Having been in business for a number of years now as a self-employed business support professional, I can safely say that the process of ‘landing’ clients – that is, converting them from prospective to paying customers – has most definitely been a learning curve for me, particularly as I moved from an employed role into self-employment!
So here are my top tips for following up with customers:
- Create a tailor made proposal for each prospective customer: Unless you have very specific and rigid packages, try to adjust your proposals for each potential customer. I have a master template document that features all of the individual products, services and packages that I offer so that I can duplicate it and then delete content as required, making the custom-made proposal process as quick and easy as possible! This really helps customers to feel as though their unique concerns and individual business have been addressed in your proposal.
- Give them time to consider their options: Tempting though it is to phone a potential customer 8 minutes after pressing ‘send’ on your email, give them time to read through the proposal, digest the content and consider their options. I think that 2-3 working days is a nice window, after which a gentle follow up email or call isn’t likely to be deemed too pushy!
- Follow up – gently! Demanding a potential customer’s thoughts about your proposal or giving them a tight deadline to respond to your emails can come across as quite forceful. Admittedly, some businesses find that creating scarcity by only offering packages for a limited time works well for them – you will have to decide whether your business falls into this category.
- Don’t beg – Customers can smell desperation, and are likely to be put off if you start begging for their work! Remember – you are an experienced professional who has the ability to help businesses work more productively and effectively, and if a business owner can’t see that then it’s likely they aren’t the right fit for you
- Understand that not every potential customer is a great fit for you, and vice versa! Sometimes, it becomes clear that you may not have either the time or the exact skillset required to deliver specific services to a client. Other times, it may be that you recognise that a potential customer has personality traits that you know, from experience, tend to cause problems in a working relationship. Either way, don’t feel bad about it! If you’re not the right person to help your potential customer, tell them as soon as possible so that you don’t end up compromising your values, ideals or work-life balance to service a client who doesn’t appreciate you as they should
- Don’t dramatically alter your price point if they turn you down – it’s terribly tempting to slash prices when you are desperate to sign up new clients, but know that you have set your hourly rate/package price for a specific reason. You have essential business outgoings (software and hardware costs, insurance, professional memberships, etc.) that you need your business income to cover so that you can take home a fair and reasonable wage. If your price has come in too high for a potential customer, why not ask them what their budget is and see if you can build a package that fits in with their budget? You might not be able to get everything done that they had initially planned for, but it might be a good place to start until they have more money in the pot for the project.
- Evaluate the follow up process, whether you win or lose – it’s so important to take a little time to reflect on each potential customer interaction that you have in order to ensure that your follow up process is as successful as possible in the future. Do you have common questions from customers? Are there certain aspects of the follow up process that went particularly well/particularly badly? If so, why not adjust your follow up process so that potential issues are avoided in the future.
Good luck with your potential customers! I’d love to hear any tips you’ve got for following up with potential customers – feel free to share them in the VIP VA Hub.