On February 23, 2015, I received the following email at 10:30 pm:
I am consulting for a hedge fund, [redacted], and they have a time-sensitive project that they need help on. It is a website for one of its portfolio companies.
It is a pretty standard site: overview, mission statement, management, board members, investors, products. There might be design work for logos. However, no eCommerce or other functionality.
Since the project is on an expedited timeline, they are willing to pay for that consideration.
If you are interested, can you come tomorrow and meet with members of the fund? Please let me know as soon as you can.
There are a number of factors at play here that can be uncovered from this email.
First, the project and decision timeline was clearly time-sensitive. The email clearly says this.
They also wanted to know if I could meet with the members of the fund (i.e. the decision-makers) tomorrow. My read on this was that it was indeed a serious project and given they were emailing me at 10:30 pm and wanting me to meet with the decision-makers (members of the fund) the next day.
Because of the email at 10:30 pm and wanting a meeting the next day, my guess was also that they weren’t really evaluating any other options. Another point in my favor.
Also, if you notice the intro it says “Hey A.T.”
A.T. is a nickname that only people who know me would say. The person who emailed me was someone I knew and therefore was effectively my “champion” here. He was the one bringing me into this opportunity. And a referral means a lot when trying to close a deal.
After reading this email, I immediately knew this was:
- A real, serious project
- A project with budget (the client was a hedge fund – hedge funds have money)
- A good chance of me winning it if I showed up the next day because of the time-sensitive nature and the personal referral
I responded 13 minutes later:
“Yes, definitely interested. I’m free from 11-1 pm and anytime after 4:30 pm tomorrow. What time should I come?”
If you notice in my reply, I gave concrete time slots that were big enough such that at least one time would probably work and asked: “what time should I come?”
I always like to make it easy for someone to reply and limit the unnecessary back and forth.
I used the word “should” on purpose to highlight that I was coming in tomorrow, you just name the time and I’m there.
I heard back that the meeting would be at noon.
I then back-channeled with my contact to try and get a bit more context around pricing. I specifically wanted to know if they had any expectations around rates. I told him since it was a rush job we’d charge more and he replied “That works. Go with the higher figure. They will most likely go with you bc I recommended you.”
Ok, awesome. I’m feeling great before the meeting.
So I show up at noon.
I met with some of the members of the fund. Note: My contact is not there at the meeting. But he has teed it up great. He must have pre-sold me very well because the meeting couldn’t have lasted more than 30 minutes. It wasn’t a typical sales meeting where you have to win over the client. It was really more of a “let’s just meet in person, make sure he’s a real person, ask him the rate, and get this started” type of meeting.
I left the meeting having a verbal “yes” and just needed to send over the engagement letter.
We ended up signing and over the next couple of months it resulted in over $100k in billable work.
So why am I telling this story?
Well, there are a few key takeaways I want to highlight:
- Speed can be KEY in sales.
If I didn’t reply until the next morning, I may not have closed the deal. I don’t know that for sure, but I didn’t want to take that risk. I will say that I have had similar cases of time sensitivity and when I have replied quickly, it was a stated factor by the client that our response time helped close the deal. I have also had the reverse where being a bit too slow on reply has resulted in the Client moving forward with someone else.
- Language in email matters.
Every interaction you have with someone matters. You can learn a lot from emails. You don’t want to overthink or overanalyze things, but I do believe there is an insight to be gained from the language used in emails. And conversely, the words you write to someone in an email can move things one direction or another. I am constantly refining my email skills because of how important I believe it to be.
- Having an internal champion is very helpful.
People trust referrals much more than a random person. If they do much of the selling for you, you may find yourself in a position to just have to show up and not screw it up. The above is not a one-off case; this has happened to me a number of times over the years.
I feel it’s also important to address the fact that I was emailing at very late hours of the night. This was one time when being “on” and working all day/night turned out to be positive. Now, I want to be clear that this article isn’t meant to say working 80+ hours a week is what you must do to succeed. This is just one data point that I found interesting to share. I also have other times where being “on” all day/night ended up being detrimental — particularly to my physical, mental and emotional health. But those are stories for another time.