Knocking on the door, and then running away!
You’ve just got back from your client’s/potential client’s office where you pitched for a piece of work. It’s a big contract. They seemed engaged. You’re feeling confident. Then what did you do?
- Caught up on all the things you’d neglected whilst preparing for this pitch
- Spent the rest of the afternoon discussing it with you colleagues, trying to analyse every detail
- Followed up with them later the same day
We all know that the correct answer is 3, but how many of us use 1 to satisfy our conscience that it’s not because you don’t want to, you just don’t have time.
Here come the excuses…
For those of you who are not so sales savvy, confident presenters, or familiar with regular client contact (especially potential new ones that you’ve never met before), you will immediately talk yourself into doing nothing. The typical excuses are:
“They’ll contact us when they’re ready”
“I’m too busy”
“I don’t want to bother them”
“It won’t make a difference”
“It actually didn’t go as well as I first thought”
You made time to prepare for the pitch, you made time to go to the pitch, and you will make time if you win it. That’s why you participated in the first place.
It will never count against you to contact the client after the presentation. Failing to follow up will only reduce your chances of success. If you win the work you will be in regular contact with these people every day and they need to know that you will be proactive and good communicators on the job. The aim is to secure the work, and throughout this process you have to make sure that you are the one who is at the forefront of their minds. This is exactly what the competition will be trying to do.
What do most people do to follow up?
This depends on the client. If you know them well, or you were able to build a good connection with them during the pitch, you’ll give them a call. However, if the circumstances fall outside of these situations, you will usually opt for an email. Both work well, but a phone call is most often the better option. It’s easier to direct the conversation and bounce off/judge their level of interaction. Something you can’t do over emails.
A common mistake when emailing looks something like this:
Thank you for inviting us to present to you today. I hope we covered everything you needed. If you have any further questions, please let me know.
I look forward to hearing from you.
This is what we call ‘knocking on the door, and then running away!’ You make contact, but don’t really give them an opportunity or reason to engage. The client doesn’t reply in acknowledgement. There’s radio silence for weeks afterwards. It’s been too long now to call them. You become more anxious. A bead of sweat hangs on your forehead when you see that email appear in your inbox with the dreaded Notification Letter attached.
How can I improve my chance of winning?
Treat the follow-up like you’re still pitching to the client. Remind them of what interested them the most from your pitch. Clarify anything they were unsure of. Invite them to meet the rest of the delivery team. Give them a demonstration of your reporting systems.
Always opt for a phone call where possible.
Use the persuasive structure
The most persuasive way to deliver your message is to:
- Acknowledge their challenges and issues that prevent them from getting to where they want to be
- Remind them of their end goal and what they want success to look like
- Summarise the solution that you came up with to solve those issues and get them the results they are looking for
- Convince them of why you are right for the job
Reiterate key messages
Play back the parts of your pitch that engaged the client the most and provide any any further information that supports this.
Don’t be too formal
They have to like you to work with you, so try not to vomit corporate jargon all over them and communicate in Plain English.
End with an action point
Don’t leave it with the client to respond to your follow up. You will increase your chances of winning by not only asking a question, but by scheduling further communication.
Here’s a good example of an email:
We were really delighted to meet you and your team today. It’s given us a better understanding of where you want to get to.
We know that the decline in sales has had a major impact on your figures and you want to regain some of that by coming up with a new way of meeting your targets.
We recommend reducing your operational costs by looking at x, y, and z. At the same time we will [insert strategy here]. I have attached some more information on this that supports our recommendation.
We know this market better than any of our competitors. We recently saved Alpha Group £4.5m and helped them reach their target of 15% sales increase over 12 months. Not only did we beat that timeframe by 3 months, we hit a 20% increase by the 12 month mark.
We can help you achieve that too and we’re all really enthusiastic about it.
How are you fixed to catch up early next week?
So, the next time you return to the office from a client pitch, make a call or send an email as though you are still pitching, and you are guaranteed to increase your chances of winning!