Sitting on your hands while you're waiting to hear if you landed that big sale is always nerve-racking. How do you handle it?

There's a client I like working for. Easy work that's fun and interesting, few revisions, decent pay. I've been gently nudging this client for a little more work. A couple of weeks ago, I got an email: Would I be available to discuss a huge and ongoing project?

As I read the description of what they had in mind, I realized they were talking about taking up a huge amount of my time. It would be a big change for my business and me. But the work sounded appealing. "Sure, let's talk," I emailed back. "When's a good time?"

Then I waited for a response. And waited. I knew my contact at this company was insanely busy and likely just hadn't had a chance to answer. But I was curious about the job and wondering whether to continue pursuing leads with new clients with this huge project as a looming possibility. The suspense was killing me.

Fortunately, I've spent my whole professional life in publishing, where you never get a quick answer on any pitch. I've found myself in this sort of situation many times before. Here's how I cope:

1. Make sure you've done everything you can to land the deal.

The mistake many people make--including me--is not following up often enough. When customers don't hear from you for a while, they're liable to forget you just at the moment when you want to be top of mind. So ask yourself if there's a follow-up note you can send with additional metrics or other information that will help your potential customer make a decision.

2. Put resources in place.

What if the answer is yes? Do you have everything ready to go to fulfill the sale if it comes through? Now is the time to get everything lined up. You'll feel like a fool if you land the big sale but then can't deliver.

I work with a research assistant on the kinds of projects this customer needs, so I sent her a message to find out if she would have the bandwidth and desire to do more work for me if the deal came through. Luckily for me, she said yes. If she hadn't, I'd have had a little time to line up other possible assistance.

3. Finish outstanding work.

Do you have other business deals in process that might not get your full attention if you suddenly find yourself with a lot of new work? Now's the time to shore up those projects or get them finished if you can. The last thing you want to do is leave anything hanging.

4. Check in with existing customers.

Now's a good time to check in with your other customers, especially if they haven't heard from you lately. You don't want to make the classic mistake of losing customers you already have while you're busy landing new business. Make sure they're happy with your company and fix any small problems before they turn into big ones.

5. Review your long-term goals.

While I don't necessarily believe in formal business plans, I do think every business needs long-term goals, even if they're just a sentence or a few words scribbled on a white board. If that big sale comes through, how will it help your progress toward your goals? Will you have to change the direction or focus of your company? Now's the time to consider all the possibilities, and revise your long-term goals if need be.

This will force you to ask an all-important question: How does this big sale fit in with our long-term goals? If it doesn't, should we even be pursuing it?

6. Don't forget to pitch other business.

When you're waiting for an answer on a big deal, it's tough to keep pursuing other business as though nothing is about to change. But that's exactly what you have to do. Until a contract is signed or a payment received, you really haven't landed that big sale. If you don't continue aggressively selling new business, you and your company could be left in the lurch.

7. Take a break!

Chances are you'll be very, very busy if the sale comes through. So use your peace time wisely. Have a little R&R with your team, take a little time off with your family--or both. It will stand you in good stead if the new business leads to lengthy work hours later on.

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