4 Steps To Be The Perfect Prompter

I received a compliment recently that I’m particularly proud of:

‘You’re a very skilled prompter’

It was from a woman I’d met whilst delivering a personal branding session at a conference, who’d been interested in whether I did any one-to-one work. (She had a colleague in mind who might benefit.)

Back in my office, I’d sent her a quick proposal and do you know what I did next? I put a date in my task list to follow up with her. That’s the first step to being a skilled prompter:

Step 1. Remembering to prompt

I knew this woman would have many, many other things on her to-do list before she got to ‘respond to Jennifer about the proposal’. But I also knew she’d been interested enough to find out more and it was definitely worth following up.

So I’d put in a reminder for three weeks’ time and when that date rolled around and I hadn’t heard from her, I sent her another email. Which leads me to the second step of being a skilled prompter:

Step 2. Keeping it casual

I phrased my wording as a gentle nudge, using casual language to avoid a full-on, in-your-face ‘When are you planning on getting back to me?!??!’ vibe (like the guy in the image above). I wrote:

‘I’m on yet another train, trying to use my time to be uber-efficient with my inbox. I saw your last email regarding the info I’d sent about one-to-one coaching and it reminded me to drop you a line to see if you’d spoken to [name of person]. And if so, what her thoughts were.’

And I’m glad I did, because she replied to say: ‘I went one better and asked the CEO if I could offer this to more than just [name of person], as I feel there are a couple of our senior leadership team who would benefit from this. Am finding out…!’

She was definitely still interested, so I moved that initial reminder on in my task list to keep it front of mind and make sure I followed-up. Which leads me to the third step to being a skilled prompter:

Step 3. Ignoring the feeling you’re nagging

Another month or so passed and I hadn’t heard from this woman, but that little reminder started flashing red in my task-list. Now, I could easily have ignored it and thought, ‘Oh well, she’s obviously gone off the boil on this and doesn’t want me to do the work. And anyway, I don’t want to seem like I’m nagging’.

But looking at it with a different perspective, I’d had nothing but positive responses to my previous messages. Plus I know the environment she works in is crazy busy and that was most likely why she hadn’t responded further.

So I decided to send her another email including the message:

‘I’ve not hear from you since we last emailed, so I figured nothing much was happening with any potential coaching stuff. But as a woman who walks her talk (my talk being to stay on people’s radars) I figured I’d send you this message to create a little ‘blip’ on yours.

‘If the answer remains ‘It’s in the pipeline’ that’s fine by me – happy to wait. And if the answer is ‘ It’s never going to make it to the pipeline’ that’s fine too. I’ll take you off my list of radar blippers and leave you in peace :)’

Her reply?

‘Aha! You’re a very skilled prompter…this is definitely ‘on’ but I have been rubbish about making it happen. In fact I now have x3 people who I would like to offer the opportunity of working with you to.’

Well hello! What fantastic news! So I pushed that task to follow up with her forward another month or so, knowing how slowly the cogs can turn in a big organisation like hers. Because that’s the fourth step of being a good prompter:

Step 4. Repeating Step 1 again and again

Like they say with the lottery: you’ve got to be in it, to win it. Sitting back and assuming that new business will instantly land in your lap wrapped in a pretty bow isn’t realistic.

I’ve learned from experience it can take eons between that initial expression of interest and the work taking place (one piece of work took 1.5 years to come to fruition). So I never give up hope if the client is still showing an interest.

As it transpired, I didn’t have to send another follow-up because this woman cracked on arranging meetings, having chats, making introductions and we’re now getting down to work.

But if I’d simply sent that initial information she’d requested and left it at that, I’d have fallen off her radar and doubtless would never have heard from her again – let alone be complimented as a skilled prompter.

What do you do to keep the ball rolling with new business leads? How do you give people a nudge without it seeming like a shove? What tips can you share to add to the four I’ve offered above? There’s a comment box with your name on it waiting for your response. (Well, your name’s not on it yet, but it will be once you’ve responded!)

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4 responses to “4 Steps To Be The Perfect Prompter”

  1. Tiffany Lai says:

    Hi, Jennifer, I know there are (marketing) people who wander around the building’s lobby/entrance and may be at restaurants, tube/train station waiting to meet their potential clients who work in the area, but pretending they just meet by chance.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      Thanks Tiffany – that’s interesting and definitely taking prompting to a whole new level! (Not sure I’d do it, but then again, depends on the size of the business you might land.)

  2. Rachel Cox says:

    I enjoyed reading this Jennifer. As a real completer-finisher, I have a ‘work in progress’ email file with things I am waiting for responses from people on, which I go through on a regular basis and follow up. Works for me, as I can keep track but it doesn’t clog up my inbox. I joke to my colleagues that, once you’re in the WIP folder, it’s very difficult to get out. Now they know this, they know they need to close the loop with me. Plus they know I don’t forget anything….

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      I love that not only are you being organised, the fear of your WIP folder gets others’ arses in gear.

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