Recently, a client asked “How often should I follow-up with a prospect after I send a proposal?” This is a great question because while it is important to pursue business with determination, nobody wants to be the pesky salesperson who won’t stop hounding a client. The answer varies depending on the length of time between the inquiry and the event date. Based on your company’s volume of business, if a client requests a proposal for an event that is very soon, you may even consider asking for a commitment or deposit before generating a proposal.
Assuming, however, that you have a more generous timeframe, your prospect has been carefully qualified, and you did not generate a proposal until the client was close to a “yes,” here are some basic guidelines for communicating with an indecisive or non-responsive prospect:
- After you deliver the proposal, follow up promptly. If you wait longer than one business day, you have waited too long. Make sure the client received the proposal and suggest setting a time to review everything in detail.
- If you do not hear from the client, try contacting them through a different method of communication. Don't assume that everyone communicated the same way you do. If they aren't calling you back, send an email. If your messages don't get replies, pick up your phone.
- If the event is several weeks or months in the future, aim for weekly contact and allow the intervals to widen.
There are several reasons you may not hear from a client and may not be able to close the sale:
- The client was not properly qualified as a Good Fit for your company and price point.
- You didn't understand the event they requested or you failed to communicate your company's offering clearly.
- You weren't communicating with the true Decision Maker and therefore you didn't design the proposal to appeal to their specific needs.
- There may be a genuine reason why the prospect simply cannot host the event. Perhaps the nature of the event has changed such that they must go in a different direction. In this instance, the client may simply be too embarrassed to call. For your own peace of mind, choose to give the prospect the benefit of the doubt and move on.
- Of course, it's possible the client simply selected another caterer. We'll explore what to do in that case in my next post.
Knowing how often you should follow-up with a client is an important skill for all salespeople. Too much follow-up and you risk annoying the client. Not enough follow-up and you may miss an opportunity. Think of the process as the early days of dating someone – you need to walk the fine line between appearing indifferent and looking desperate. A successful caterer uses good judgment and reads the client’s cues.