So you prepped, planned, rehearsed, and finally delivered that killer proposal, and your potential client seems excited about it — congratulations! But don’t think your job’s done just yet. The truth is, proposals almost never close sales; it’s the follow up work you do with the potential client afterwards that does.
The last thing you want is for all of the work you put into your proposal to be wasted, so you need to use customer followups to keep your name or brand alive in the client’s consciousness until they’re ready to buy. The first thing to do is…
Set joint expectations
Unless it’s really clear that you’re going to close the sale during your initial conversation, you should set up the expectation that you are going to follow up with your potential customer later to get their thoughts on the matter. This makes the whole process of following up much easier because you won’t feel like you’re essentially cold calling them or bugging them, and it also gives them a timeframe for making a decision, rather than leaving it all open ended.
Take the pressure off
When you do get in touch with them, make sure that you present the conversation as just one more step in the process, rather than a demand for a decision. While any salesperson is going to want a decision, directly asking for it is probably going to get you an instant “no”, since that’s the easier choice to make.
So instead of asking for a decision, ask them for their thoughts. This will keep the pressure off both of you, elicit any lingering objections they have, and give you a clearer indication of how close you are to a “yes” and whether or not you can work with them to bridge that gap.
But what if the customer says something like “Leave it with me” or “Call me again soon”? If this happens, it’s important to clarify a timescale with them — after all, “soon” might mean a week to you and a month to your customer! If you ask them, they’ll generally give you a firm answer, and you can then say “Great, if I haven’t heard anything from you in the meantime I’ll give you a call around then.”
This also works for situations where the customer says to you “I’ll let you know when I’ve made a decision.” Again, simply ask them what kind of timescale they’re working with, and tell them that if you don’t hear from them by then you’ll give them a call to see where things stand.
Know your position
Finally, it’s important that you understand your position in their ‘map’. Are you and your solution something that they are prioritising, or do they want to get other things sorted before they get to you? Either type of situation can lead to a productive relationship, but only if you’re sensitive to what they actually need from you right now — which may be you backing off for a few weeks. The best way to do this? As with all things related to your customers’ ‘maps’, ask them!
And if you find that you tend to get these scenarios repeating themselves over and over again in your business, then have a look at our blog on turning a no into a maybe into a yes — it can help you avoid spending a lot of time on follow ups only to have the whole thing fall through at the last minute.
Until next time,