It is unrealistic to expect immediate responses from every client, even though it would be nice if they did. Things would flow by much smoother if every time you send out requests, offers, questions or other forms of correspondence to your clients/prospective clients, they all responded in a timely manner. But unfortunately it doesn’t happen like that, especially in the competitive space that we are now in.
So what do you do? It’s obvious that you can’t wait forever and checking your email and voice mail after every heartbeat doesn’t seem to help much. The long and uncertain wait can get you frustrated which is a place you would rather not get to. You can’t give up either, and you shouldn’t because getting your clients to respond sooner is not that difficult.
It’s all a matter of understanding the needs of the business world of today, the competitive environments that exist and the dynamics of the busy schedules that tie down the majority of your clients. The use of available management technology does also help with the push.
However, before everything else, you have to first find that elusive narrow road that passes between persistence and pestering and tread it very carefully. You want your clients to respond quicker, but you don’t want to harass them to do that.
You also don’t want to nag them or beg them to respond either because in the world of business, the differences between begging and nagging are really just the first two letters. What you want to do is convey a civil, diplomatic and delightfully consistent message to your clients that, ‘it is imperative and would be immensely appropriate for them to give you a response in a timely manner’, you know, just like a true nobleman would have it.
A great idea is to be persistent with a redundant communication about the need for a response and slowly incorporating a sense of urgency. Researchers tend to think that this kind of persistence cannot be nagging and that it does work in getting people to do what you want.
So below are some of the things that you can do to increase your client response times:
1. First Impressions – work to your advantage
Make the best of each initial contact with a client and you might just be able to forge a solid connection with that particular individual. A good connection is hard to ignore, and so any time you ask or send your client anything, a quicker response will be forthcoming because they remember with ease how good their first interaction with you was.
It doesn’t matter whether your first meeting will be through email, a call or a face to face meeting; just remember to put your best foot forward. A good idea is to make an effort to learn about your prospective client and know a few of the things that make them tick. Things like their full names, their field of expertise, their positions and the kind of business they are in, should be at your fingertips. Having such knowledge and showing that you do can actually appeal to their personality.
2. Be easy with your requests
Every time you send out a correspondence to your clients, be it a phone call or an email; make it as easy to respond to as possible. Sometimes clients fail to respond sooner simply because they are being asked to respond to a clatter of issues, or something that they simply don’t understand.
The problem with too many requests and ambiguous instructions all sent at the same time is that they tend to be somewhat confusing. For example if you ask your clients a question like, “Would you be interested in attending our expo and purchase our goods/services?” The client may hesitate to answer because they don’t understand whether attendance is subject to making purchases.
They could very well be interested with attending your showcase just to see everything you have to offer, but they wouldn’t want to commit to a situation that would require making purchases just yet. Make it easy to respond by separating questions that can elicit different answers.
First ask one question, “Would you be interested in attending our showcase?” and wait for the answer. Your clients will find it very easy to respond with a simple yes, no or maybe, and will probably do so within no time. You can thereafter follow with the other part of the question whether they would be interested in placing orders which would also be easier to answer at this point.
3. Master the art of follow ups
Here is where your skills of walking that narrow road mentioned earlier are put to the test. At this point, your clients will probably have taken too long to reply despite the fact you’ve done everything else accordingly. It’s usually an awkward point at this time because you want to ask for a response and yet you are still wondering why they haven’t done so yet or whether they will even respond this time.
Setting up a timed response system right from the beginning is often the safe thing to do. It gives you a time frame within which you can remind your clients to respond without looking like a nag. Also the good thing about this is that your clients will also be expecting a reminder from you.
At your initial contact, whether through a call or email, you make sure to let the client know that you will call/email after a specified period of time goes by without hearing from them. The time frame you give should be reasonable depending on the circumstances and your deadlines. It’ll also secretly serve as a deadline to the client as he or she will have it in mind that you need a response within that time.
When you have already told someone that you will call and remind them about something if two weeks go by without their response, then I am sure they won’t mind it when you do. Actually, more often than not it is the client who says call/remind me after one day, one week or one month when you indicate that you will be calling if they take long to respond.
Do the same even as you call or send the reminders so as to keep the reminding channel open, and always remember that reminders need to be short, neat and straight to the point.
4. Alternate the means and tact
If the last time you communicated was through email, try calling this time and make sure you explicitly refer to your previous engagement. The opposite applies. You know, at times when clients don’t respond, it’s simply because they never got your message or read your email.
A study on more than half a million sales emails that were sent by Yesware users revealed that, those mails which were not opened a day after they were received had less than a 10% chance of ever being read. Follow up emails were also found to be helpful in increasing the rate of response, especially when they were tracked.
Sometimes when dealing with a big number of clients, you would find it more helpful utilizing management tools that facilitate collaboration on a project. These kinds of systems enable you to see and track all that’s going on across your clients and team members. Thus it is easy to make follow ups and changes on the follow ups to the follow ups.
When it comes to tact, try providing options when following up on a client who has taken a long time to respond. To the client whom you had invited for the expo but hasn’t replied yet, try including options like, “…would you consider sending someone on your behalf if you can’t make it yourself? It could be what they have been considering all along.
Try following those tips the next time you find your clients taking long to respond and see just how easily you can turn their response time around.
Image: Maria Elena