Seven Steps for a Friendly Follow-up

A couple of days ago I wrote about some tips on getting paid faster by your clients. One of the key tips was following up with invoices. Well, following up is one of the most important things you can do even before a client books you.

In this internet-driven world where everyone is running on maximum overdrive, it’s easy to let things fall through the cracks. Anything that is not urgent will get back-burnered. This goes for you and for people who may hire you. Yes, Jack over at Initech may need a video, but the production deadline his boss keeps getting on him about takes precedence over researching videographers or photographers. Then Sally from HR is asking him to turn in his 401k application. Jim in accounting needs those TPS reports. George in legal has called four times regarding the licensing agreement with ACME Corp. Brenda in engineering needs the customer feedback forms. And the wife at home has a few errands she needs done before coming home. With all this going on, you need to understand Jack may not have hiring a videographer at the top of his list.

So when four weeks goes by since he last talked to you about the video project, the fact that he hasn’t called back doens’t necessarily mean you didn’t get the job. But, what will many of you do? You’ll skulk around disappointed you didn’t get the gig, and never write or call back. In the meantime, once our busy friend does come up for air and gets back to work on finding videographer, who’s he gonna hire? Most likely whichever company is closest to the top of his mind. That may be a recent referral to some other company he just got. Or it may be some new company he found in a web search. But, if you follow-up, it could be you.

Seven Follow-up Tips

The trick is staying at the top of Jack’s mind during the stage he is researching videographers (naturally, this doesn’t just apply to videographers.) Here are some things to keep in mind to help you stay in Jack’s mind.

  • Have a system in place. From the get-go you need to have a customer relationship management (CRM) system in place for following up with leads. It could be a software program like ShootQ, Campfire (from the makers of Basecamp), Salesforce.com, or any number of programs designed for tracking, managing, and following-up with leads. I use a sort of DIY system that combines all the web-based tools I use most often (Gmail, Evernote, Google Calendar, Dropbox, etc.) You can read about it in my EventDV article. Since writing that article, I’ve started using Signnow.com for electronic contract, and Asana for tracking leads. (Asana is a great project management system I’ve been using for months. I plan to write a review in the coming week or so). As I write in that EventDV article, part of your system needs to be how you will remind yourself to follow-up with leads.
  • Establish a follow-up Up-front. The first time you correspond with Jack regarding the gig, find out what his time-table his for hiring someone. Then ask if it’s okay for you to call him again as the time approaches. You can say something like, “Is is okay if I follow-up with you an a couple of weeks to see where you are in the selection process?”
  • Keep is short and sweet. When you send a follow-up email or phone call, keep it short. A sentence or two should be enough. “Hey Jack, Just thought I’d follow-up since we last spoke a couple of weeks ago. Don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you.”
  • Give them important updates. If you’ve had any significant changes in your business since you last corresponded, let them know. Maybe you just finished a killer new video that is right in line with the kind of video Jack needs. Maybe you just hired a new team member whose work is awesome. Maybe you moved into some new studio space that will facilitate the production. Whatever it is, tie it into why it’s good for Jack.
  • Don’t over-do it. While you’re in the process of following up, don’t go overboard. You need to strike a balance between effective follow-up, and just being a pain. Calling or emailing every day is NOT the thing to do. Depending on the size of the gig and the natural lead time, once a week may even be too much. You also don’t want to sound desperate. No one wants to hire someone who sounds like the desperately need you to hire them.
  • Be gracious. If in the end you do not get the gig, be gracious. Send a final follow-up email thanking them for their consideration and inviting them to contact you again should they have need of video services in the future. Include a link to your email newsletter or blog for them to sign up. Say something like, “You can keep up to date with our latest news at our blog.”
  • Ask why. Last, don’t be too shy to ask “Why?” If they didn’t hire you, find out why. Was it price? Quality? Style? This will help you improve your business and your craft. Likewsise, if they do hire, also find out why. It’s good to know what you are doing right, as well as what you may not be doing so right.

I can’t write a blog post about how long you should wait to follow-up with a lead without showing this funny clip from “Swingers”: wherein after getting a phone number from a “beautiful baby” at a bar, Mikey’s friends give him advice on when he should call her. (This clips includes an F-bomb, so be warned if that kind of thing offends you).

What tips do you guys have for how and when you follow-up with leads?

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3 Responses to “Seven Steps for a Friendly Follow-up”

  1. Often times I fear that maybe my email ended up in their spam mail folder, especially if we had a great conversation on the phone. If I haven’t heard from someone within on week I will fwd them the initial response I sent them and say, “I sometimes end up in junk mail so I wanted to follow up to make sure you did get my initial response. Please keep me posted either way regarding your interest in my services.” Sometimes people actually do say, “thanks for getting back to me I never received your initial email.” So it has worked to save people from thinking I don’t follow up, and in other instances it’s prompted people to get back to me “either way.” Lots of times people do say, “we’ve been so busy” (for all the reasons you mention in your article) and they apologize for not getting back and/or solidifying their interest sooner.

  2. I’m not really sure why this trick seems to work but I can tell you that it DOES WORK! If I’m having a hard time closing a deal with a prospect who I know wants/needs a video, I will often reach out to them (with the contract attached) via email on Friday afternoons around 4pm. My theory is that people want to wrap up as much as they can before going into the weekend so they won’t have to stress about it when they show up at the office on Monday morning. The key is to engage them via email. If they respond to your note, keep responding back to them or pick up the phone and call them. If you become their only focus at the end of the day on a Friday, they’ll often sign your contract and email or fax it back to you. It’s a beautiful thing!

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