January 6, 2017

re retainer: Q&A about those relentless follow-ups

After yesterday’s email about my sales cycle for a recent retainer engagement, several people asked specific questions related to the length of it (350 days!).

Q: Is your sales cycle for retainers normally that long?

No, hardly ever. They usually close within a month of my first interaction with the prospect. This one was an outlier.

Q: Why did you follow up “relentlessly” instead of just letting the opportunity fade away?

Normally, I would have let it fade away. I mostly did it as an experiment. At the time, I had been reading/watching a lot of material from Steli Efti (he advocates having a strong follow-up game) and I wanted to get a feel for the cost/benefit ratio of such an approach. It turned out that it was virtually painless and the benefits were substantial.

Q: Did you use any tools for to manage the follow-up?

No, nothing fancy. Every time I sent a follow-up email, I would simply ask for an update. When the client replied (which he almost always did), I would respond with a promise to expect my next email after some period of time (usually about four weeks in the future). Then I would put an all day event in my calendar (I use Google Calendar) titled something like “I told Bob I’d email him today”

Q: How did you avoid coming across as desperate/needy? (i.e., looking like you needed the work more than the client needed you)

To keep from sounding needy, I kept the emails extremely short and to the point, but without being rude. For example:

Hey Bob, Checking in again, as promised. How are things looking? Yours, Jonathan

Then Bob would reply with some explanation for why he still couldn’t start my engagement, and I would reply with something like this:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the update. I’ll ping you again in three weeks. Best of luck!



Eventually, the client’s blocking project finished and we got started. I never came across as rude, annoyed, needy, desperate, etc. I just made promises and kept them, cleanly and concisely.