To follow up or not, that is the question…
“Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely and the likely definite”
is a quotation from Robert Half and which I have stuck up at eye level by my desk!
To follow up or not, that is the question – is a complex issue that challenges many business owners and there can be an extraordinary number of reasons why they shouldn’t follow up, today at least…. It’s as if a fear takes over and the business owner is rendered paralyzed… I don’t want to be annoying, or bothersome, or a nuisance or…….
And you’re right, no one does. But, and it’s a big but, with the volume of emails in particular, as well as calls, that go around these days, it can take time to wade through all the emails and it can quite simply be that your last email got to the bottom of a very busy day’s list of emails. You don’t know what day your prospect is having or whether it has been a day from hell.
But think how not following up on a conversation, a quotation, a meeting can reflect on you and your business. If you are an avid networker, is there any point if you don’t follow up? What is your process? Do you have one? If not, agree one with yourself and write it down and keep it somewhere you can easily refer to.
The sales process isn’t a straight line, nor is it a funnel where everything that goes in to the top comes out as an order at the bottom. You need to understand the balance of emotion and logic and what makes up the sales process.
A survey conducted by the National Sales Executive Association reveals that only 10% of leads are being followed up more than three times, while nearly half (48%) are left languishing altogether. The same survey shows that 10% of sales are closed on the fourth contact, while 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact! Based on this data, how can you find excuses not to follow up? Whilst the exact % differs slightly I’ve come across an approximation to these figures a few times.
I wonder too if it’s that business owners don’t like to consider themselves as ‘sales’ people. After all, is this what you studied for years to become the expert? But, no matter if you are a lawyer, accountant, web designer, video maker, manufacturer of widgets, without sales you don’t have a business so if you are the only person in your business, you are then also the sales person.
So what happens if you go to a business expo – be it a small local affair or a large event in Olympia? What have you planned in terms of follow up? What would be the cost to your business if you don’t?
- If you are a larger company then most likely the sales team will leap onto the hot prospects and follow these up. Let’s say 20%. Then what about the other 80%, what happens here?
- Often it can be that the sales team don’t have the time or energy to weed out the % of non-qualified contacts to nurture, so they abandon them. Or, sales blame marketing saying that the leads are not great and then marketing blames sales for being lazy. The challenge is to keep in touch with that % of the balance, let’s say 40%, to develop the relationship.
- And in a smaller business, then the same principles but you are arguing with yourself and blaming your other self. Oh, I’ll do that one tomorrow, it’s not important. Then tomorrow becomes next week/month and the chance you had of following up is out of the window as you are by now completely forgotten.
So what do you need to do/know to follow up effectively?
- You need to know you are talking to the right person who can make the decision to purchase whatever it is you are selling;
- You need to understand his/her buying process… Who else is involved? What information do they want/ need and supply this ideally before being asked;
- You need to understand the sales process and the mix of emotion and logic and when and where to supply evidence of both;
- You need to understand completely what your prospect needs in order to solve their problem/hurt and ensure you have communicated to them how you can do this
- You need to have supported your claims with evidence – case studies and testimonials for starters. If something concrete rather than a service, then a trial of something.
- Have you explained the benefits to the client of working with you? Have you shown your passion and commitment to your role and to your company and demonstrated at all times your professionalism?
- You need to get a feeling of the type of personality they are so that your communications are geared to ‘how they like to be communicated with’, so for example, if an FD, then bottom line, figures, ROI and no waffle. 3 words are better than 3 paragraphs.
- By what means does your contact like to be communicated with? Email/telephone/mobile/text?
- If you have a good CRM system you can set up a series of relevant follow up emails and then be able to see when each one is opened if at all. But do beware of overuse of these informative but non-personal communications. I had been waiting for some information from a CRM supplier on behalf of a client and then I started getting the follow up before the information I was waiting for. Not impressed!
- In your process you need to establish a guide of how often you should be following up and how; typically this could be
- Give it a week since the last conversation and then weekly to start with
- Then default to two-weekly
- Try different days and different times of day
- Can you slot into something that is of interest to the buyer that you learnt at your meeting or have picked up from LinkedIn? Comment on their favourite team’s performance, favourite venue etc, great film….
- Be direct: if you don’t get anywhere ask if you should stop following up. People respect honesty and it can have the effect to get a reaction to your email…
- A simple “I know how busy you are and completely understand if you just haven’t had time to get back to me, but I don’t want to bombard you with emails if you’re not interested. Just let me know if you’d prefer I stop following up”
- Here’s a fun direct one I came across… Tongue in cheek but depending on your relationship can elicit a response…
- This one from Workbooks, a CRM system (not the one referred to above, though) where someone asked for details and the ‘system’ was trying to establish contact with no luck:
“Should I stay or should I go?” (was the email subject header)
You recently left your details on the Workbooks CRM website and I’ve tried reaching out several times with no luck. Usually people fall into one of 4 buckets when downloading our content or registering for our webinars:
- Thanks for following up; however, at this point I am only educating myself on CRM systems.
- While I am educating myself, I am also interested in learning more about Wizard Systems and Workbooks CRM. Please schedule me for a no-obligation 20-minute assessment.
- Please call me as soon as possible. I am looking to evaluate my plan and would like a custom CRM presentation of Workbooks CRM.
- I have terrible carpal tunnel and can’t type! Please call a doctor!
I’m a firm believer that any of these answers could be the right answer for you at this time. Your response (1, 2, 3, or 4) will allow me to better gauge your interests without bothering you during this busy time”.
For sure the prospect will smile and will probably take the time to respond. Understanding the meaning and value of a ‘no’ is also important.
Following up demonstrates your determination to build a relationship with your prospect and most significant sales are the end result of a relationship. You will still find a lot of disinterested parties, but a few potential buyers will appreciate the extra effort. These can become your best customers. In the long run, sales follow-ups are more cost-effective than chasing down new customers.
And, don’t forget, if you really can’t bring yourself to pick up that phone to follow up, outsource it. There are lots of great people out there who will do so for you. So don’t beat yourself up and just get it done!
If you need help with your sales and/or follow up processes, please give me a call or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org; I’d be delighted to help. A tighter sales process can eliminate much of the follow up.
And finally….another quotation for you about persistence:
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
30th president of US (1872 – 1933)