If you are working in Marketing or Sales, you have probably experienced the following situation at least once: You have just had a great conversation with a potential customer. They told you that they loved your product and that they were looking forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. Naturally, you are congratulating yourself for how great a salesperson you are. But after a few days or even weeks, you still have not heard back from your lead.
It hurts a little, doesn’t it?
I know how painful it can be when your prospect suddenly stops responding to your messages. When I was selling for Google, IBM, etc., I had to hear the classics (“I’ll get back to you”, “Just send me your information”, or “Let’s circle back at the end of the week”) many times. That is how I realized the importance of a great follow-up strategy.
Did you know that 80% of deals require 5 follow-ups or more? I know that seems like a lot. In my experience, following up is the most time-consuming part of sales. However, it‘s worth it and it will pay off.
You don’t want to miss opportunities by not being persistent enough. 44% of sales reps stop after the first follow-up! Being persistent and touching base with the right message at the right time will make you stand out amongst other companies in the field.
Unfortunately, following up effectively can be a lot harder than one might think. Many people make mistakes that could be easily avoided and therefore miss out on great deals.
The 4 Don’ts
1. Don’t apologize for sending an email
Even though it might seem like a polite way of showing your contact that you are considerate of their time, you have nothing to apologize for. Reaching out is simply part of the process and you are helping and providing value to them. Everyone understands that.
Also, there is no need to reference any past failed attempts. That’s another obvious part of the follow-up stage and you don’t want to make your prospect feel like you are blaming her for not getting back to you.
2. Avoid making requests
Yes, you are contacting your prospect because you want something from them. But making requests will drive your prospect away. They will not associate your emails with something valuable if you are always asking them for something. Instead, they will cringe at the sight of your name in their inbox.
3. Don’t trick your prospects
This should be a no-brainer but it is still ignored occasionally. Nobody wants to be fooled. You might get your contact to open an email by writing a sneaky title, but you will never close the sale.
Building a trust-based relationship with your customers is essential for a healthy business.
4. “Just checking in” or “Just wanted to follow up”
Don’t say that. While those phrases are widely used to sound polite, they are in fact not very actionable and might come across as annoying. Neither of these phrases really communicates value.
The Perfect Follow-up Strategy
So, what does the perfect follow-up strategy look like? There are different ways I follow up with my clients. Persistently calling will eventually annoy them and erode your credibility. Plus, you don’t want to seem desperate.
Your first step
Instead of calling right after the first meeting, send them a thank you email. Thank them for their time, mention key takeaways from the conversation and address your next steps and their next steps. This last thing is crucial to moving leads through your sales pipeline — explain what next steps you’ll take, what you would like them to do, and how their task will help the process move along.
Here is a follow-up email template that I use at my company, Badger Maps:
Thank you for your time this afternoon. (Thank them for their time — Refreshes their memory that you met.)
It was great to get a better understanding of your goals on this project. The key to success here is getting your field sales reps 2 extra meetings a day. (State your key takeaways from your conversation — Shows you were listening.)
I will build out the analysis that we discussed, where we talk about how much time your reps will save on a weekly basis by optimizing their routes, then we can determine how many more meetings your reps will get. (Address your next steps, “I will do this.”)
You mentioned that you could send me your sales team’s mileage reports from last month so that I can build the analysis, just let me know when I can expect that so that I can reserve time with one of our consultants. (Address their next steps, “you will do this.” Give them a reason why you need them to follow a certain timeline.)
Have a great week!
Stay top of mind
After reaching out for the first time, I usually create a multi-step follow-up sequence. The two things you need to prioritize here are staying top of mind with your prospects and making it as easy as possible for them to interact with you. I contact them through email, phone, text, voice or webinar invitations. Your client will feel appreciated and, most importantly, you’ll remain front of mind.
If you are getting frustrated because your calls are always going to voicemail, it might be because you are calling at bad times. Research at MIT says that on Wednesdays or Thursdays after lunch are the times when someone is most open to a sales call.
A neat trick I like to use when following up is establishing a real relationship with my prospects. You probably had a short conversation with them about common interests that you can use to get closer to them. I once had a prospect that was a big fan of the Green Bay Packers. Every time I met him, we would talk about their games. They ended up winning the Super Bowl that year (2011) and I could successfully close the sale. I’m convinced that our personal connection played a huge role in that. If your prospect likes you, you already have one foot in the door.
Similarly, they will be more likely to open your emails and read what’s in them. I always add a short article or interesting fact relevant to their area of work to my emails. This shows that you know what’s keeping them busy and brings you closer to them.
Another thing to keep in mind is: You can never convey the value of your product enough. Your prospect needs to hear how valuable your product is and see enough proof of it before they decide to buy, so look for different approaches to present your product’s benefits when following up.
Of course, it always depends on the person you are dealing with. People always ask for a cookie-cutter approach to follow-ups. The truth is: There is no such thing.
These are some of the techniques that have allowed me to leap ahead of my peers. They are all strategies that you can build on. Try them and experience how your prospects react. With time, you will be able to adjust those mechanisms and perfect your follow-up strategy. Until then…
Happy selling. And never give up too soon!