I was talking to a client recently who was pleased to report that he had several proposals out and he was anxious to land some of them soon. He asked me how often he should follow up with the prospective clients to find out if they had made a decision.
“What is the rush?” I asked.
“I want to win the work!” He replied.
“Did you ask the clients when they were going to select the provider?” I asked.
“Well, no, but I assumed they were going to make a decision sooner than this.” He answered.
“Ahhh, so you are making their agenda your agenda. What if their timing changed and they just haven’t gotten around to tell you?" I asked.
He got my point. The excitement to close the deal clouded his better judgment to give his clients space and allow them to get back to him when they were ready. Too often, professionals get antsy about the lag time in hearing back from clients on proposals that have been sent out. I call this “proposal anxiety.” The dreaded waiting game. This is especially painful when you only have one or two opportunities in the pipeline.
There are ways to reduce this anxiety and one of them is to simply ask the client before you send out the proposal when they plan to make a decision. Some may not give a definitive answer, but others might say that it will take several weeks due to the internal decision-making process.
Understanding the timing of any new opportunity can take the stress out of the “unknown.” It can also impact what one might put in a proposal. In fact, there are four important questions to ask a prospective client as it relates to timing before a proposal is sent.
Winning new work can be stressful enough at times. Let’s not pile on by playing the painful waiting game without knowing when they plan to get back to you. More importantly, try to avoid winning work that includes unrealistic timing expectations from the client.
My client learned from our discussion that following up on a weekly basis to get a status on the proposal was not a good idea. It would show the client that he was desperate for the work and he had nothing else better to do. Timelines can shift on the client’s end. It happens. Other “fires” might take precedence over your proposed project and push everything out.
I reminded him to keep filling the pipeline with other opportunities so that he is not clinging on to any one particular opportunity. The clients will get back to him when they are ready. If an inordinate amount of time passes without any word back, then sure, he can send a quick note asking if the opportunity is still on the table.
Bottom line – no need to press. He just needs to make sure that the client has everything from him to make an informed decision. After that, the ball is in the client’s court.