Schrödinger’s Client: Follow Up With Potential Clients

Schrödinger’s Client: Follow Up With Potential Clients

On the Profitable Joyful Consulting podcast, I teach you how to increase your profits and enjoy your business more. In this episode, you’ll learn how to follow up with potential clients.

Sometimes follow up can be scary. How can we do it without being a pest? What if the answer is no? How often should you follow up with potential clients, and when?

Today on Profitable Joyful Consulting, I’m sharing a realistic perspective as well as the numbers and metrics you need for these questions and more so you can create a more profitable, joyful business filled with perfect, decisive clients.

Key areas discussed in this episode

  • 0:40 What the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment has to do with the energetics of following up with clients
  • 4:35 Not tolerating behavior in the sales process that you don’t want to have once you’re working with a client
  • 6:22 Why you shouldn’t chase clients down
  • 6:35 How to call in decisive clients with your perfect client profile
  • 9:04 When and how to assert boundaries with potential clients
  • 9:56 When you shouldn’t work with clients who require follow up
  • 12:31 Three examples of follow-up opportunities you can take advantage of
  • 16:21 The quick, simple tech that makes it easier to follow up with a potential client
  • 17:41 Cultivating the relationship that you want to have with the kinds of people you want to have them with
  • 18:02 Trusting in an abundance of clients
  • 18:21 The best way to follow up after a sales meeting in B2B corporate
  • 20:10 How to space out the timing of your follow-ups
  • 22:19 Discerning when it’s time to stop and declare that the lead is dead



Podcast Transcript

Hey, it’s Samantha Hartley of the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast. This season we have been talking about consulting success metrics, like ways to measure your business.

One of the amorphous things that my clients will very often ask me for is metrics around follow up. “How often should I follow up? When and how many times should I follow up?” So I wanted to share some exact numbers with you. 

I wanted to begin with a concept because I have a lot of strong opinions about follow up in general. The first one is based on a weird analogy, which is this concept in physics called Schrödinger’s Cat.

Hang with me, I promise this will be relevant to you. Schrödinger’s Cat is this physics experiment, it’s really a thought experiment, in which Erwin Schrödinger posits that:

If you have a box and you put some radioactive material inside of the box and then you put a hypothetical cat into the box, it’s a hypothetical cat. No cats are harmed in the story. And then you close it in, the poisonous substance should cause the cat to expire. However, we don’t know if the cat is alive or dead unless we open the box. 

While the box is closed he may be alive, he may be dead. We don’t know. If we do open the box, then we know for sure. That’s why for a while when the box is closed the cat can be considered to be both alive and dead. Two realities, two truths can exist.

To me this leads to a thing that I have noticed in a follow up called, Schrödinger’s Client. We avoid follow up because as long as we don’t force the client to make a decision, we simultaneously have a yes and don’t yet have a no. Even though both of those possibilities are happening at that time. 

I began thinking about this because I have a client, Tina, that’s what we’re going to call her today, who had a really, really long follow up process with one of her clients. She had done a small project and was offering a transformational engagement. She made the offer and then was waiting for the client to give a response. The client took an amazingly long time to make a decision there. It was like taking a vacation and a bunch of other stuff.

Tina was very hesitant to check in and actually nail them down to a decision. She’d been working with all kinds of players in the company. She had also overgiven and really, really, really wanted and needed this engagement to go through so she didn’t want to check in. Finally she checked in and heard, it’s actually too big, can we do something smaller? 

She’s already disappointed. She goes away, makes a smaller thing and gives that to the client. It has an agreed time that the client is going to get back to her. She doesn’t hear back from the client and hesitates, hesitates, hesitates.

She does not want to go and hear a response, but does finally follow up and hears, is this really the smallest thing you can do? Isn’t there anything smaller? What’s the minimum you could do for us?

So super annoyed at this point Tina goes away, puts together the smallest possible thing that she would be at least not completely hateful about doing for the client and takes that offer to the client. Same thing continues.

Client doesn’t get back promptly. She really hesitates and does not want to follow up. She finally hears back from the client a very terse, No, it’s a no. After all of that time and after all Tina’s contribution. After everything, it was a no.

I think if we zoom out from the situation, we could see it coming from 100 miles away. Really the hesitation around follow up was probably intuitively she knew it was a no and she just didn’t want to hear no. As long as she doesn’t follow up, the cat is alive, right? This client is a potential yes and yet it never ends up a yes.

It’s not rare, this situation. I saw with another one of my clients who tolerated a very long sales process with a client who was too small to be thinking about it this long. Sometimes when we get into bigger organizations they take forever to make a decision. This was not the case.

We teach our clients how to treat us. Don’t tolerate any behavior in the sales process that you don’t want to have once you’re working with a client.

Wanda, she had at least three meetings with the client, told me about them: “Hey, I have this really interesting potential client. Have already had three meetings.” Two weeks later, she and I talked. She says, “Okay, now I’m going to have my fifth meeting with them.”

I said, “Noooo, why, what is the fifth meeting about?” Well, they’re just taking a really long time to make a decision. I said, “Do you want to work with a client who takes five meetings to make a decision about whether to work with you? I mean, what is the big problem?  What’s the big deal? What’s so earthshaking that they cannot make this decision?” 

You deserve to work with decisive clients. This cannot be such a consequential decision for them. All right. If it is a consequential decision, that’s fine, but they can still make it quickly. So I said, I think you should call them and tell them I’m not going to work with you. You can say it politely, “Hey, turns out while you were thinking about it, my schedule filled up, I’m no longer available. Wish you a nice life.” 

While she was tolerating that long process, it was simultaneously a yes and also a no. Until she cut them off, as one should. You gotta cut bait when the client is taking that long. Until she cut them off, it was potentially a yes, but I don’t think anybody wants to work with that kind of client. 

In general when we’re thinking about follow up, I want you to think about whether you even want clients who are going to require you to be this way with them. Never chase clients down. You don’t want to teach them that you will chase them down, you’re not mommy. They have to have their act together when they come to work with you.

On the topic of teaching clients how to treat us, I want you in your perfect client profile a line that says, “My perfect clients are decisive. They make big decisions thoughtfully and quickly.” Or in a timely manner, whatever that needs to say.

Importantly you, we all need to be in integrity with that. Therefore we also need to make big decisions in a timely manner. Yes, thoughtfully. I’m not saying don’t think about it. I’m not saying, in 5 seconds just go with the first thing that comes to your mind.

I’m saying, “You think too long, you think wrong.”  That’s a quote from one of my favorite people who is a philosopher. He was a pitcher for the New York Yankees. I love this expression by Jim Kaat: “You think too long, you think wrong.”

A lot of us know what to do intuitively. Then the longer we ruminate on this decision, the less it aligns with our highest interests. A lot of times ruminating on a decision means running it past our fears. Then we talk ourselves out of something that we were called to or led to. If somebody is coming to you to talk about working with you, something called them to you. Something prompted that.

Yes, sometimes it is just for them to be able to have a conversation about this. They said something to you and you said something to them, and then we all went away. The world is better for it. They weren’t a fit or it wasn’t the right time or whatever needed to happen. 

However, a lot of times when somebody comes to you, it’s because they feel like your message has resonated with them. They’ve been referred because they’re in need of something. I don’t want you ever to sell to anybody who isn’t a fit for you.  However, the people who are fit for you. You should recognize them, they should recognize you, and then they should take action on it.

I’m a fan of decisions that people get to quickly. I think sometimes decisions need a deadline, and in both of these cases with Tina and Wanda, those decisions needed to have a deadline.

After which the consultant, the person in our position said, “We’re not going any further with this, this is my best offer.” “Or I think you’ve got enough information at this point. I’m just going to need you to go ahead and make a decision.” 

It’s fair for us to expect this of our clients. I’m a big believer that when we start coaching our clients, we begin to advise them as soon as they enter our world. As soon as we start having conversations with them. They don’t have to become our clients to benefit from the wisdom that we can offer them. 

A really good piece of wisdom is: I need my clients to be decisive. For today let’s go ahead and cancel this meeting. In the future, if you change your mind and you feel like you’re ready to take action, get back in touch with me.

Assert that boundary so that you are not wasting time with indecisive clients who are not going to change. This behavior is going to continue and you don’t want to tolerate it. Not in the sales process and certainly once they’re working with you.

Before I get into the specific metrics of follow up, like when and how we should do it. I want to say one thing, which is: If you suck at follow up, do not work with clients who require it. We all really need to play to our strengths and nobody said you had to be great at it. 

If you don’t have the attention span for follow up, if it annoys you to follow up. If any kind of follow up makes you feel like you’re chasing somebody, do not do it. 

I worked with a consultant once who never did any follow up ever. She had a full pipeline and was like, listen, my clients will find me, I don’t do any follow up ever. I was like, respect.

I’m probably in the middle of this road. I do follow up sometimes. I have totally had people who there’s a difference between not no, but not now, and people who cannot make a decision.

I’m going to explain that, I had somebody who spoke with me and was like, yes, I like what you’re doing and I know I need that. This isn’t the right time. So, yes, to the thing, the offer, but no to the timing. 

That’s different. I’m talking about people whose timing is right. You’ve made the offer and they just can’t make a decision, they can’t move forward, they cannot take action. You’re not going to enjoy that kind of a client.

The first kind of client who is not a no, but not now, I’ve just lightly checked in every six months, had one of those that lasted a year and a half or two years between like first contact and getting back in touch with me.

I will tell you that somebody has gotten in touch with me this week after two years. However, who did the follow up? Not me. That client said, I remembered you. I’m getting back in touch. She’s done the follow up. That is the kind of client I want to work with. 

Responsible because she said, “Not no, but not now,” and then reached out when the time was right. This can happen. I offer that because I want you to know you don’t have to be the one who can do the chasing down. Often with your perfect clients, they can have the initiative to do the follow up on their own. Wouldn’t that be a pleasure that instead of you chasing them down, they reached out to you?

So again, if you suck at follow up or just do not want to be in that business, don’t work with clients who require follow up. Trust me, they’re not going to just require it in the sales process. They’re going to require it the whole time you’re working with them and you’re going to be annoyed unless you’re just way more patient than I am. 

Here’s the timing on how you can do a follow up. There’s at least three examples of follow up opportunities that I will share today.

#1 Leads: The first is leads. Leads are people who have already made contact with you and expressed an interest in your services.That’s a hand raised to say, I would like to talk to you about what you do. That’s a lead. 

Maybe you reached out to them and they responded, yes, let’s talk. Maybe they filled out a form on your website. Maybe they called you. Maybe they were referred to you. You’ve made contact and they have said something specific around being interested in your services.

People who are in your field and I mean in your energetic field. People who are your connections on LinkedIn, I don’t mean anybody like that. I’m talking about the people who have taken the step to say, I’m interested in your services. That’s the first category. 

After that first contact. If you miss them, if you are not able to pick up the contact once they have contacted you the first time, then I think 3 to 5 times is plenty. 

Here’s how that can look, you get an email from somebody who says, “Hey, Barbara said, you’re amazing and I’d like to talk with you about possibly working with you. When would be a good time?” You go back and forth and then things go quiet. Maybe you couldn’t find the time. Maybe you don’t actually get a response. Whatever happens, this falls through. 

I think a good timing on this is after that’s gone quiet for a few days. The next week, a week maximum. You can check in and say, “Hey, we were going to schedule something and then things went quiet. Did you still want to do that?”

Then I think if you don’t hear anything another week you can do another ping. Similar message. Hey, just wanted to check in in case, blah blah blah. It is okay to say, “Listen, don’t want to bug you, if I don’t hear from you again I’m just going to leave the ball in your court.”

Now I said 3 to 5 and this is three. The fourth one can be a month or a few months later, and the fifth one can be like six months later. Sometimes people reach out because they’re in transition. It’s actually chaotic and they don’t even have time to respond.  Sometimes the answer is complex. Look, don’t project onto them a reason for this.

I’m very forgiving of people in this phase because you never know. This is not indecisive, this can sometimes be like swamped and can’t quite get to you. I know it seems like they can’t even write a response email. Sometimes people can’t. Sometimes it’s like I need to tell you something. Or if you’re like me, it goes off the homepage of your Gmail and you never see it again.

A thing which can really help you is to change up the media of your follow up responses. 

If they first called you, your response should be to call them back. Your first follow up should be another call. After that, you can try sending them a LinkedIn in case they’re a little more active on LinkedIn. Or you can start sending them an email.

Change up the medium, mix up your media here. Let them know, Hey, just sending over here in case this gets through to you better than through, whatever the other medium was. I think that’s a fair way to do things.

Then as I said, like a month later and then like six months, “Hey, I spoke to you six months ago and we never connected. Just wanted to check in and see if things had calmed down since then and you wanted to talk?”

This requires some organization. We have to know when the call was and we have to make a note to ourselves and things like that. The tools that I use for this, I have a paid email platform that sits on top of my Gmail called Superhuman, which I love. It’s 30 bucks a month. Highly recommend it. A feature that it has is similar to what HubSpot has and what Boomerang does for Gmail, and that’s a reminder feature. 

I can just set a reminder of like a month from now or six months from now. Six months from now that reminder will come up. I’ll sometimes have a little note on there for myself. Then that comes up and I’m like, Oh, I was going to follow up with so-and-so. It’s great and then I send this thing and it’s effortless.

I don’t love to follow up and very often, as I mentioned, I don’t follow up. However, this makes it so easy, stupid easy that I can do it, that I go ahead and follow the people. So that is a tool that I recommend for you if you want it to have super easy follow up for yourself. 

A caveat I would say is you’re going to follow up until you hear a no. At any time during this sequence they say, “Thanks, changed my mind.” Cool, you’re out. You can remove them from your database or disconnect with them on LinkedIn, whatever you want to do.

Or you can say: Listen, you never know, they might change their mind. Sometimes people take another option. Then they’re sorry about that option and they come back to you a little while later. So whatever you want to do. 

The thing I want to emphasize here is cultivate the relationships that you want to have with the kind of people that you want to have. If the whole thing was completely pleasant and you had a good feeling about them, cultivate that relationship.

If the whole thing was weird and you’re like, Oh, great, thanks for rattling the cage and then running away, then go ahead and delete them. You get to decide whether you want to be connected to somebody or not. Don’t feel an obligation to take every single scrap that comes to you so you have to hang onto it.

You have to hang on an abundance mindset, there’s an abundance of potential clients and an abundance of people who need what you do, and the right person is going to show up. Trust me, it’ll happen. Trust yourself, it will happen. 

#2 Post-Sales Call: The next follow we’re going to look at is the Post-Sales Call. 

You’ve had a sales call with someone, a sales meeting, whatever’s the thing. Here’s the key: You’re going to agree before you leave this meeting about what the next step is. When am I going to follow up with you? Meaning day and time and then usually medium. The best way to do this is to make an appointment for another meeting.

What usually will happen is before that meeting, if they’re a no, they’ll cancel the meeting and be like we’re a no. They’ll email you or they might even call you, but they’ll cancel that meeting because they’re already a no. If they’re a yes or a maybe they will keep that meeting. Then some next steps will take place during that call. 

The best way to follow up after a sales meeting, or a sales call in B2B corporate, this doesn’t go for Internet marketing. In B2B corporate, the best way to follow up is with a meeting that’s on everyone’s calendar. A scheduled Zoom or phone call that goes on everyone’s calendar. By everyone I mean anybody involved in the sales process, you and them, you and them and somebody else from their company, whatever that is. 

That’s follow up step number one. Now, if anything goes awry with that, like they cancel that and they don’t say it’s a no. Let’s say they can’t make that meeting and they’re like we’re not prepared with an answer yet, but we can’t do this meeting anymore. Make another meeting. 

Sometimes that process will go awry. Then you’re in this limbo land again of where they can go silent during that time period, like all kinds of things can happen. As I mentioned, you have the right at any time here to bail and decide I don’t want to work with a client who requires this kind of corralling and babysitting. However, if you feel like, no, I have a good feeling about them and I know they’re just swamped and I really, really can help them, then you can do a follow up. 

At this point, then you’re going to follow up with them. After everything has fallen through, you’re going to follow up with them on a weekly basis. It can be 3 to 5 times.. Second week, third week, the third time and maybe if you’re persistent, it can be the fifth time. It’s okay to say, “Listen, I don’t want to keep pestering you. Let me know if this is a no go and I won’t stay in touch with you anymore. However, if you’re still in progress or working on it internally, I will follow up with you at some point in the future. Can you just let me know which way or the other?”

If you were ghosted on that note, then I would go ahead and step back and be like, sounds like they just can’t make a decision at this time. I almost do not care what size of engagement this is because again, I just don’t want you to be in a situation where you have to deal with this kind of client. But usually 3 to 5 times and I’m pulling back, this is my last note will get you a response. 

I find the fastest and easiest responses to get are if you send them a note that has an ABC option. Hey, I’m checking in as agreed and remember to make sure there’s always that agreement about how and when you’re going to follow up. Just checking in as agreed, can you just let me know, and then I like something like:

Option A: It’s a no.
Option B: We’re still thinking about it.

Option C: It’s a yes, we just haven’t had time to get back to you. 

All they have to do is literally send you back a letter, one of those. I try to make it easy for people because that should be the way that they respond. Then if they cannot respond to that, then we’re in the territory of a terrible client. 

#3 Proposal: The last situation is once you’ve given them a proposal. This is where so much is at stake, you have skin in the game because you’ve put the effort into it and they should have put in a lot of effort as well. Meaning they’ve thought about it, they’ve shared information with you, there’s been a lot of time spent together.

This one is very similar to the second one where you’re going to agree to follow up. I just feel like it’s important for you to have the discernment around when to stop. It’s hard to have the Schrodinger’s Client situation. It’s hard to declare that, I think this thing is dead. 

Yet at a certain point you’re going to have an intuition that probably you’d had all along, but you’d maybe been overriding, which is, “I don’t think this thing is going to go anywhere and I’m just not going to do this anymore.”

It’s okay to communicate to the client, “Hey, if anything changes, reach out to me, but for now I just have to stop.” It’s also okay to be like, “Listen, I’ll follow up with you as long as you need me to. I can just check in on a weekly basis, but I just need to know, is it still a maybe? Are we still thinking about it? Is there still a possibility?”

Remember, if the entire work that you did with this client going forward into the future for the year or more that you’re going to be working with them followed the same pattern: Would you still want them as a client? I sure hope that engagement is priced high enough that it’s going to be worth it for you to give this dedicated follow up. 

These are the structures and the numbers that I use around follow up. I feel like it’s philosophical and it’s related to a few things. What your definition of a perfect client is and identify that perfect client. It’s related to an abundance mentality and the belief that, listen, this one isn’t it, I’m going to go find three more instead of wasting away waiting on this one. It’s related to how hard decisions are. 

For years I thought I was a bad decision maker because sometimes decisions were really heavy for me, and I realized that actually if I tune in and I have the right information, I can make decisions quickly. For me, intuitive decisions work.

For other people, maybe they’re fact finders, they need a lot of information to make a decision. There should come a point when they’ve gathered the facts. If they need help from you, meaning a deadline, or your refusal to continue to talk with them, then that’s okay.

It’s okay for you to create a boundary around that decision in order to help them. I hope that will prevent you from ever feeling like you’re having to chase a client because that should never happen. 

Before I go, I want to share with you that I work exclusively with B2B consultants on how to make these kinds of decisions, and how to create the Profitable and Joyful Consulting business that they dream of. In my work, I help them to find and work exclusively with perfect clients. I also help them to structure the business so that they’re working on transformational engagements, not one offs and not short term projects.

When we do that, they dramatically increase their revenues. Most of my clients will double them. You’ll hear about some who have done 5X of their revenues within the first year that we work together.

There’s amazing growth that is possible for you when you restructure your business model. Also, as you can hear, when you change your beliefs around how your business can work, and what you don’t need to put up with, or how you need to be in order to create a business that you are going to love. 

I have a program called The Path To 2 Million and if that sounds like it might be of interest to you, then I would love to share more information and speak with you. You can find out more and apply for a conversation to talk with me at my website: SamanthaHartley. Just go to the contact page, fill that out and we’ll be in touch. With that, I am wishing you a Profitable and Joyful Consulting business. 


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