Following-up is one of the most important things a sales person will do.
As much as we would like to close every prospect on the first connection, it doesn’t work like that.
The question becomes, how do I follow-up with them in the most effective way possible?
It is so important to have a strong selling style but the follow-up process needs to be paid attention to as well.
This is so important because it provides leverage for the next conversation when you actually set the follow-up expectation and when you execute said follow-up.
Have a process and stick with it.
Here are my top 5 suggestions for how to follow-up with a new sales prospect:
1. ASSESS THE SITUATION
Sometimes a follow-up is necessary and sometimes it isn’t. It is very important to look at this like a fork in the road.
You did the value pitch, they like what you are saying and seem interested, do you ask for the business or do you hold off and set a follow up date? These are important questions to ask yourself.
Don’t waste the opportunity to continue digging deeper and doing more objection management but if you feel it is time to set the follow up, do so and then actually set a reminder and then obviously, follow up when you say you are.
When I sold insurance we used the common phrase of “Seven Touches.” What this meant was that we needed to make minimum seven attempts to sell the customer. Whether that be a phone call, an email or an in person interaction.
Even if you get on the phone with someone and have a great conversation with them, you are going to have to follow up in almost every scenario. My main point is, actually follow up.
Just because the first conversation was better than the second one doesn’t mean that you have lost the sale.
“80% of sales require five follow-up phone calls after the meeting. 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up.” – The Daily Sales
Don’t be the person who only follows up once. It will take many touch points and it is your job to be organized, use a calendar, have a daily task list and most importantly use a CRM digital database otherwise known as Customer Relationship Management.
Having a CRM has more to do with taking notes then it does with the actual follow-up, but you cannot follow up if you do not record information about your prospect so therefore it is very important.
When I worked in Life Insurance sales the office that we called headquarters was one disorganized mess with no database or CRM.
We would call on paper leads that we collected through mailers! Yes, mailers! It was really old fashioned stuff.
Instead of taking notes we would just trade papers every week and call on the same leads over and over.
Luckily we had a very solid phone script but I have never been hung up on more in my life.
These were the farthest thing from warm leads, we were essentially looking in the phone book and cold calling random names/numbers.
Be organized, it pays to use a tool like Salesforce and it is absolutely worth the purchase of this online product.
2. AVOID THE CHECK-IN
I was shopping for a car a few years ago.
I visited one of my local dealerships and talked with a salesperson and he was a really nice guy but he made one major mistake when following up with me.
He didn’t pay attention when I told him what I was looking for. I left my information with him and he proceeded to contact me about a week later.
He got me on the phone and he found out I hadn’t secured a car yet. Then proceeded to start shotgun naming off the first five cars that he could think of that were on the lot that maybe, just maybe, I might be interested in. It was a terrible approach.
I had three things that I was looking for: three row seating (for my growing family) a good crash test rating and preferably either a Honda or a Toyota. It was a very basic list and he missed all of those things when he made this phone call.
I told him, none of those cars would interest me and I began to speculate that he definitely had no idea what I had originally stated. I told him “Please don’t call me unless you find a vehicle that fits those three requirements.”
Two weeks went by and he called me again just to “check-in” and he had nothing new to offer me, he just wanted to see if I would come by the dealership again to see if there is anything else that I might like and I quickly declined and got off the phone.
I proceeded to save his number and ignore the next few phone calls until he finally gave up.
One of the worst things you can do is follow up by saying “Just checking-in.” This is annoying and the real issue is that it holds zero value. It is so important to follow up with an intention, with a game plan, with a new piece of information, a new whatever you want to call it.
It can be very obvious, very quickly, that you are not calling to offer them anything important.
Whether that be information or something physical like an incentive; to help them make that ultimate decision, don’t just call to “check-in.”
3. BUILD VALUE IN THE VOICEMAIL
Voicemails are so important.
My mother leaves the longest voicemails, call it a Baby Boomer habit but she will talk into my voicemail like she is having a full conversation with me.
Usually when I get these communications from my mother, I am unable to pay attention to them and I will just call her to see what it is that she needs.
Your prospect feels the same way but unfortunately, they won’t be calling you.
When following up, bring value every time. Value that matters, value that relates with a customer’s specific desires.
The nice car sales guy that I worked with in the above example did not bring value with him when he made those phone calls. He did this with his voicemails as well. He brought only his own perspective.
If you don’t have anything new to help entice or excite the prospect, then just simply remind them of the initial value that you helped build. Make it quick, to the point and simple.
When building value, do your best to build urgency. Here is an example.
When I worked over the phone selling email marketing packages in the discovery phase of the conversation, I would find out about any deadlines that they needed to meet specifically so I could reference them later to help build urgency.
If the prospect told me they have a product that they are launching in three weeks and they need to get the word out immediately to their list of email subscribers, I would make a note of that every time.
When I did my follow up voicemails I would always mention that deadline so that they knew why I was following up.
This allowed me to showcase to them that I care about what they are looking to accomplish and I would hate for them to miss the opportunity to have a huge product launch with as many immediate sales as possible.
This built value and it built urgency.
4. TAKE A HINT
When I worked over the phone selling email marketing to business owners it was very easy to waste a lot of time following-up with someone who was clearly not interested.
One particular situation the potential buyer told me that he was interested in purchasing but he immediately had to get off the phone and couldn’t provide me with his payment because he was driving. He requested a call back.
I considered this a done deal, I mean the guy literally told me he was going to buy! What more did I need!?
Little did I realize that with the lack of value building in the initial conversation, he was far from interested. There was very little glue connecting my service with his business.
I must have called him 30-40 times and left him 8-10 voicemails over the period of two months. I finally gave up and moved on once the lead left my main pipeline after 60 days and ended up in the back end.
I finally got him on the phone four months after the initial phone call and he quickly told me he wasn’t interested and he would appreciate me not calling him anymore.
After all that, after all the following up that I did, it was a dud from the start and I should have realized that.
Take a hint!
I definitely should have but I didn’t and as much as my managers may have been happy that I was following up with my lead like a ravenous polar bear stalking it’s prey in the northern arctic, it was entirely unnecessary.
I knew deep down that he was not going to work with me. His words said “Yes I am absolutely going to buy” and his actions were saying “You got no chance!”
Do yourself a favor and be willing to just let it go. When I worked in car sales my manager would say about any customer that was being difficult “Just forget it Daniel, move on, let’s work with people who care.”
He was right.
The best salespeople know an actual deal when they see one and an inexperienced one will keep following up blindly when they could be focusing on people that were actually likely to buy in the first place.
Don’t waste your time on people who communicate very clearly with their actions that they are not interested in working with you.
5. GET REAL HONEST
If you know there was genuine value and you are on the verge of “Taking the hint,” you are just about ready to move on, take a calculated risk and get really honest with the person.
Relay back to the prospect the value information, the things that mattered to them and the solutions you were going to be providing.
Next, mention your urgency builder if one applies.
Talk about how they have a date and a product they need to advertise and only so much more time before that date arrives.
Talk about how important it was to them that they get that done on that particular timeline.
If they have a vacation coming up and they really want to test out that new car on the open road, remind them of that.
If school is starting soon and they need a faster laptop, bring that up.
Say they just lost a loved one and they know they can’t risk going any longer without final expense protection (life insurance) don’t be afraid to remind them.
These are your customers words, they said them not you, don’t be afraid to bring these statements back into the conversation.
Lastly, mention to them that you have noticed it seems like something might be holding them back from making that decision to move forward.
Cushion your question by saying “I understand” or “That makes sense” and ask them “I am just trying to understand, what is it that is holding you back from moving forward with this?
They will be forced to answer this question with an open ended response that will hopefully provide you enough information to finally figure out what it is that is causing their apprehension.
You can use this new found information to do more objection management and attempt to sell them or you can use it to craft a new solution but that is not the point.
The real point is that you do this with them in the follow-up and you don’t waste time trying to take care of this in the meeting itself.
Don’t let them blow you off and try to reschedule, get down to brass tacks and figure out what is happening.
You already did the hard work, they are sold on your offering it’s now your job to get them to decide to stop thinking about the possibilities and start working towards actual progress.
The follow-up should be treated as a way to either bridge the gap towards creating a long term customer or as an opportunity to figure out if you are wasting your time.
Your time is precious, the more time you waste on someone who isn’t going to work with you, the less time you have to work with people who are going to buy.
That is why I cannot stress how important it is to have a solid follow-up strategy.