You had a call with a client you’d like to work with and it went really well. You got along and it’s a great fit. You sent the proposal and didn’t hear back right away, so you know you need to follow up. But how? When? Will you be too pushy and send them away? Will you wait too long and they’ll choose someone else?
The fears about follow-up timing can paralyse you. You end up doing no follow-up at all (or maybe just one email they didn’t reply to), and you tell yourself “If they were really interested, they’d get in touch”, and you leave it, and nothing ever happens.
So how do you know when to follow up a proposal? How many days do you wait between contact so you don’t sound salesy? How do you build a system you can use for every single prospect?
Systems and processes provide you tools to help your clients grow and thrive. You spend your days helping clients set up processes for bill pay, for tracking their expenses, for knowing when they can hire and fire.
You want to put systems to work for you, too. You already have a system for tracking your leads, and you’re tracking the last time you’ve had contact with prospects. Now it’s time to create a system for follow-up.
Follow-up starts the day of the proposal
Follow-up starts when you send the proposal.
But let’s take a step back for a minute. Before you send a proposal, have you stopped to be sure this client is your type of person? Do you have prequalifying systems in place to help make sure you have no hesitation about every single client you send a proposal to? If not, back up and read this instead.
If you’re well matched with every prospect getting a proposal, there are three main follow-up points to include with your proposal on Day 1:
1. The proposal video
Your video doesn’t have to be really long, or formal. Just pull up Loom and talk through your proposal with your client. Explain the details and benefits to them in the same way you would on a call.
This helps them remember why they wanted to work with you and makes sure they don’t hesitate just because they are confused by something in the proposal and don’t feel like asking a question. Your prospect will not remember every single thing you said in the proposal meeting. So it’s worth repeating some of the most important points you’ve already said.
We recommend sending a personal video with EVERY proposal, without exception. If you’re not doing it already, try it and measure the results. You will find people are at least signing up faster, and some will sign who wouldn’t have otherwise.
2. A helpful resource
Send along something based on your conversation to show you’re thinking about the potential client and shows your investment in the relationship – you aren’t just in it to win another client, but are genuinely interested in helping them as an individual, as well as their firm. Maybe it’s a link to a book, or a blog post, maybe it’s a recipe even. It doesn’t have to relate to your services – and it might even be more effective if it didn’t mention them. It does need to relate to the conversation showing you were listening and thinking about it.
3. A nod to your brand
Your proposal needs to match (in tone, style, and process) the values of your accounting firm so that your prospect can get a taste of what it will look like to work with you long-term. Look at your proposal document: what kind of improvements will help your potential buyer understand who you are more clearly? Does it include your values? What’s causing the prospect to hesitate and how can you hurry them up?
Including elements of your brand will remind them that you are a good match, and help speed along the acceptance. For example, our clients who use GoProposal can add custom designed pages into their proposal document to share their values, team, or other brand features like a customer journey or case study.
Automation starts on day 2
Make sure your follow-up plan for proposals can be put into place for every single prospect.
Systems add to the valuation of your company. Every system you have in place and document helps your firm grow and keeps your services consistent.
At this point, you’re ready for your follow-up system to function like a machine with a human on top. The “machine” part of your system – the automated parts – can be sent through Mailchimp or your CRM system as part of a campaign and help you make sure you can replicate your system without a ton of thought.
But why does the machine need “a human on top”? Because people buy from humans. People want to work with you because they connect with you and your team as a person, not because your machine functions well.
So, trust your gut with your follow-up. If you think of the person you met with, go ahead and message them as soon as you think of them. (We’ve experienced many times of thinking “I haven’t heard from that person for a while”, dropping them a message or a DM, and getting a reply of “Wow – I was literally just thinking of you too!”).
Starting on day 2, there are ways you can make the “machine” work for you.
Day 2 Automated emails
You sent the proposal yesterday but they didn’t accept it right away. The best way to follow up the day after a proposal is to have a campaign scheduled using Mailchimp, Keap, or similar CRM software. Within the automated responder campaign, prepare emails which answer a typical question or concern. This will alleviate a common fear you know will keep your potential clients from signing. This shows you understand their fears/concerns before they even ask.
One firm we work with said their clients are always asking “So, what happens if you get hit by a bus?” You’ve probably heard this concern too, possibly phrased in exactly this way. Here’s how the Day 2 auto-email might sound:
“Hey, Jeff! One thing I hear often after I send a proposal is “but what happens if I transfer all my accounting to you and then you get hit by a bus?”
That’s fair. It could happen!
Here’s a blog post I wrote about how we’ve prepared, in case you’re worried about that: [insert link]”
Day 3 Auto-email
Now it’s two days after your proposal and still there’s no acceptance. Your potential client hasn’t expressed any other concerns. In fact, you haven’t heard anything at all. It’s a good time to remind them about what will happen when they sign the proposal.
This is part of why it’s a good idea to have an onboarding graphic or page you can reference as a reminder of what happens after they sign the proposal, and in what order. Your email on Day 3 can sound something like this:
“Hey there, Jeff. Here’s a reminder of the plan once we get going [insert onboarding graphic, link to onboarding page, or 3-step description of next steps].
From start to finish, it takes about 30 days to get all set up , so you have your business numbers at the tips of your fingers at all times.
Ready to get started?”
Follow-up once a day, then once a week, then once a month
Early, regular contact after a proposal builds trust. You’re providing comfort and security by sharing your processes and addressing fears.
But as you move farther out from the proposal, the purpose of your contact shifts a little. Now you’re simply going to provide value which will serve as a reminder without making you look like a stalker.
Your follow-up after this point will:
- give your potential clients quicker responses to typical questions
- show your experience, and
- save you time.
Your follow-up schedule needs to be based on adding value to your potential client, rather than just asking them to sign your proposal again. Your contact with them will get less frequent as you move away from the proposal date.
After your daily contact for days 1, 2, and 3 wait until Day 7 to follow-up again, then day 14 and 21 for once-per-week communication, and then aim for once per month.
Your day 7 email or video will look something like this:
“Hey, Jeff! Did you want to go ahead with this proposal or are you still deciding?
We could get your onboarding started on Friday of this week, which would mean you’d be up and running by the end of this month.
I was just working with a client who reminds me of you, Jack from Other Company. He also started out with his wife doing the bookkeeping. We’ve been working with him for 1 year now and he says, “Switching has saved me 5 hours per week, which is time I put into selling and development now and has been key to our doubled profits this year.”
I’d love to hear what you’re thinking.”
On Day 14, it’s time for something more personal, not automated. Send another helpful blog post to help them start doing something which brings them one step closer to where they need to be. This could be a template or a tutorial on how to fill out a form you know they’ll need to use.
On Day 21, you can get back to an automated email asking if they’d like to get monthly email updates.
And then on day 30, say something like:
“Hey, Jeff! I’m presuming it’s a no for now, but if you want to chat, let me know. We’ll be here!”
Keep following up when they aren’t ready
After Day 30, or if you’ve gotten an “I’m not ready yet”, your follow-up changes purposes again. Now, you want to be the first person your potential client thinks of when they are ready.
Send an email or short video or message on social no more than once per month, but ideally whenever they cross your mind. Let them know why you thought of them, or tell them when they’ve put something interesting on social. Celebrate their awards.
And in the meantime…identify any patterns in the types of prospects you aren’t hearing back from once you’ve sent your proposals – are they actually the kind of people you want to be working with?
And also, How long do your clients tend to take to 1) get in touch for a proposal and 2) sign the proposal? If they tend to sign within 1-3 days, you might want to push harder at the start, send more emails and stay in touch a lot more. If they tend to take 30 days to sign up, slow down, pull your foot off the accelerator a bit. You have the flexibility to choose: it’s your firm and your clients!
This evaluation is always the last step in a system that continues to work well.
Need help figuring out how to make sure your follow-up system gets you the clients you want and *only* the clients you want? Join us for our 12-week content marketing course.