How persistent should I be in following up with a potential client?

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First, never agree to submit a proposal unless you have scheduled a phone call or face to face meeting to discuss the client’s reaction. Don’t accept “Just send it over, I’ll read it and get back to you when I’ve got a chance.” Don’t send it without a commitment to discuss it with you!

Second, never appear needy. Remember: You may desperately want the work, and that proposal may be a large part of your world. But for your client, it may be a small part of his or her world. They may have a crisis they are dealing with or a difficult boss they are trying to please. Relationships can be asymmetrical, especially in the beginning. Delays are often about THEM and their issues, not about the quality or acceptability of your proposed intervention.

Third, apply a reasonableness test to your actions. How often would YOU like to be bugged about a proposal that a contractor or accountant submitted to you? You probably would want to make up your mind on your own time schedule, not theirs. Here are some specific suggestions:

  • Ask for a meeting or call to discuss the proposal and get their reactions
  • Ask what the time frame is for their decision
  • Remind them once or twice after that.
  • Ask what is on the critical path to make a decision. Do others have to be consulted further? Is it a competitive bid?
  • Try and push your client one way or the other by saying something like this: “Is this still an important priority for you? If so, why don’t we get together to discuss how to move forward and address it. If not, let me know, and I’ll be happy to re-engage with you in the future when it is more urgent for you.” 

 


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Andrew Sobel

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