I’m shaking things up a bit this week.
As my readership continues to grow (thank you for telling your friends and colleagues about this awesome email you get every day, and for sharing on social media), I’ve been getting A LOT of questions for my Mailbox Monday issues.
My current process is that when I get a question, I add a label in Gmail that marks it as a “Mailbox Monday” question. Then, come Monday, I go to the oldest unanswered one, and answer it.
A bit of a problem. My queue has grown so long that the longest out in the queue is going to be months before it’s answered. And by the time I get to that one, the queue will likely be even longer!
So — if you’re someone who sent in a question a while back and I haven’t gotten to it yet, don’t fret.
This week I’m going to answer one question every day. That will get me somewhat caught up. At least to any question that’s come in within the last 10 days or so.
And if the queue continues to grow, I’ll do this again to bring it back down to a more manageable size.
On to today’s question…
I wasn’t asked to keep this one anonymous, but it definitely falls under a more sensitive area, so I’m going to keep the person’s name off of it.
What do you do when your prospect is happy and says you’re the right fit, then they read your proposal and disappear? They had agreed on price… Were excited to get started… Then they shut down and don’t answer emails any more.
So, you’ve sent a proposal, and all you hear is crickets…
First and foremost, my recommendation is to take a deep breath.
There’s a book called The Four Agreements that I happen to like quite a bit. It teaches you four fundamental “agreements” that together give you a very grounded way of viewing, interpreting, and living in the world.
There are two agreements in particular that apply to this situation.
Don’t take anything personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Don’t make assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
… Whether or not you want to believe the more mystical side of this, they are very practical.
First, recognize that the client’s silence may have nothing to do with your or your proposal. The best clients are incredibly busy, occupied with a number of different projects to move their business forward. Yours is important, but it’s not the most important thing on their plate. This can cause mild annoyance when you’re trying to lock down your agreement, but once they are a client it means they won’t be pestering you every day.
Second, don’t assume their silence means they’re not moving forward. Maybe they’re waiting on something they don’t feel a need to tell you about. Maybe they just need to talk about it with a partner or member of the team. Maybe they need to put something in place before they can move forward with you. If they said they’re moving forward, don’t automatically assume they’re not when you haven’t heard from them.
Typically, a business-to-business sale (which is what most consulting and copywriting gigs are, and what’s being referenced in this question) has multiple decision makers. Whereas a lot of consumer products are bought the day the decision is made, business purchases can take weeks or months to be completed.
Silence during this time doesn’t mean the decision has been reversed — it just means there’s no forward progress to report.
Here’s my best method for dealing with these drawn-out buying cycles…
I first used this when I was selling $30,000 IT training solutions to help companies train their entire IT department. And by using just this one method, I consistently made far more of those sales than the other members of the sales team.
As soon as a new contact becomes a “lead” for your services, put their contact information into a customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as Insightly. I have a free Insightly account that gives me all the functionality I need.
As soon as you speak with them, create a follow-up task, attached to that lead.
When you’ve just spoken with them, make the follow-up soon. Today’s chat might deserve a brief email note tomorrow.
When you’ve completed that follow-up task, create another.
The longer it’s been since you spoke or since the deal has shown signs of progress, the longer it gets between follow-ups. Someone who you haven’t heard from in a month or two might get emails every three weeks — probably not any less frequently.
These emails don’t have to be much. Follow Dean Jackson’s recommendation of making them “short, personal, and expecting a reply.”
A simple question, “What’s the next step or what do you need from me to move this forward?”
Anything to stay on their radar, “I haven’t heard from you on this — please let me know how I can help you move it forward.”
It doesn’t have to be big. I just has to be.
Keep emailing them until they specifically say “no,” or until you get the deal.
Make it a system. And follow it.
This one method has been responsible for more of my revenue generated through one-to-one selling than anything else. It’s remarkably easy. And it works incredibly.
NOTE: I’d never do this for super-cheap products. It’s really a high-ticket sale technique. But that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about copywriting, consulting, or — where I first used it — IT training solutions.
Here’s the catch!
If you just do this with one client, you’ll still be sitting there twiddling your thumbs, worried, waiting for them to reply.
You’ll be logging into Insightly, checking your follow-up tasks, watching the date of the next one grow ever-closer, until it finally comes and you can send another email out into the ether.
That doesn’t help.
For this to really start paying off, you need to be putting more leads into Insightly than you’ll ever be able to handle as clients.
You need a system to go out, find, and bring in as many of your ideal clients as possible, and get them interested in working with you.
When you do this, you really stop worrying about one individual proposal or potential client. They’re important — yes. They could mean tens of thousands of dollars or more, into the future — yes.
But if they never respond, you have a line of others just like them who could step in and take their place.
Yes, you want to follow the system.
But you’re not expecting any one potential client to come through, and that changes your stance dramatically.
(There’s a side benefit to this that you can honestly convey to clients that you have that line of potential clients, and if they don’t act to secure time on your schedule, they will have to take the next available spot and that could be months into the future.)
Finally, STOP doing “proposals.”
This is my final point in this regard. And it’s more than semantics.
I don’t do “proposals” with clients. That implies something they have to decide on. It subconsciously gives them all the power.
Your role should be more like that of a doctor, prescribing to potential clients what they need to do with you.
When this is the role you’re playing, it changes things dramatically.
I typically don’t create a “proposal” or anything like it today. If I were to, I would call it something along the lines of an “action plan.”
It’s not “this is what we could do.”
It’s “this is what we’re going to do.”
Very important distinction.
You’ve set out what needs to be done, based on your initial conversation with them. You have a fee that you’ve quoted for what it will take for you to do that. And they need to pay that fee to secure the time on your schedule to do it, or for you to get started immediately.
Your role is one of authority, not of service.
This increases client compliance, and justifies a higher fee.
With this, you may also consider charging them for the initial “diagnosis and prescription” consultation. This would be before the “proposal” (note the quotes as this is not the language you should use). They pay you to sit down and plan out what it is you’re going to do. There are some extra considerations to doing this that I’m not going to go into here, but it’s absolutely viable and helpful in further establishing authority positioning. They’re also a lot less likely to flake out at the next step.
This all comes down to control.
If you give the client too much control during the selling process, you’re much more likely to lose them.
If you take a position of control and authority in the selling process, and take control over everything you can do to get results, you’re much likely to close more deals.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,