Saturday, May 10, 2008

Do You Follow Up?

Do you follow up with prospective clients? Multiple Times? After missing a scheduled appointment or not returning initial calls?

Those who contacted you first, or those YOU initiate - either, any or all?

Does this sometimes worry you, making you think you come off desperate? Unprofessional?

I absolutely follow up multiple times. I believe there's a way to do this that is professional, courteous and effective. I believe people, here in the states anyway are, if not receptive, certainly accustomed to repetitive marketing communication.

First - if THEY called YOU (OK, if THEY called ME, I tell myself: "...they're interested, or they wouldn't have contacted me..."). If they made an appointment, whatever, or if they voluntarily provided you with information including call-back/contact info, you have every right to suspect they ARE interested until they specifically say NO, don't bother me again!

Second - while many of us (me included) get aggravated after a few calls or junk mail, or spam or e-mail "blasts" (another word for spam, like saying "steak" instead of asking for a hunk of dead meat..."), there is still another side of many of us who appreciate straight-forward, professional, courteous information - especially from sources WE contacted at some point in time.

Third - it has been my experience that while people DO call or contact, or buy, on impulse, and then sometimes abandon the impulse wishing they'd never done it, what really happens is they get busy with the day-to-day living of life. Stuff happens - flat tires, sick parents, job firings, houses burn, groceries to purchase, bills to pay, shopping to do, that new movie is released... get the idea.
When "things" happen, they get in the way of follow-through, YOURS or THEIRS, and people aren't always avoiding you because they regret initiating the original contact.

It is OUR responsibility to follow through, up to a point, for as long as it takes to get a yes or no. We're not being desperate or begging, we're simply being professional business people for whom EVERY potential client, inquiry or contact is a major and important part of the reality of our business - of DOING business with the public.

I think that using professional decorum in making repeated efforts to connect with inquiring potential clients goes a long way toward establishing that that person, his or her business, IS important enough to us to follow through until either of us has opted out. Well, at least three-to-five times anyway.

My usual approach after contact has been initiated, one way or another, by the potential client, is:

• I comply with or answer their immediate questions/request; reschedule the appointment...
• I follow up with an e-mail, or snail-mail card, thanking them for their interest, include the demo DVD if requested, and some general information also easily found on my web site, and I say so. I also note that I will "be in touch with them" in a "few" days to see if they have any other questions or concerns; or to reschedule the appointment...
• I call in a few days. If I get a message machine I leave a brief message identifying me, reminding them of their interest in my services, and tell them they are welcome to call me or I will try again the next day at a (later, or earlier) time. I invite them to e-mail me if they do not have time to call and talk.
• If they answer, I quickly identify myself, saying that I'm returning their call, and ask if they've received the requested information. Depending on how THAT conversation goes, I go away...
...or not.
Usually, they will tell you to go away, or continue to dance, or make a positive decision, apologizing for not having gotten back sooner... "those groceries, the house, that movie..." Then you have your answer.

But, what if they don't sign on, tell you off, or just say no?

• I tell them I'm booking consistently, courteously advise them that early booking with retainer is the ONLY guarantee of acquiring my services, and ask if they want to receive a "first dibs" call in the event another inquiry for their date comes in. Yes, I do this, and I see no reason why not.

When all else fails, and I've not yet received a specific NO response, about a month before the date, provided I've not noticed any other interest in the date, period, I'll e-mail AND follow up with a second coming letter, advising that this is their last chance to book.

I ask if they have any other questions or concerns that I've not addressed, then advise them that I will no longer "bother" them if the silence continues.

If I really want this, and have an incentive I'm willing to place on the table, I'll mention that as well.

I end by wishing them much luck, happiness and many returns on their upcoming special date.

I usually throw in that I provide video production services for ALL celebrations of life, then I finally go away.

IMHO, and not indicting those who don't, we as professionals do a disservice by not following up.

I think that people often simply get busy and other priorities (real or imagined) sometimes get in the way of taking decisive action.

Maybe the inquiring bride-to-be gained 10 pounds and finds that a dress alteration is required - possibly serious enough to cancel or postpone the wedding who knows what goes on in people's minds in any 24-hour period?

I also believe that human nature dictates that we follow up, follow through, with every inquiring potential client. I believe we leave stuff on the table for others to pick up easily, simply because they were/are more persistent, professional, courteous and helpful in their follow up strategy.


Anonymous said...

Great suggestions.

What method do you use to keep track of all the follow up activity? Are you using a customer database or just sticky notes? ;)

CorElAnn said...

Hello Anonymous ;-)
I maintain a database. In addition to the usual contact information, I have specific dates listed. I know what and when my clients have worked with me - family members, children, etc.
I have started columns that allow me to tick when I've made a new contact, or just sent a well-wishes card. When I do something more significant - new offer, special offer, etc. - I make a note of that.
I review, mostly - well, as much as I can - monthly and take appropriate action. Also cleaning up bad information.