However we record and log the names, phone numbers, email address, notes, and other essential contact information for existing and potential clients as well as strategic and referring partners, the one thing that is constant is that we have to know how to find the information when we need it and that it needs to remain current.
When we buy fresh fruit at the market, it has a certain shelf life also - too early and the fruit isn't quite as sweet or tasty as we would like, and too late and the fruit is too strong or mushy. There is a good time to eat it. We can't just buy ahead like we do paper products. Our leads are similar.
Keeping a stack of business cards (with or without a rubber band around them) in the drawer or on the desk - and rarely or never looking at them again - is nearly the same as not even having them. Someone who needed something done six months ago - unless it was a timing or funding issue - likely has already done it themselves, hired someone else, or moved on and is no longer interested in the project. Calling them now would indeed be too late.
That's why we have to manage our contacts. Some people will always be in the looking or consideration stage where they never will commit to anything but always seem interested in investigating what can be done. We need to be aware of which people fall into this category, accept it for what it is, and not devote a significant amount of energy to working with these individuals since a decision is extremely unlikely.
Conversely, we are going to meet people who need something done relatively quickly. It might be a traumatic event that they are dealing with that they require solutions, and they need them now. They don't have time to shop around much or to wait. When someone in this situation contacts us, we need to be serious about responding to their request and not just set it aside until later. To do that would be to miss out on the opportunity to serve them altogether.
Even when it's not an urgent situation that people are facing in terms of their timing for having the improvements done, it might be an emotional one. They are ready to do something now. They have the money now. They know what they want done. If we respond to them in a timely manner and then stay with it rather than just adding it to the mix, we have a good chance of earning the business.
We have to use our powers of discovery to determine who is serious about needing something done and who is just toying with the idea. When we ascertain that people are serious about doing something, we have to move on it. They may not choose us to help them, but they surely won't select us if we don't respond to their request seriously. Meeting someone and then just keeping that information on file for some future date will mean that we are going to miss out on opportunities to help people and remain viable as an aging-in-place solutions company. For the people who are ready to act now, we need to be ready as well.