prospect Follow-Up Email
The follow-up emails I send vary depending on the prospect, the offer, and what we discussed. But generally, it will look something like this:
I hope you’re doing well, and [ADD PERSONAL NOTE HERE BASED ON DISCUSSION].
When we had our discussion, I felt so good about [NAME A FEW HIGHLIGHTS THAT BENEFIT THEM]. At the end, it sounded like moving forward working together was going to be really supportive for you. I heard you when you said you’d like to look at a few things financially, talk to your partner, and pray about it. I wanted to check in on how you’re doing with that, and what you’ve noticed. Have you gotten the clarity you need? Anything specific in the way?
I’d really appreciate hearing an update – whether that’s a yes, no, or need more time – when you have a moment. There’s no pressure for a decision intended – what’s most important is that you feel really solid in moving forward with your whole heart. So, take the time you need. I will keep following up so you don’t have to manage that part (unless you don’t want me to… then just let me know).
And, of course, if you have any questions, need me to review any details, or want some support thinking through a challenge in making a good decision, please reach out. I’m here.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
With deep appreciation,
Simple, easy, kind.
Are you afraid of pressuring or pestering them?
One of the most common worries I hear from clients is the fear that following up is pressuring or pestering the person. What a lovely and kind thing to be so thoughtful about. If you worry about this, give your heart some compassion, because the worry is coming from a sincere place that really wants what’s best for everyone. Being so thoughtful is a good thing.
Just don’t let your care stop you from being of service. What’s needed is to face the fear of pressure and pestering head on, and give the prospect options and freedom. This helps create an environment of comfort and safety where they can move closer to you, or away from you with more ease and gentleness. (And, the goal is never to only get someone to move closer to working with you. If what you do isn’t a good match for them, the last thing you want is for them to work with you. That’s a disaster for both of you, just waiting to happen. Only if it’s right for both of you, do we want them to come closer. Right?)
So, how do we face this head on in our email?
This is what I often include in my emails to address “pressure”:
By the way, [NAME], there is no pressure whatsoever about making a decision. Please take your time and make sure that you have everything you need to feel solid in your decision. If there’s anything that I can do to help bring clarity, please reach out and ask. I’m happy to answer any questions or talk through anything that you might feel unsure about. Okay?
And to address “pestering”:
Also, I also know that life gets very busy, and if your email is anything like mine, it’s so easy to lose sight of an email. So I am happy to continue following up. I’ll check in next week again, and thereafter if we haven’t connected. My intention isn’t to be a pest, or create any pressure. Instead, I hope to take some of the burden off of you having to track this. If you don’t want any further follow up, just give the word. Deal?
Sometimes, if I haven’t heard anything from a prospect after repeated efforts over a number of weeks (or months), I will add in something like this:
I know life is busy, and you no doubt have a lot going on. I’m wondering if you would mind sending a real quick update when you see this. Even if it’s direct and short, such as, “Doing fine. Busy. Still interested.” Or, “No thanks.” Or, “Try again in a month.” Or, “Keep emailing weekly, I want to work with you.” Whatever fits for you, it would really help me to know how you are.
I often get a nice reply after I make the kind request in this way.
What happens if there is no response to your follow-up?
You’ll notice that in the “pestering” section above, I once again give myself permission to follow up the following week. You can simply use variations of this that fit your style, and the frequency with which you want to follow-up.
What’s the right amount of times to follow up? There is no rule. Let it be guided by your heart. Not your fear… but your heart.
Remember, you aren’t pushing them off a cliff. You’re offering a service to support them with a problem they want to solve, heal, fix, mend. They expressed interest, desire, and good intent. Trust that. And more importantly, trust yourself and what you’re offering.
And… this is so so so important… don’t make decisions on their behalf. Don’t decide that they aren’t interested. Don’t assume or interpret their behaviors. It’s not likely that you know them well enough to take that on. Instead, be thoughtful, kind, and supportive in your follow-up and assume that the interest they had is still present, until they tell you otherwise. That’s treating them with true respect.
How long into the future do you keep sending follow-up inquiries?
Again… this is up to your discernment.
In my own business, I have followed up with folks years after meeting them, and it was only then that they were in the right place to start working together. People have their own timing, and they aren’t ready until they’re ready. Will you still be there when they’re ready? That often depends on your follow-up, doesn’t it? So, don’t dismiss ongoing follow-up if you really felt the connection and resonance during your initial meeting.
For the ongoing, more distant follow-up, I’ll usually keep it short, sweet, and sincere:
“Hey, [NAME]! I was thinking about you today and remembering our conversation we had wayback when. I just thought I would let you know that you were on my mind.
I would love to hear an update on what’s happening in your world [or offer a specific detail from your initial meeting]. Would you be willing to share? I’d love to hear from you.
I really hope everything is going well for you and your life and business. I wish you the very best, and I hope to hear from you, if you’re willing.”
Note that I don’t even hint at referencing the possibility of us working together. It’s not about that anymore. I’m caring for them. They are what matters to me, not the sale. That is genuine. And that doesn’t happen often in business these days. If I felt a strong enough resonance with them to keep following up with them a year in the future… then I’m caring for them as a person, not just as a possible client. This is how I run my business. And it seems to work well!
What if they get my newsletter, is this follow-up?
Yes, your newsletter will also help keep you and your service in front of their heart and mind. And, it may be all they need.
Using metaphoric language, I tend to think of the newsletter as caring for the herd, and my personal follow-ups as caring for the sheep itself. When someone expresses enough interest and takes the time to have a conversation – I’d much rather invest in nurturing that personal connection. That person is much more likely to become a client, ultimately, than someone who is only receiving my newsletter and who has never had a conversation with me.
I encourage you to be consistent and resilient in your follow-up. See what happens.
What if you could release your fear and instead, trust that you’re working for the highest good? What happens when you let the other person make their own decisions?
If we make our sales, and the follow-up, an act of kindness… wouldn’t that make things better for all?
I’d love to hear how this lands with you, and your experience and difficulties with follow-ups. Please leave a comment below!