Don't 'Follow Up'

In Sales it’s About “Follow Though” not “Follow Up”

Follow up is a struggle for many sales people and sales managers. For the seller the struggle is usually in reconnecting with the prospect, customer, or client after the last meeting. Perhaps because there was no call to action or clear next step, date, and time set at the end of the last meeting. Or worse the prospect was underwhelmed and not interested in moving forward. The other reason sales people struggle with follow up is a lack of something of value to say. Having nothing else to say, the seller leaves voice mails and emails like this “I’m just following up with you…” No value and as a result no connection. For sales managers the struggle is a little different. Managing an opportunity pipeline they meet with their sales team and ask for status updates on specific opportunities in CRM. “Where are we at with so and so? Have you followed up?” The sales person having sent an email and left a voice mail responds with, “Yes, I left them a message, but I haven’t heard back”. A merry go-round of no progress!

The difference between follow up and follow through starts with an attitude. An attitude of knowing following through is reconnecting and having the next conversation necessary to advancing a prospect into or though the sales cycle. Follow up is an attitude of engaging in an activity of leaving the customer to take the next step and hoping they return your call or responding to your email. It’s an incomplete process. To use a sports analogy no golf, baseball, football, or basketball coach ever shouted “Follow up with the ball!” They shouted, “Follow through with the ball!” Meaning complete the motion or, in sales the next step in the process.

There are three types of follow through with a prospect, customer or client. The first type is to advance someone in your sales cycle to the next step in your process. For example they had a product demo and the next step is to present a proposal. Your follow through takes them to the next step. The best way to accomplish this is through pre-call preparation. Plan in advance what the next logical step is and ask for it at the conclusion of the call.

The second type of follow through is when a prospect requests some information or reached out to you. Perhaps they saw an ad or they’re responding to your companies marketing efforts. They are in play! The Sales Professional has a sense of urgency and responds quickly, professionally, and until they have connected. The sale manager knows the true cost of a marketing generated lead and the value of converting the lead to revenue.

The third type of follow through is the type of follow through that nurtures a prospect into entering your sales process at some point in the future. This is the type of follow through takes consistency and value. Today’s Sales Professional knows how they follow through with their prospects says more about them and their personal brand than all of the companies marketing collateral combined. Examples of this type of follow through can include sending white papers, hand written ‘Thank you’ cards, value added content through newsletters, or sharing pertinent and timely information with a prospect. The goal is to stay top of mind with the prospect so when they are ready they think of them first.

Far too many salespeople think once they respond to an inquiry (usually by email or voice mail) generated by marketing, or try to reengage a prospect after the last meeting the ball is now in the prospects court. They put the burden of taking the next step back in the prospects hands believing the prospect or customer will take action. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes for a minute. What else might they be dealing with besides trying to buy your stuff? What other priorities might they have? You may need to reach out multiple times before you go from first contact to signed contract. Statistically more than 48% of sellers will make just one attempt to connect with a prospect and then give up. I call them “One Hit Wonders”. They hit the prospect one time then wonder where the business went.

The expectations for today’s customer are an all time low and their choices are at an all time high. That means they won’t wait around very long for you to get back to them with the information needed or requested. It also means the biggest differentiator could be your level of follow through.

Strategies for Effective Follow Up

Regardless of what you sell there are some basic skills you MUST have as a Sales Professional. Pre-call planning, asking questions, listening and presenting are all critical to producing revenue-generating events for your company. Of all the things today’s Sales Professional has to do “Follow-through” is key!

1. Know your job!

If you are in the profession of sales one of the most critical skills and activates you MUST be engaged in is Follow-through. Marketing makes the promise via advertising campaigns to create visibility. How you follow through makes your company look like heroes or liars.

2. Follow up is a contact sport

If you can’t make contact you lose! Call, send email, send hand written thank you cards. Multiple touches and multiple messages. Have something to say. As a side note you have to prepare for the conversation you plan to have on the phone and you have to plan the message you leave in the likely event you get their voicemail—at least if you want them to call you back.

Many of you may be wondering, “How many times should I attempt to connect before I give up?” Never give up! But if you do throw in the towel make at least 5 attempts first.

3. No Schedule No Commitment

I said earlier follow up is a huge part of your job as a sales professional. In fact it’s the number 2 area where most sales people come up short!  Follow through needs to be on your calendar not just your to-do list. Make it a priority and schedule blocks of time to conduct follow through calls. Many people find it easiest to schedule it twice a day. Put it on your calendar, and  use your CRM to create a follow through habit.

Bonus

As a sales professional consider creating a personal Follow through mantra and let people know what it is. For example; “I return every call every day”, or mine; “I will return your call or respond to your email within 24 hours or by the end of the next business day. Which ever comes first.”

So… How, when and with what frequency are you going to follow through with your prospects, customers and clients?