Not on the phoneTo the average self-employed professional, following up with prospective clients feels awkward or even scary. You hate making phone calls that might not be welcome. You think you might be pestering people. You worry about being rejected. You aren’t sure what to say. After all, how many times can you ask, “Are you ready for us to work together?”

I get it. My clients and students share concerns like these with me all the time. I’ve even had them myself.

What if there was an alternative to the “are you ready yet” call or email, which allowed you to follow up powerfully and consistently with all your prospective clients? I invite you to picture the following scenario instead.

Using Written Content as a Follow-Up Tool

Let’s say you meet a likely prospect at a networking event. The following day, you email her a personal nice-to-meet-you note, which also offers her your tip sheet “10 Secrets to [that thing you do] Like a Boss” as a free download from your website when she subscribes to your email list.

A week later, if she hasn’t subscribed yet, you send her another personal note saying, “BTW, I publish a blog on [that thing you do]. In my latest post, you’ll find [this, that, and the other thing you think she’d like to know]. I invite you to read it here [link].”

When she visits your post, on the same page, you offer her an ebook on “How to Make [that thing you do] Easier than You Ever Thought” as a free gift when she subscribes to your list.

No subscription from her yet? Ten days later, you email her again and let her know you’ve also [written a white paper, published a slide show, been featured in a magazine] about [that thing you do], which you thought might interest her, and here’s where she can download it.

By now, you hope she’s jumped on one of those offers and subscribed to your email list, so that twice a month, when you publish a useful blog post on [that thing you do], it will be delivered to her email box automatically. If she has, she’ll be reminded of you and your work every couple of weeks until she’s ready to take action on working with you.

If she hasn’t subscribed, no problem. Send another personal email a month from now, and offer her another option from your menu of helpful content that you’ve created about [that thing you do]. If you’ve run out of your own original content, choose another idea from this list.

But What About Making Phone Calls?

So, why haven’t I suggested that you call her on the phone? Because that’s the problem, isn’t it? You hate picking up the phone and having to act like a salesperson. Sure, there are ways you can work on that, but if you already know — or even suspect — that you just won’t get around to calling… The scenario I’ve described is a proven, reliable system for following up with clients without making phone calls.

Will you eventually have to talk to your prospective client before she signs on the bottom line? Yes, of course you will. Unless you’re selling an info-product, physical product, a moderately-priced workshop, or an automated service like a membership or subscription, you’ll need to have a sales conversation in order to close a sale. But it’s a good bet that you’ll find that conversation to be a whole lot easier when it’s her calling you.

Or even better, when she replies to one of your emails and asks to set up a time to talk, so she doesn’t surprise you with a call out of the blue when you don’t yet know what she wants.

Could This Be You?

Will a sequence like the one I’ve described work to follow up with prospective clients and turn them into paying business? Yes. But you don’t have to take my word for it. See what experts like Hubspot and Buzzsumo have to say about creating content for every stage of your marketing funnel.

Are you thinking this is an approach that’s only appropriate for corporations, and not for a small outfit like yours? Not so, says this survey from Freshbooks and this roundup of opinions from thought leaders like Chris Brogan and Charlie Green.

Follow-up phone calls are still a good idea, if you’ll actually make them. In fact, adding phone calls to a sequence of written content like this will supercharge your sales and marketing. But if you haven’t been making those calls, sharing useful, relevant written content with your prospective clients is a realistic approach to — finally! — stay on top of following up.

C.J. Hayden

C.J. Hayden, MCC, CPCC, is the author of the bestseller Get Clients Now!: A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, Since 1992, she's been helping self-employed professionals survive and thrive. C.J. is the author of five other business how-to-books, and has taught marketing at Mills College and John F. Kennedy University. Find out how you can work with C.J. as your business coach or attend one of her upcoming programs.

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