Natalie McGuire is a Web Designer + Coach for Graphic Designers looking to level up the business side of their design business by showing them how to manage clients, balance projects, master their design process and workflow, set income goals, and more.
I was recently asked to be a speaker at the Simply Profitable Designer Summit, and if there’s any event that should be on your radar as a graphic designer/developer, it’s that.
Seriously, it’s soooooo good, featuring experts like Erin Flynn, Christine Thatcher, Meg Casebolt, Melissa Burkheimer, and more, all talking about what we know best: how to simplify what you’re already doing in your design business so you become more efficient, profitable, and stress-free.
My talk was all about how to create an effective follow-up strategy for prospective clients and get the gig. If you’re wondering exactly how I have a 90% sales close rate with prospects and am always booked 6 months out or more, I’ll be going over:
- How to set-up your client onboarding process so you don’t have to follow-up in the first place because your prospect is so psyched to work with you they’re ready to sign-off ASAP
- How to follow-up with your prospect with confidence and without desperation
So. You’ve got a killer website that already communicates your value proposition, speaks to your ideal customer, and positions you as the trustworthy and credible rockstar you are. Past clients/friends/family are sending referrals your way and they’re finding their way to your contact form. And it’s there, right there, where your onboarding process begins.
How to Set up Your Onboarding Process so you Don’t Have to Follow-up in the First Place
THE CONTACT FORM:
Your contact form should be gathering just enough information you need to determine if this person is a good fit for you, but not too much that it’s so overwhelming and intimidating that it’s scaring people off, making them think you don’t want to talk to them. After all, your goal is to get people to want to book a phone or video call where you can get into the nitty-gritty details about their project and business together while making a personal connection.
These are some standard questions to add to your contact form if they’re not already there.
THE INTRODUCTORY EMAIL:
If everything above meets your criteria of a client you’d like to work with, send them an introductory e-mail within 24 business hours to show that you’re serious and trustworthy right from the get-go. Your email can consist of the following parts:
- Thanking them for reaching out
- Mention your experience working with others in similar fields/project (with links if appropriate) to show your expertise
- A custom welcome video recorded on Loom
- An invitation to a totally free 60-minute video call, complete with a link to your appointment scheduler, like Calendly.
Now, points 1 and 2 make sense, but you’re probably thinking “custom video… really?” Including a custom video in your email is an extremely effective way to create an emotional response. When someone can actually see your face and hear your voice, it creates an emotional connection and makes the receiver feel so special that you took the time to be so thoughtful right from the get-go. It instantly makes you more memorable than the competition as well. In your response, read back to them the problems they noted in their contact form or project details that they’re struggling with to empathize and show you understand them. Keep your video around 1-minute long, as no one wants to watch a video longer than that. (C’mon, you know it’s true.) UseLoom.com is a great resource for this.
Your script could be something like:
“Hey, [Name!] Thank you so much for filling out my contact form! I’m so psyched to hear all that you’re building in your business, and that you’re starting to take things to the next level with your speaking career. With all those new attendees you’re reaching, it’s so important you have a solid website to capture those leads and sends them through your sales funnel so you can scale your business in the way you’re wanting to, and start writing that book you’re dreaming of. That’s just so exciting, and I can’t wait to hear more! All the next steps to book a call with me are below this video in the email, but I couldn’t resist making you a video and welcoming you personally. I can’t wait for our call already!”
Next, you’re probably thinking “why do I need an appointment scheduler?” Well, this makes sure you don’t have to engage in any back-and-forth e-mails regarding time, day, time zone, etc., of when you’re meeting, which streamlines your communication and provides an easy onboarding experience for your prospect. With every extra step in your process, it gives your prospect more time to rethink their project and working with you, so having as little barriers of entry to work with you as possible is paramount.
There are lots of appointment schedulers out there, and you can use them to capture any additional information you might need from your prospect (like their Skype name if you use Skype), and it can give them your Zoom link (if you use Zoom). Additionally, they can send reminders about the call automatically so you don’t have to worry about getting stood up on your meeting time.
After you send your introductory email, complete with your custom video and appointment scheduler link, your prospect books a call with you. Now what?
THE VIDEO CALL:
So, why video calls? Conducting your meeting over video helps your prospect to see you as the real person that you are. When you’re talking to a real person, it’s a whole lot harder to ghost them later on down the line. You can maintain eye contact, and establish a real relationship. Considering you could be working with a new client for several months, it’s important that you both size each other up. Your hands are free to type and take notes, and you can share each other’s screens if you need to.
But the biggest benefit to using video calls is you can tell if the potential client is really focused on the conversation or not, or if they’re really understanding what you’re saying. You can tell pretty quickly if they’re super distracted, if they’re engaged, or if they actually understand what’s happening during the call. If you’re on the phone, you can’t see from their body language or face that they don’t have a clue about what you just said, or if they’re super distracted with a dog, a kid, or worse… if they’re driving. I find all of those things to be red flags for me that they’re not taking their project seriously, or showing it any respect.
Prior to your video call with your prospect, make sure you do a trial run. Turn on your webcam and take a look at what your prospect is about to see. Is your office clean and tidy, or is there a basket of dirty laundry behind you and a pair of cats fighting? Are you well-lit without any distracting shadows or harsh unflattering lighting? Is your camera positioned well so your prospect will see your whole face, or just up your nose? Are you wearing a business-casual top or a stained ratty t-shirt? Is your hair and make-up appropriate for a professional first impression? Take a few minutes to tidy up your space and your appearance so you’re showing respect to your prospect and taking them, their time, and their project seriously. First impressions are paramount when you’re about to pay someone you don’t know money over the internet for a service or product.
Next, it’s time to “wow” your prospect with reeeeeally good questions about their business and project. These questions will impress them with your business savvy, positioning you more as much more than a designer/developer, but rather as someone who understands business, digital, and marketing strategy.
Here’s a whole post all about how to format your 60-minute video call for potential clients, as well as the ultimate list of questions to ask new design prospects.
PROPOSAL CREATION + SUBMISSION:
Last, you create your proposal within 24-48 hours to capitalize on the momentum your meeting created. Submit your proposal with a program like HelloSign that allows the prospect to easily sign without having to print, manually sign, scan, and email back to you. It’s 2019, y’all — no one wants to jump through that many hoops. Remember, every extra step your prospect has to do gives them thaaaat much time to rethink working with you, so the less steps they have to complete the better.
When you submit your proposal, mention you’ll be following up via phone or email if you don’t hear back from them about the proposal by X-date so that they know you have a follow-up strategy and aren’t afraid to use it. And make sure that you have a note in your calendar to actually follow-up on X-date so you don’t forget!
Now, in a perfect world your prospect filled out your contact form and answered juuuuust the right amount of questions without getting overwhelmed. They easily booked a call with you without any back-and-forth, and you impressed the pants off of them with your thoughtful and insightful questions during your video call. You two really hit it off and created quite the connection. You send your proposal and within a day or two you get a notification that they’ve signed and are ready to rock and roll! That’s so awesome! Way to go!
But what if that doesn’t happen. What if you send the proposal and a few days goes by and you only hear crickets? What then?
How to Create a Follow-up Strategy
Before following up with your prospect, do a little gut check to make sure this is a prospect you really want to work with: do they meet your criteria for an ideal client? Did they seem like they’d be fun to work with, with a project you know you’re right for? To be clear, if you’re in a spot where you just need the cash, that’s totally cool, and there’s no shame in that. But if you’re in a position where you can be picky, check-in with yourself to see if following up is something you even want to do, or if your prospect’s silence is a red flag based on your past experiences, or a premonition of needing to chase them down for every little thing if/when the project begins.
WHEN TO FOLLOW-UP:
If you decide following up is right for you, wait no more than 48 business hours after you sent to proposal. That’ll give your prospect enough time to digest it and think about it, while showing you’re serious and you care without being too pushy or slimy.
WHAT METHOD TO USE:
Next, consider how you want to follow up. Phone call? Email? Video? Pick a medium that fits your brand, audience, and personality. If you like video, make another Loom video and send it via email. If and your audience prefer phone calls, then choose that.
And now, some statistics. Studies have shown that 80% of sales require five follow-ups after the first meeting and phone calls tend to perform the best for response rates. Following up on Wednesday and Thursdays between 4-5pm (in your prospects’ time zone) tend to work the best if you want a response while between 8-10am are in second place. While you think about your follow-up strategy, take these things under consideration, but also consider what works for you, your schedule, and what makes sense for your brand’s personality.
WHAT TO SAY: FOLLOW-UP #1
In the first follow-up email/phone call, concentrate on adding value and reinforcing that you’re a good fit to work with them. Your script could look something like:
It was great meeting you the other day and hearing all about your business and what you’re up to in 2019. After learning more about your business and goals, I think we’d be a really good fit to work together. In fact, here are some other websites [link] in your industry I designed that had some of the same components and considerations your project does, like [insert specifics].
[Tell story about how this past client/project is like theirs, point out features and benefits that would matter to them, and discuss results they got.]
[Call to action] Next steps:
If you’re ready to move forward and work together, simply sign the proposal. Then, I’ll shoot you over a deposit invoice so that you’re booked in my queue of clients and we can begin.
If you’d like to schedule another call to go over any lingering questions or concerns, I’d love to get that going as well so we can discuss this project further. Here’s a link to set that up: [link]
If I don’t hear from you by X-date, I’ll be sure to follow up with you again by X-date.
Look forward to hearing from you,
To make this as easy as possible now and in the future, prewrite your script of phone calls or email follow-ups and keep in a “draft” folder in your email program. That way, this’ll be easy to pull out whenever you need to, and you won’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.
CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
After you make your phone call or send your email/video, wait another 48-72 hours for a response. But, in the meantime, connect with your prospect on their social media business profiles. Check out if they have a business Facebook page, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube accounts and like/follow/comment/share their stuff to show your enthusiasm for them and their work. You don’t have to follow them on every platform, that might be too stalker-y. But choose 2 places that you use regularly to follow them on as it puts you in the forefront of their mind without you actively pitching them or looking too creepy.
If you don’t hear anything for another 48-72 business hours, trying following up again via phone/email/video. But this time, send a resource that’s specific to their business or their problem, and reiterate the ideas you shared during that first phone call. Frame everything with how it benefits them and solves their problems, and reiterate your call-to-action to them so they know exactly what you want them to do.
If they’re still silent after your second attempt of contact, and you don’t hear anything for another 48-72 business hours, they’re probably not a great fit for you, or are not ready to work with you (yet.) Plus, you don’t want to look desperate, as that won’t do you any favors with winning them over either.
FOLLOW-UP #3: THE BREAK-UP EMAIL
At this point, send a “break-up” email or phone call making it clear in the subject line and the content that you won’t be contacting them again. This action can really garner the attention of your prospect, and can be the thing that finally gets them to respond to your messages. Your script could look like:
I’ve been trying to connect with you since [date] about the proposal I sent your way, and have followed up several times on [date] and [date] via [email/phone] but haven’t heard back. I’m assuming either you’re super busy or are just not interested, which is totally cool.
Either way, I won’t be pestering you anymore, and I wish you the best of luck with all you do. If you ever wanna pick up where we left off, we totally can — just reach out if/when you’re ready.
It was lovely meeting you — cheers!
If you hear back from them and they’re ready to work with you, or they’ll be ready to work with you later — that’s awesome.
IF THEY DECIDE THEY DON’T WANT TO WORK WITH YOU:
If you hear back that they say that they’ve decided to not move forward with you, ASK WHY. This feedback will be valuable for tweaking your onboarding and sales process, even though it takes a crazy amount of bravery and vulnerability to do this. Here’s what a script for that could look like:
“Hi , _____!
So great to hear from you, and I completely understand your decision. I hope your contact creates all the beautiful and functional work you deserve so you can accomplish X in your business.
One question: Is there some other constructive feedback I could get as to why you’d rather work with someone else? I just want to make sure I can continue improving my services. : )
Good luck with all you do, _____, and either way, it’s been a privilege to meet you!
Depending on what people say, you could learn that your prospect is having a life crisis and needs to take a step back for a while. You could find out they’re selling their house and won’t have the money to pay you now to begin their project, but they will in a few months. Or, you could discover they hired someone else who’s cheaper, or local to them or someone who has more experience. Or, they could have something negative to say about you.
Whatever you find out, try to hear what they have to say in the best light possible and view the whole thing as a learning experience. Though it can be hard to not take these things personally, if they had something negative to say about you, take a moment to see things through their eyes, how they might be right, or how you might improve. Then, make sure you take the necessary steps to do so.
If they’re unnecessarily mean or vulgar, congratulate yourself. You dodged a nasty bullet, and they’re now someone else’s problem. Grab yourself a frosty beer and toast to yourself for not having to deal with that any more than you needed to.
If you wanna go deeper, or need some 1:1 help with your business, I’ve got an offer for you.
You’ve already got killer design skills, but consistently bringing in more prospects, managing clients from hell and getting caught in sticky project situations is putting you in a downward spiral of sleepless nights, stress-eating, and hair-pulling-out. Throw in managing your design business, understanding your finances, balancing projects, and mastering your design process & workflow? It’s enough to make you want to dangle from the nearest ledge. (Or, at the very least feeling a bit punch-y.)
If you’re not sure where to get help in your design business, and you want advice from someone who has never NOT been booked out for at least 6 months, makes 6-figures every year, and has landed clients like PBS, David Siteman Garland, and Amy Porterfield? Look no further. I’m your gal.
As a mentor for Designers and Developers, I offer live mentorship sessions where we can get down and dirty with whatever is stressing you out in your design business, your website, your marketing, your next big idea, and more.
I’ll do a custom review of your website so you know exactly what you need to change in order to get more prospects and align your business with your goals, and you’ll get strategic recommendations and actionable plans to help you reach your next big goals.
Let’s discover ways you can manage the clients you have, navigate and streamline your design process, and position your business so you get more of the kind of clients you crave knocking at your door.