"Conscientious"…or "stalker"?

April 10, 2015

How many times should you contact/chase/follow-up a client before you appear like a stalker? If you are an Account Manager who cares about your clients, you will have brushed the hazy line between “follow-up” and “harassment” many times!

Like the time you tried to meet with a new prospect. You sent them two emails and hesitated on sending a third lest you appeared too pushy or rude. Or the time when you desperately needed your client to supply you with content for an eDM. You called and left many voice messages, but, no content.

My most extreme case of call-us non-returnus was when I worked on a new website build for one of our clients. The website was complete, and all we had to do was to make the site live. I waited and followed-up, and waited and followed-up, eager for the approval to press the “go” button. I contacted my client via phone and email. I even tried contacting her supervisor to see if we could hasten the decision. Nothing. After a few months of chasing and waiting, I closed the project - invoiced, but site un-launched.

One of the many skills that Account Managers learn is knowing when to follow up, and when to bow your head and back away. To help you to avoid appearing stalker-ish you could try these tips:

  • Discover their communication preference: Right at the start (for a new client or prospect) ask what the best way will be to keep in touch. I had one client whose voicemail message said “please don’t leave me a message as I will not be checking them. If you want to get in touch, either text or email.” At least that way you know the playing field you need to bat in!
  • Stop calling: If you are trying, unsuccessfully, to contact a prospect, it may be because they do not wish to do business with you. If you are getting that vibe, stop calling. It's better you focus on more receptive prospects than get yourself a reputation of being pushy.
  • Change tactics: If you have been emailing, but are receiving no response, try picking up the phone and calling instead (and vice versa). For some people, an email will get lost in their overflowing inbox. 
  • Face-time: Meeting for a coffee can pay dividends to kick-start a stalled project, renew relationships or uncover client mysteries. There could be a personal or company reason why your client has gone quiet, and some relaxed face-time could help illuminate the situation.
  • If… then…: Some might call this a “mild threat”; I prefer to call it “persuasive encouragement”. For example: “if we do not receive the content by Tuesday 4pm, then we will be unable to meet your deadline”. It doesn’t hurt to give your client an occasional reminder about industry lead-times and production realities.
  • Money talks: Sometimes nothing speaks as loud as money. If there is no movement on content supply, decisions, or approval, then send your client an invoice for all work completed to date. That way you are compensated for your agency services, and your client gets a “renewed sense of motivation”. You could drop your client an email like: “As Project XYZ has been in progress for x months, I have invoiced out all work completed to date. We will archive off the job, but can retrieve and re-start the work at any stage. If you'd like to kick-start the project, please let me know.
  • Hand back responsibility: You’ll eventually get to the point where one more phone call (or email) will definitely qualify as harassment! Sometimes you just have to say that you did your professional best to get in touch, and the rest is over to your client.

What “tactics” do you use to encourage communication or action from your clients?

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