If you’re a service-based sales professional, it’s important that you maintain connections with prospects and past clients alike. By doing so, you’re more likely to stay top of mind with the people who need what you have to offer.
But let’s assume the worst—you’ve completely dropped the ball when it comes to keeping in touch with a client, or with a promising lead who just wasn’t ready to buy. Now that you’ve lost touch, you’re not sure how to get the relationship back to where it was.
Though this situation isn’t ideal, it’s in no way hopeless. Here’s how you can get back on track with past connections and leverage those relationships for future business.
Be honest about what happened.
For service-based salespeople, client relationships should be treated with the same dignity as any other relationship. That means nurturing the connection, following up frequently, and being accountable for not holding up your end of the relationship.
If you neglected to keep in touch with a good friend for a long period of time, you’d probably acknowledge this during your next interaction. Take that same approach here. For example:
“Hi [Name], it’s [Your Name]. I’d like to apologize for not reaching out in a while. I’ve been a little sidetracked because of some restructuring within our brokerage. If there’s anything I can do to help you out in any way, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
In this scenario, you’re taking ownership of the fact that you didn’t reach out, even as you offer a legitimate reason for the lapse in communication. You’re also attempting to make things right by offering to help the client with any concerns they might have.
Be humble in your approach.
Your clients are busy, just like you, and it’s important that you show an understanding of how valuable their time is.
If you were close to making a sale prior to falling out of touch with a prospect, you might be tempted to pick right up where you left off. Resist that impulse. Instead, rather than launching immediately into a sales pitch, first make sure that your prospect is available to talk. Offer to call them back at a time that’s convenient for them.
Even if now is a good time for your prospect to chat, don’t go right for the close. Start by asking how they’ve been, how their business/family/creative venture is doing, and whether there’s anything new going on in their lives. Once you have a clear picture of what’s going on with your prospect, you can consider shifting the conversation back to your business.
Be direct about your intentions.
Depending on the nature of your relationship with a client or prospect, you may want to hold off trying to close the deal or asking for a referral until another conversation. After all, it’s important to establish rapport and build trust before asking anyone for your business. A long radio silence on your end doesn’t do much of either.
On the other hand, you also don’t want to surprise the other person completely. When it makes sense to do so, remind them how much you appreciate their time and how you would ultimately like to earn their business. By doing this, you show your commitment to building a lasting relationship, even though there may have been some gaps in communication along the way.
Ultimately, you should make every effort to maintain client relationships by creating a CRM or contact database, setting reminders on your calendar to follow up, and creating other systems that will ensure you don’t lose touch.
With that said, there will be a few times when you need to own up to your mistakes and rekindle relationships with valuable clients. When this happens, do everything you can to prove your commitment to those clients far beyond the initial transaction. If you do this with honesty, humility, and sincerity, they’ll be far more forgiving than you might think.