I've been working as a freelance developer for 10 years or so now, taking on projects and resourcing them with myself and other developers. All has been fine, but over the last 6 months I've been making a push to grow the business to be running several projects at once rather than just the historical one or two I have been.
I've employed a bus dev agency, and also poked old clients and people I know from the industry to generate new leads. I've got as far as having meetings with prospective clients, sat in a room with them and described our services, and in some cases I feel as though I've won them over. But then it gets left as "Great, we'll be in touch when a brief comes in". I probably have about 6 new potential clients at that stage.
Now I'm not sure what to do from here. I think I need to continue to nurture these potential clients, to keep me in their minds, but at the same time I don't want to be seen as pestering them. I can see the value in picking up the phone to them, because I think it's good to make things personal, but at the same time if people keep ringing me and I have to repeat something I've already told them find that irritating (perhaps it's telling that "sales" people do it regardless).
So I was wondering what I should do? Some ideas:
I'm a techie rather than a salesperson, as you may have spotted, so whilst I feel comfortable in a room selling myself based on real tangible skills and experience, this level of salesy stuff and being pushy or persistent really doesn't come naturally to me.
If someone could recommend a course of some sort to help with this (I'm in London), that'd be great too. Is this even sales or is it account management?
I've got some empathy for you. I have to make a bunch of those phone calls today as a co-founder of a company, and I'm a biz-dev background vs. pure sales, but we have to do what we have to do.
Regardless of how well you know these contacts, they should (if they are professionals) understand that you're trying to make a living, and they should expect to be 'sold' on value added services that you offer.
So, IF you have something they need (whether they know it or not), have connfidence in what you have to offer. Call them with the conviction that you know you have a solution that can add value, and a) do they understand exactly how you can help? and b) Would they select you for an upcoming project? Ask them about their challenges - get invested with them on their issues.
If they say no to either a) or b) then you've got some work to do. They either don't know your value prop, or have other hidden objections that you can now address. If they say yes to the latter then essentially they've pre-selected you but perhaps don't have an application immediately. Ask them when is appropriate to call back. Again, if they give you a long time period it may be based upon other hidden objections.
Do all of the other things you mentioned. It's fairly passive and can't hurt, but make sure you're calling fairly regularly based upon timeframes slightly less than they suggest. A potential pitfall is to not be top of mind when they get a project and you get bypassed.
Pure sales guys do this all the time as an ingrained habit and are largely immune to the concern of being a 'pest'. They know that if you're not interacting with a prospect regularly then the chances of getting a call back from them are very low.
For folks like you and me, it's possible to emulate the sales DNA by putting some process around the calls, shirking off the dismissals, and having confidence in what you have. One of my favorite sales quotes is "Those who are most convinced are the most convincing". Be proud of what you do. If you can pull it off without arrogance, people you're selling to will appreciate it.
All the best,
As long as you're adding value with each call and/our touch point, and not being repetitive, I think it's ok to be persistent. Perhaps there's a news article about your almost-customer's industry you could share with them, or a new analyst report that applies to their situation. Each of those touches can also include a call to action - call me, let's connect, time for coffee? - and a firm request for movement in the relationship.
The key is to not be repetitive. My sales team works in the high volume model, but it often takes 10-12 touches before we close a deal.
Bottom line - if you're adding value, making your prospects smarter and better-educated buyers, you're not being a pain.