You’ve probably heard that one of the best ways to close a deal with a prospective client is follow up. We’ve even told you that here on Freelance Folder.
Let’s face it, sometimes no matter how hard you try to close the deal, you just can’t. It’s not because you’re doing something wrong. It may be because the client isn’t ready to hire you yet.
What most people won’t tell you is how to follow up with long-term prospects (without seeming like a pest). Your long-term prospects are the people who fit your client profile and have a need, but aren’t ready to commit to doing business with you yet.
It’s easy to think that if you can’t close a deal, you are done with that prospect forever. But that attitude can cost you.
That’s what this post is about. We’ll explain how to follow up painlessly and build client rapport at the same time.
Step #1: Know Who Your Prospects Are
The first thing you need to do is keep track of your long-term prospects. A surprising number of freelancers don’t bother to track the prospects who make inquires, but don’t hire them. That can be a big mistake–especially if the prospect was serious.
For serious prospects (not tire-kickers), you should keep a record of the following information:
- Contact name
- Business name
- Website URL
- Email and other contact information such as phone number
- Last contact date
- Notes, including why they contacted you
Unless you’ve just started out in business, you’ll probably need a tool to track all that. Of course, a spreadsheet could work if you are good with spreadsheets. If you’re not, you may want look into a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
After all, you can’t keep in touch with a prospect if you’ve discarded or lost their information.
Step #2: Stay in Touch
You don’t want to spend a lot of time on your long-term prospects (and you don’t want to pester them), but you shouldn’t ignore them either. After all, your long-term prospects are your future clients. Your long-term marketing strategies are important.
Here are five simple ways to stay in touch with long-term prospects:
- Offer to send them your newsletter. You never want to just put someone on a newsletter mailing list, but if you ask whether they want a free newsletter most people will say yes. (Be sure to include an opt-out option if you send your newsletter through email.)
- Connect with them through social media. If you are both active on social media, that can be a great way to stay in touch with a prospective client. Be sure that what you share on social media is relevant to your clients and interact when you can.
- Send a short note on special occasions. Social media can be great for reminding you of your contact’s special occasions. Facebook, for example, sends out birthday reminders. LinkedIn sends a notification when a contact is promoted or changes jobs.
- Forward relevant articles. If you run across an article that you think will be helpful to your future client, go ahead and forward it to them. They will appreciate the gesture and doing this demonstrates that you understand their needs.
- Check their website periodically. If they have a blog, make a point to read it from time to time. If you see a post on their blog that you can relate to, leave a comment. Checking their website can give you an idea of how their business is doing.
What you are doing is building a relationship and keeping your name in front of the prospect.
Step #3: Look for Opportunities
The final step in turning long-term prospects into future clients is staying on top of opportunities. If you stay in touch with a prospect, you’ll naturally be more aware of opportunities when they arise.
For example, if you notice from a prospect’s website that they are expanding their business, that could be a good time to revisit whether they need your freelancing services.
Or, you might notice on LinkedIn that a contact has been promoted or changed companies. A change in job could mean that they are now in a position to hire a freelancer when they didn’t really have the budget before.
You might even notice that they are publicizing that they need a freelancer, which is a clear sign that it’s okay to approach them.
What are your tips for handling long-term prospects?
Share your answers in the comments.