At a big organization, there is a whole sales team dedicated to tracking down, qualifying, and keeping in touch with folks who might be interested in buying the company's products or services. But you're very far from a big organization. In fact, maybe you're just a freelancer or a small but mighty team already juggling the meat of your work with an avalanche of administrative tasks.

But if you're letting your small size serve as an excuse for a haphazard approach to keeping track of potential new clients, you're probably leaving money on the table.

That was the message of business coach Justine Clay in a blog post for Freelancers Union recently. Her piece runs through all the ways independent pros miss out on landing more work from new or established clients, from lack of regular follow-up to not educating customers about what you can do for them (or assuming they can't pay your rates).

Harvest the Low-Hanging Fruit

Among the many sales sins Clay sees her coaching clients commit is one common but costly oversight that has an easy remedy. Does this scenario sound familiar? "You're at a networking event and someone expresses an interest in working with you," Clay writes. "You take the person's card and follow up the next day (right?). Perhaps you follow up a couple more times before you let it go and forget all about the person. After all, you don't want to be one of those freelancers." 

If this sounds like you (I admit it sounds like me), Clay insists you're missing out on easy money. So what should you do instead of your usual follow-up-and-forget routine? You don't want to pester people, after all. A simple spreadsheet is all you need to keep track of prospects and ensure you stay in touch without being annoying, Clay insists. She calls this tool the Low-Hanging-Fruit List.

She explains how to make one: "Create five columns: (1) date (2) name (3) email (4) how the person found you, and (5) status. Simply enter your prospect's info and check every few months to see how the person is doing and if there's anything you can do to help. People are busy and, for the most part, are happy that you checked in. If and when the time is right to hire someone, you'll be top-of-mind."

Is this a super fancy high-tech solution or a radical, never-before-seen business hack? No, it's a simple, common-sense approach to sales for the sole proprietor or tiny team that lacks a lot of extra bandwidth to devote to keeping track of prospects. But just because it's completely straightforward doesn't mean it's occurred to you to do it before. If it hasn't, maybe you should start now.

How do you keep track of prospects?

Published on: Sep 18, 2014