One question I commonly get is how often to reach out to not-yet-ready (NYR) prospects.
(By NYR prospects, I mean prospects who’ve expressed an interest in your services but aren’t yet ready to bring you in on a project.)
It’s a good question. You need to walk a fine line between keeping in touch and being a pest.
And it’s very easy to err on either side.
Many of us don’t follow up often enough. Studies show that 44% of salespeople give up after one follow up attempt. Yet 80% of sales require FIVE follow ups! (source: Scripted and The Marketing Donut).
And some of us follow up too often. We hear “you need to follow up five times,” and we take that to mean sending five consecutive emails asking, “Are you ready for me yet?”
But that’s not a good thing to do either. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a barrage of follow ups, you know how annoying it can be.
The Goal of Nurturing
When you nurture NYR prospects, you’re not trying to sell them. The goal is to simply keep the conversation going, no matter how casual or limited.
The idea is to put your name in front of these prospects occasionally, so when they’re ready to move, you’re at the top of their list.
You don’t have to do this exclusively by email. In fact, it’s better to use a mix of contact methods, such as emailing a relevant article, commenting on a LinkedIn post, leaving a voicemail, sending a piece of direct mail or subscribing them to your newsletter (with permission).
Whatever you do, make sure you keep it real. Be genuine.
But the question remains: How often should you take these actions?
Generally, I recommend a frequency of somewhere between every one to three months.
But how do you know whether you should be contacting them every four weeks or every 12? There’s a big difference!
The best way to determine a more precise frequency is to consider these three factors:
1. Sales cycle stage
For our purposes here, we can break the sales cycle into three stages:
- Prospecting stage
- Not-yet-ready stage
- Ready stage.
The prospecting stage is the first stage of the sales cycle. Usually, you’re reaching out to cold prospects and trying to make new connections.
In this stage, you can follow up more frequently. If you follow up less frequently, prospects may not remember your previous attempt.
At the not-yet-ready stage, the prospect has expressed an interest in your services but isn’t ready to proceed. Therefore, you want to scale back the frequency of contact.
The NYR stage can go on for a long time, sometimes years. If you initiate contact too often, you risk annoying them.
At the ready stage, prospects have signaled that they’re ready to start their project. This warrants following up more frequently.
As you can see, the rate of follow up takes a path of high frequency to lower frequency and then back to higher frequency depending on where the prospect is in the sales cycle.
So take this into consideration when deciding how often to follow up.
2. Who contacted whom
Another factor to consider is who initiated contact.
Did you initially reach out to the prospect? Or did they reach out to you?
In other words, did you connect via inbound or outbound marketing?
If it was the prospect that originally reached out to you, then you have more leeway to follow up with greater frequency. If you don’t follow up often enough, they might think you’re not interested in their business.
But if you initiated contact, then they already know you’re interested. So you may want to scale back your follow up to avoid looking pushy.
3. Miscellaneous info and cues
Finally, you need to take into account other miscellaneous information and cues.
For example, what has the prospect shared with you about their potential project? How strongly are they motivated? How urgent is the project or need? Is there a looming deadline?
If the prospect is strongly motivated, the project is urgent and needs to be done soon, then increase your follow up rate.
If the prospect is less motivated, the project isn’t urgent and there’s no real deadline, then you might want to scale back.
You can also look for less obvious cues to guide your follow up rate. Is the prospect opening your email newsletters? Have they viewed your LinkedIn profile? Did they reply to your last nurturing email?
These can all be clues to maybe follow up a bit more often.
Keep in mind that the “ideal” follow up frequency rate can vary with a prospect over time. A frequency that makes sense today might be too frequent (or infrequent) tomorrow.
Hardly anyone does this!
Nurturing not-yet-ready prospects is a great way to stand out from the crowd. Hardly anyone does it because it requires strategy, organization and persistence.
But it can make the difference between a business that’s just getting by — and a business that flourishes.
However, it’s important NOT to treat lead nurturing as a desperate attempt to convert a prospect to a client. Let go of any expectations and instead focus on sending relevant personalized messages.
Consider These Factors — And Then Adjust
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules about how often you should follow up with NYR prospects.
All I can give you are general guidelines. You then have to adjust for each individual prospect.
So take your best guess and then adjust as you get more information and feedback.
But whatever you do, make sure you do it!
Because the biggest mistake you can make is to not follow up with NYR prospects at all.
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