It happens all the time: you have a great intake meeting with a client, and you’re both excited to get started. You send a follow-up email with a contract for them to sign and return, only to be met with radio silence. What gives?

This failure to act quickly on the part of your client can delay you by weeks at times, but it can be avoided if you focus on being smarter and more effective when communicating. The thing is, we often neglect basic psychology when crafting our correspondence, but from a sales perspective, psychology is everything!

At work, people have a tendency to fall into automatic mode, meaning our minds are constantly preoccupied with all of the small tasks and events a common workday entails. In the case of a client, they’ve generally got a lot more things than just filling the position on their plate. So, if your email sounds like something that will take more than an automatic effort, chances are they’ll “put it on their list” and do it when they get to it, choosing instead to prioritize either automatic or very focus-heavy tasks first.

The founder of CATS had this same problem back when CATS was Cognizo Technologies, an IT staffing agency. He often struggled to get clients to sign contracts, so he decided to re-evaluate the way that he was sending follow-up contract emails to clients:

Hello [client],

It was great talking with you the other day, and we’re really excited to get started on finding you the perfect person to fill the position. I’ve included a contract for you to sign, so whenever you get the chance to sign it, that’d be great.

With this email, he noticed that his wording left things open-ended—that is, it didn’t identify the size of the task—so he decided to phrase his requests as actionable items:

Hello [client],

It was great talking with you the other day. I’ve attached the contract as we discussed. Please print, sign, and fax the contract so we can get started right away.

By laying out actionable steps, he demonstrated that the client’s time doesn’t need to be hampered by your task, but rather that it plugs perfectly into their workday. Print, sign, and fax are items that have a defined size and timeframe. This slight change in phrasing dramatically improved the rate at which clients signed and returned documents to Cognizo. A 2011 Wake Forest University study sheds light on why, showing that anxiety about upcoming work is reduced when a plan to do them is put in place.

Of course, an easier, more modern solution would be to invest in e-signature software, enabling you to make the process even smoother for clients, as they can read and sign your documents right from their computer.

Another way to effectively communicate is to instill a sense of urgency in the clients with whom you are working. It’s easy to leave things hanging and say “when you get time” or “whenever you get the chance.” Instead, make an effort to say something like, “If you can get this back to me today, I can get started tomorrow” — this can help to motivate clients to sign your contract right away. This psychological concept is called loss aversion. When communicating with the client, try to lead with a common pain point that they will want to avoid, e.g. “I don’t want to miss out on any great candidates”.

Beth,

I can’t wait to get started! Every second counts, and your competitors are out there looking at the same candidate pool.

I’ve attached the contract as we discussed. Please download, sign, and return the contract so that I can get right to work for you.

This instilled sense of urgency will not only get the ball rolling, but it will also lead to a faster, better candidate experience and quicker conversions, making candidates happy and clients even happier.

Too often, recruiting can be hindered by slow-moving clients, but that doesn’t have to be the case. By paying attention to the psychology of the small details within an email, you can instill a sense of urgency and excitement in your clients, and keep the engine running.

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