The Art of Following Up

On the last few posts, I’ve discussed the stages of the sales process.  There are different versions of the sales process out there.  All of which, are probably correct.  But there is one piece to any sales process that is often over-looked.  That piece is the art of following up.  Check out the sales stats below:

The Art of Following Up - Sales Stats
Following up

 

I’ve seen these stats floating around LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. for several years now, but it’s still missed by lots of inside sales people.  Why?  I’m not sure I have the exact answer but I’ll certainly give my opinion as to why only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts.

The Art of Following Up

What does the sales stats above really mean?  For one, it means that 90% of sales people give up after just three contacts.  That’s absolutely crazy to me.  Why on earth would you accept a career in sales and give up so easily?

Early in my career, I wasn’t that good at selling.  Cold calling was hard for me and so was asking the right kind of questions.  But the one thing that I had going for me was that I simply wouldn’t give up.  I called and called and emailed and called over and over again.  I’d reach a point where the person on the other end of the phone would just cave in or finally tell me not to call again.  And just so you know, they caved in more than the latter.  Over the years though, I’ve gained a better understanding of what a true follow up should be, but the simple act of following up showed positive results.

What I’ve Learned

It’s one thing to follow up just to “check in” or “touch base”, it’s another thing to add value to your follow up.  “Checking in” or “touching base” rarely moves the sale through the stages of the sales process.  You’d have to make thousands of calls to make “checking in” or “touching base” work for you.  I’m a numbers guy, but you can’t possibly sustain that for the length of your career.  You have to work smarter and have some kind of strategy with each contact.

If you make several contacts bringing something new to each call and or contact, then it increases your chances of closing the deal.  In my earlier post about the sales process, I discussed planning.  You have to think beyond the first call all the way to 6th, 7th, 8th, etc contact.  That means having several sets of questions or topics to learn something different or to expand on a previous conversation every time you make contact.  I would find it hard to believe that you got everything you needed to know on the first or even the second call.  It’s a process, and I promise you, that your client will benefit from the right kind of follow up.  It’s the art of following up for a reason.

It allows you to build or create the right kind of solution for the product or service you’re trying to sell.   If you remember from the sales stats at the beginning of this, it said that only 13% of clients feel like their sales person understands their needs.  When you have a strategy for each call and you truly listen to what is being said, then all of sudden, you’re better than 87% of the other sales people calling trying to get their business.  I don’t know about you but I like my chances with that.

One thing to keep in mind is to end each call with a commitment for a next step.  Set the stage for the next part of the sales process, that way everyone is on the same page.

The Art of Following Up
The Art of Following Up

Here’s An Example

  • You ask 3-4 questions about the make-up of their business centered on who does what at the company and why they buy from certain vendors.
    • The answers to these questions will help you understand pieces of their current process.
  • Then at the end of the call you give a small preview that you would like to learn more about their products and suggest that you call back at the first part of next week. You might even give a little information on what your company has done with similar clients.
  • If you get an agreement from the prospect on what day and time works best then send out a calendar invite for that day. Most importantly, you then follow through on that day and time.  Your prospect is always paying attention and if you miss an appointment, it matters, so don’t miss it.
  • When you make that call be sure to discuss their products and come prepared with a couple more topics to help you understand other aspects of their business.

This helps move the prospect a long within your pipeline and allows for you to make several contacts with a plan and not just a “check in” or “touching base” phone call or email.

Things To Keep In Mind

These initial calls are meant to fully qualify your prospect.  Once you feel like you know absolutely everything about their current process, decision making, need, budget, etc. then it might be time to ask for the business or an opportunity to move forward.  This will vary based on what your offering.  If you work for a company, there might be some additional steps you need to take.

The biggest thing to remember in regards to the art of following up is that each contact builds rapport.  It will only help you close the deal when you get to that stage.  Be sure to throw in some relationship type questions as well.

For example:

  • How long have they been with the company?
  • How many kids do they have?
  • What did they do last weekend or plan to do this weekend?

Again, these are people on the other end of the phone and chances are if they become a client then you’ll have several more conversations.  And wouldn’t you want to talk about something other than just business every now and again?

It’s important to follow up consistently but not so much that you turn away a potential prospect.  I would suggest developing your own follow up schedule.  This will vary by industry, sales cycle and company.  If you work for a company, then chances are there’s something already in place.  The other suggestion would be to reach out to the top performers and ask them how they do it.



Summary

Stick to a process and more deals will be closed.  There are a small percentage of sales people who seem to close deals just by picking up the phone.  But for the large majority of us, sales can be made by following a process.  You can always improve the process if you consistently work at it.  Persistence WILL win out.  Be the 10% that follows up more than three times.

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