Dear Danielle: What to Do When Clients Don’t Call Back?

Dear Danielle:

Does it ever bug you when prospective clients who you’ve gone to the trouble of responding to and perhaps even consulted with don’t call back? I mean, doesn’t it seem like the polite thing to do to at least let me know they’ve decided to go with someone else? It takes me a lot of time to put together the proposals they ask for and then to not get a single courtesy reply sometimes really upsets me. –PO

Sweetie, you have to separate business from personal. In business, it’s not about you, it’s about the client. When clients are out looking for solutions to their pains, it’s neither their obligation nor their priority to make sure every last vendor or service provider they contact or hear from gets a courtesy reply.

Would it be nice and the polite thing to do? Of course! Still, it’s just a fact of business. Keep in mind that clients often receive hundreds of responses to a single inquiry. It can be a huge, and unbelievably daunting, overwhelming task just to wade through responses. So we have to cut them some slack and realize that they are more likely too overwhelmed to respond to each and every contact and inquiry.

That’s not to say you don’t count (you absolutely do!) and shouldn’t create a business that makes you personally happy, one that you enjoy working in and that brings you in contact with clients who energize you, appreciate your gifts and expertise, and extend to you the same kind of manners, graciousness and courtesies that they would want to be treated with as well. (In fact, it’s imperative that you DO!) So, here are several things you can do to get off the track where you are going to great lengths to cater to prospects and then not hearing anything back.

1. Don’t respond to requests for proposals. Inevitably, these are just price-shopping forays. Don’t audition if you want ideal clients. Instead, create your own pipelines and engage in marketing and networking that drives traffic to your website. This way, you are drawing your right clients to you and getting them into YOUR process rather than the other way around. That’s the way it should be. Look at it like this: your entire website should be your “RFP.” It should be holding up a mirror to clients and then showing them how you can help. Do this and you can get off the RFP merry-go-round that rarely pays off for your efforts.

2. Pre-qualify prospects. Once you have clients at your site, make sure they are the kind of clients you want before you go expending any great effort on them. What’s the point of doing that if they can’t pay, aren’t serious about hiring you, or don’t look like they will otherwise be an ideal fit? Make your website do this work for you by creating an online form for prospects to submit.

3.  Have an initial conversation (also known as the complimentary consultation). Once a prospect appears to be worth your effort and interests, offer them a consultation (at a scheduled time/date, not on the fly). The idea is to get to know more about the client and their needs before you (or they) commit to any further efforts. This conversation allows you to gain some clearer insight into the goals the client is trying to reach and how you then may be able to help them. From there, you both get to determine whether you want to talk more or work together.

4. Be a client snob. The longer you maintain a mindset of scarcity and desperation for work, any work, you will keep yourself on the hamster wheel of aggravation, ill-fitting clients, and the never-ending, exhausting work of jumping through proposal hoops with little return on the effort. It’s your choice. But if you choose to be desperate instead of selective, don’t complain about the clients because you’re the only one keeping you there.

2 Responses

  1. Katie Burke says:

    I would be interested in seeing and/or hearing about a pre-qualification form on a website. Anybody willing to share or offer advice? THANKS!!

  2. Like Katie, I would also be interested in seeing a pre-qualification form.

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