Following up with leads is recommended when you’re freelancing. Many times just the advice to follow up is given, without any of the reasoning behind it.
Well, there are two reasons why you should follow up with potential clients.
1. Win more clients
The first and most oblivious reason is that you’ll win more clients when you follow up. The thought process goes like this:
- Client finds you
- Client talks to you
- Client hire you
Oh, and don’t forget Step 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, and 2.8: Client forgets about you.
This isn’t a slight on the client either. Everyone forgets about things. You’re not the most important thing in their world. They have their business, their customers, their employees, and countless other things they have to deal with.
But by following up with them, you’ll help them remember you which translates directly into more sales.
For example, I tell this story on my podcast and in my training course: I was referred to a client by another developer. This client wanted to hire me (needed to hire me) but they couldn’t get their budget allocated. Instead of dropping the lead, I emailed my contact there multiple times over nine months. At the end they hired me and that contract ended up being one of the largest contracts I’ve won. On an hours-of-work to amount-billed perspective, it was also the most profitable contract I’ve ever worked one.
Whenever I hear the excuse of “I don’t want to bug them”, I think back to this project. I don’t want to bug people either but when you can make a significant improvement to your income just by doing something simple like sending an email, I’ll do it.
The second benefit of following up is that it will improve they perceive you. Instead of just reacting to contact requests and doing the minimum amount of work, you’re being proactive and chasing leads.
Every client I’ve ever worked with appreciated that. They knew I wouldn’t let things fall through the cracks and that things will get done like they’re supposed to.
How you actually follow up
You probably already understand what a follow up is but I bet you aren’t really doing them as well as you’d like.
A proper follow up isn’t an event, it’s a system. A system designed to convert your best customers into lead.
Simplest follow up system ever
The simplest follow up system is just a reminder to contact someone again in a week.
- You sent someone an email last Thursday? Send them another this Thursday.
- You had a sales call yesterday? Call them back in six days.
Just do the same thing you just did, but in seven days.
A big part of following up, in fact the longest part, is the wait. Waiting for an email. Waiting for a phone call. Waiting for information.
Without a follow up system this wait can be a killer. Especially if you’re waiting for something important like a signed contract or crucial project information.
But with a system the wait can be more bearable. It’s still there and it still sucks, but at least now you know that you’ll be checking again in a week. You can trust your system.
The medium of your follow up also matters. My basic rule of thumb is (in descending order):
- Use the medium the person asked you to (e.g. email me next week)
- Use the medium they prefer
- Use the phone for important follow ups
- Use email for less important follow ups
- Use whatever you’re comfortable with or whatever makes sense.
Start at the top and use the first one that fits the situation.
Tip: If you’re avoiding or procrastinating a follow up because you don’t want do it, you might be using a medium that you don’t enjoy. First try to just do it and move on. But if you can’t, then do the best follow up you can. This might mean sending an email to someone who asked you to call them, but it’s better to do some follow up than none at all.
When to follow up
Besides the basic, every week, there are a few more good times to follow up with your clients and potential clients:
- after a meeting or conference call (e.g. summary the meeting, your notes, list of tasks)
- before a project starts (e.g. confirming the project kickoff meeting, congratulating the client on starting)
- before a project ends (e.g. catch any loose threads, start priming the relationship for a second project)
- after a project ends (e.g. asking for testimonials, final feedback, metrics)
- around deadlines and events (e.g. reminders)
It’s better to follow up more often, than to not have followed up at all.
– some philosopher