#181: Following Up with Prospects — a Different Way to Think About the Process

Following up with prospects is the activity writers dread the most — topped only by prospecting. 

It feels odd and unnatural. We worry that we’re bothering people or being disrespectful.  

And then wstart crafting crazy stories in our head.  

We imagine that the prospect is mad at us or shocked at our fees. They think we’re a fraud! They never want to speak with us again! 

But the vast majority of time, this isn’t what’s going on with prospects at all. 

I spent years in corporate sales and following up with prospects was a big part of my job.  

It wasn’t easy, and I never particularly enjoyed it.

So I understand why you don’t like it much either.

I never completely perfected the art of following up in those years. But I do have some ideas that will make the whole process a lot easier.


The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod. 

1. Following up is necessary

Following up is what moves the needle — so it’s a necessary thing.  

Prospects are busy. They have lots of competing priorities and are in ever-changing situations.  

Therefore, the reminders you send out are useful to them 

Following up with prospects doesn’t only help you, it also helps your prospects.

In fact, it’s often expected. Not following up can be seen as unprofessional.  

So you’re not bothering prospects by following up… unless you overdo it. 

2. Get permission and a timeframe

Make following up easier by getting:  

  1. Permission from the prospect to follow up 
  2. A date for WHEN you should follow up.  

And get these two things BEFORE you end the discovery call.  

At the end of the call, you can say, “Great! So what’s our next step here?” 

Or you can take the lead and say, “Okay, I’m going to put a quote together for you by tomorrow. When should I follow up with you? 

3. You can’t manufacture urgency 

If urgency doesn’t already exist, you can’t manufacture it 

This is especially true if you’re working with B2B marketers. 

Following up aggressively, or threatening to retract a limited-time offer, won’t create urgency that’s not there. So don’t even bother trying.  

You need intrinsic motivation to get a project moving. You can point out this motivation to the client. But you can’t manufacture it out of thin air.  

4. Crazy things can happen

Often, crazy things happen that will (eventually) explain why you haven’t heard back from a prospect.  

Things like: 

  • Sudden acquisitions  
  • Massive layoffs 
  • Medical emergencies 
  • Family emergencies 
  • Death! 

Stay cool, professional and graceful no matter what happens. Don’t assume that YOU are the issue.  

5. Have a plan for longer-term follow up

Assume that in most cases you will have to follow up with prospective clients. It’s just part of the sales process. So try to take the emotion out of the task.

A common scenario is that clients are excited about a project. You send them a quote. You follow up a few times and they respond. But eventually, they go silent.

Often, it’s because things have come up on their side. They feel embarrassed about not being able to move forward as quickly as they’d planned. 

These things happen. You can’t control it.  

But what you can do is have a plan to deal with it.  

Because ithey’re not ready to buright nowthere’s a VERY high probability they’ll buy in the next few months. 

So you need a plan to stay on their radar screen.  

Have a defined lead nurturing process. Every few months, send them something of value (e.g. an article) that shows you’re thinking of them.   

This strategy can really pay off if you persist. 

Here are two comments from my coaching groups that illustrate the effectiveness of this strategy: 

6. Spread out your follow-up attempts 

When you’re in the middle of a follow-up process, you can start to act irrationally. Especially when you really need to land the project.  

That’s why it’s a good idea to have your process documented in advance. It helps you take the emotion out of your decisions. 

Here’s an example of a follow up process:  

  1. Email the day after sending fee agreement. 
  2. Email three business days after that, if no response. 
  3. Call five business days after that, if no response. 
  4. Email five business days after that, if no response. 
  5. Call five business days after that, if no response (final attempt). 
  6. Add them to your nurturing bucket, if no response 

You don’t have to follow this exact process, of course. But you should follow some kind of process 

Tip: use your production schedule as an excuse to follow up.  

7. Remain graceful, grateful and professional

Iprospect changes their mind or the project is a no-go, remain graceful, grateful and professional.  

It’s hard to respect someone when they behave unprofessionally when you decline to give them your business.  

You never know the impact your reactions will have or what the future will bring. 

Following Up Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful 

Following up doesn’t have to be stressful. And if you do it well, you can get great results.  

Understand the dynamics of following up. Learn how to do it effectively and have a documented process you can follow.  

Above all, have a plan in place to stay on your prospects’ radar screen.  

Because you never know when they’ll come back to you. 

Plus… whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1.  Grab a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.

You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here

2.  Download a free copy of my new book for writers who are NEW to freelancing.

I’ll show you the 3 things you need to do to get your business off the ground safely and land your first paying client faster.  — Click Here

3.  Join my implementation program and be a case study.

I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’d like to work with me to grow your income quickly with better clients (and become one of my new success stories). Just email me at [email protected] and put “Case Study” in the subject line.

4.  Get a 1:1 strategy call with me.

Are you a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time with less stress? Let’s jump on a quick call and brainstorm some ideas for getting you there. Just email me at [email protected] and put “Brainstorm” in the subject line.