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How to Follow Up With Prospects and Clients

By David Ackert on April, 6 2017

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David Ackert

If you google around for business development best practices, you will find a reference to the "7 touches” principle. The idea is that it takes an average of 7 meaningful interactions before a prospective client will engage you. These touches include your initial meeting and the various follow-up conversations that build trust and momentum over time. The logic behind this notion is sound: no one wants to buy from a stranger, and your prospects' needs are too sophisticated for an off-the-shelf solution. You need to understand their issues and they need to get to know you before they will turn to you for professional advice.

This process takes time. Most prospects express some initial interest (even if they’re just being polite), agree to a proposal or pitch meeting (if you’re lucky), and then ignore your follow-up email. If you quit there, you’re only three touches into the process and unlikely to cross the finish line. You still have 4 touches to go (or as many as 14 if you are communicating digitally—online touches are less effective at moving the needle).  

In an attempt to accelerate the timeline, many resort to marketing automation. They send e-newsletters, press releases, and client alerts in an attempt to “stay on the radar.” This obviously has some value (consider the blog you’re reading at this very moment), but do not confuse widely broadcast marketing communications for business development touches unless they are tailored to a specific need. They’re fine for reputation management, SEO, and social media capitalbut generic content is rarely the catalyst for a buying decision. 

So if a mass marketing blast is not a meaningful touch, what is?

A touch is a conversation (you know, where both parties participate). The conversation could be social in nature. It could be via telephone or via chat message. It could be an email exchange about a specific business need. But at a minimum, it requires that your prospect or client is engaged in the touch because that's what moves the relationship forward. 

The bad news is that you can't completely delegate business development touches to your marketing professionals or your software programs. The good news is that you have dozens of relationships where you're more than halfway there. Think about the people with whom you have had only 4 or 5 conversations and pick up the phone to check in with them. Start with, “It's been a while and I was thinking about you. What's going on in your life? How are things at work?" Any of these entrees will get a dialogue going so you can start following up with your neglected business opportunities.

Authored by David Ackert

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