We’ve all been there.
You had a great phone call with your prospect. You laughed. You bonded. You explored ways to work together. At the end of the call, the prospect said, “This sounds good. Can you shoot me a proposal outlining what we talked about?”
You hang up the phone, write up a fantastic proposal and email it over. Then … nothing.
No phone call.
It’s like your proposal has fallen into a black hole.
You may hear from your prospect in a few weeks. Or not at all. And you’re left wondering what you did wrong.
So … what DID go wrong?
A number of things could have harshed your prospect’s initial buzz and caused the problem.
1. Your prospect could have gotten slammed with a bunch of work and they haven’t had time to read your proposal.
2. Your prospect is not the final decision maker. Your proposal is sitting in their boss’ inbox.
3. You didn’t talk about price and now your client is experiencing sticker shock.
4. Your prospect found someone else after you talked – and they don’t want to tell you.
5. Your prospect doesn’t feel a sense of urgency about signing with you.
The longer your proposal is “out there,” the less likely you’ll see a signed contract. Sure, there are exceptions to this. But the key is to try to control these situations as much as you can.
If your prospect is slammed with a bunch of work
Unfortunately, your prospect isn’t waiting for your proposal to pop into her inbox (ah, if only.) One way you can deal with this situation is by asking a simple question during your sales call:
“I can have this proposal to you by Thursday. When are you available to chat for 30 minutes so we can go through the proposal together and I can answer your questions?”
No, you’re not being pushy. Setting an appointment allows you to talk through the proposal and answer any questions. Plus, at the end of the conversation, you can ask for the sale (saying something like, “We can start on this project next week. Shall I send out an agreement?” tends to work well.)
Plus, this is good for your prospect, too. Scheduling a time to chat keeps the ball rolling. After all, you know how stressful it is to have something hanging out in your inbox for days (or weeks.) Your prospects feel the same way.
If your prospect isn’t the final decision maker
Your prospect may be gathering information for his boss. So, although he loves your energy and wants to work with you, he’s not the one cutting the checks.
Ask your prospect who the final decision maker is during your initial sales call. If he says “my boss,” try to loop his supervisor into the conversation somehow. One way is to ask that the supervisor attend the “let’s talk about the proposal” call. That way, the decision maker can hear directly from you – and make a faster decision.
As a side note, you always want to connect with the decision maker as much as possible. Otherwise, you’re trusting someone – someone you don’t really know – to “sell” your services to them. That can often be a fast track to a “Sorry, but I can’t get funding for this” response.
If you didn’t talk about price and your prospect is experiencing sticker shock
Forgot to talk about price? Shame on you! If you’re overpriced for that particular client, you’re wasting their time (and yours) if you hold calls and create a proposal only to find that the client needs it for 50% less.
I know it’s hard to talk about money – but it’s something to get over. An easy, low-stress way to do this is mention during the initial client contact, “Our engagements start at $2,500” (or whatever your minimum fee is.) Some people even put this on their contact form. That way, prospects with smaller budgets know to look elsewhere for services.
If your prospect decided to work with someone else – and they don’t want to tell you
Has it been a looonnnngggg time since you’ve heard anything? At all? Are your friendly check-in emails getting ignored? It’s tempting to send a nastygram and say something like, “I’ve been trying to reach you for two months. You said you needed the proposal immediately. What gives?”
Relax and take a chill pill.
If it’s been a long time and you haven’t heard anything, let the prospect off the hook by saying, “I’d still love to work with you. I’ll continue to check in with you from time to time. Otherwise, I’ll assume that your priorities shifted and the project is on the back burner for now.” That way, you keep things friendly (after all, they may come back) and let them know that you’re open to other projects.
However, sometimes the problem isn’t because the client found someone else to work with. Sometimes, the issue is because they aren’t motivated to sign fast. If that’s the case ….
If your prospect doesn’t feel a sense of urgency
This is where a little psychology comes into play. If you want a prospect to sign fast, you may have to instill a sense of urgency. This can be done a couple ways:
1. Tell the client that you only have room for one more client – and other contracts are pending (many writers legitimately have this “problem.”) That way, the client knows that they have to act fast. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait to work with you.
2. I learned this trick from Ammon Johns (thank you, Ammon!). Provide clients a “fast-signing discount.” After all, it takes a lot of your time to chase down prospects, check in with them, etc. Why not incentivize them to act quickly? Plus, people always love to save money!
The more you can minimize the time to “yes,” the more clients you can work with – and the more money you can make. It may mean going through an extra step (for instance, holding a call to talk about the proposal.) Or pre-qualifying the client a little better. But, once you have your process tight and wired, you should be experiencing fewer “black hole proposals” – and many more signed contracts.
Top photo thanks to Dave Gingrich (handshakes)