When a Prospective Writing Client Says “Maybe” — 3 Ways to Follow Up


When a Prospective Writing Client Says “Maybe” – 3 Ways to Follow Up. Makealivingwriting.comLike it or not, sales is a necessary part of your freelance writing business. Strong closers get more business. Weak closers don’t.

To close more sales, you need a follow-up strategy.

What do you do when a prospective writing client says “I’m interested” but doesn’t pull the trigger? You gently wrestle them to the ground and wrangle a “yes” or a “no” from them.

Here are three strategies you can use to turn a “maybe” into a “yes” or a “no.”

1. Some prospective writing clients aren’t worth it

Sales is a numbers game. The more prospects you touch the more likely you’ll get a “yes”. That’s why follow ups are overrated. Some freelancers just don’t do it.

You have to ask yourself, is your time better spent chasing maybes around the mulberry bush or finding a prospect who is actively seeking a writer like you? As hard as it may seem, there are prospects waiting for a writer like you to make the right offer. Your job is to find them.

2. Stay in touch (in a non-salesy way)

If you’re like me, you believe there are only two answers—yes or no. Maybe you shouldn’t take “maybe” as an answer. In that case, if the client isn’t ready to say “yes,” wait them out. But stay in touch.

One way is to send periodic updates. Once a month or so, without being a nuisance, send the prospect something interesting. Here are four nonthreatening ways to do that:

  • Run a Google Alert on their name. When they win an award or earned media attention, congratulate them.
  • Follow them on social media and share their content.
  • E-mail them a link to an article about changes going on in their industry.
  • If you write something relevant to their niche, tag them on Twitter or send them the link through their preferred medium.

3. Get them to ask you to follow up

To win at sales, you have to overcome objections.

A “maybe” is a “yes” at a later date. When a prospect says “not at this time,” be gentle, but press in.

Ask a question such as, “What would it take for you to say ‘yes’ to my proposal?” or “Mr. Prospect, level with me, what is the real reason you’re not ready to do business right now?” This is usually where prospects will either say they aren’t interested or will ask for a call back.

If a prospect asks for a follow up, be sure to do so in the requested time frame, then revert to Strategy 2. If the client says they’ve lost interest or you sense they’re stringing you along, employ Strategy 1.

There are no maybes — only yeses and nos.

Allen Taylor is the author of E-book Publishing: Create Your Own Brand of Digital Books and curates The Content Letter. In a former life, he was a telesales professional who never took “maybe” for an answer.

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  1. Deena

    Thanks for a great post, Allan. Your ideas, especially the “stay in touch” ones, were very helpful, and I am looking forward to using them.

    Kevin, I agree with what you said about urgency and prospects making firm decisions.

    It’s very liberating to let go after you have followed up with a prospect in whatever way you have decided is appropriate for you. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but the time drain going back and forth with potential clients becomes not worth it after a number of days/weeks/total email hours have gone by.

    I recently got a gig which I’ve been nursing since October, and I finally gave the guy a deadline, which helped. Other times I haven’t gotten the gig, or the person decided not to do the project. The latter is usually a reflection of a potential client’s management style, and I’m happy not to be working with a person such as that.

    Don’t let yourself succumb to scarcity mentality when you don’t get a gig.

    Best of luck to all of us in 2016!


  2. Williesha

    I like the idea of Google alerts for their name or business. I tend to follow up maybe twice and give up, unless it’s a particular company or person I *really* like. Then my version of following up is simply developing a relationship with them until work becomes available. That has worked a couple of times and doing it again right now.

  3. Allen Taylor

    Thanks for weighing in Monica. I think that closing technique works best on the phone where you can get a spontaneous reaction. Also, this is more for business clients rather than editors.

    • Monica Leftwich

      Thanks Allen for clearing that up. I personally see editors as business clients and treat them as such. And yes, the approach described sounds like it would work way better via a phone or F2F conversation than email.

  4. Sherri

    Hmm…I don’t think I would feel comfortable saying, “What would it take for you to say ‘yes’ to my proposal?” or “Mr. Prospect, level with me, what is the real reason you’re not ready to do business right now?”

    I like the tips on sending informational updates tho.

    • Carol Tice

      I think the secret to freelance success is…getting comfortable with saying things like that. 😉

    • Allen Taylor

      You have to do what feels comfortable to you. Sometimes, clients just need a little nudge to push them one way or another. You can figure out a way to do that using your own personality and verbiage.

      I have been following up with one client for about five months now and it looks like I’m finally going to see the payoff–probably next month. On the other hand, I decided to let another prospect drift away because I’ve made several concessions, sent two contracts, and now I hear nothing. I was sure he was ready to go, but I sent the second contract and didn’t hear a word. If they’re flaky like that, I just let them go.

    • Monica Leftwich

      I agree with Sherri. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to sound like that in an email. Especially the “what’s the real reason you’re not ready” question. While I’m all for trying keeping their business, editors are not obligated to explain anything to me at the end of the day (even though I’d be a little pissy about it if they don’t!). And I would be scared that trying to squeeze an explanation out of them in that manner would just annoy them and then I’d really lose out on the deal.

    • Carol Tice

      I think that’s more a question for a marketing manager than a publications editor, Monica.

  5. Allen Taylor

    Great, Kate. Good luck!

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