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The Who, What, How, and When of Successful Sales Follow-Up


What if all you had to do to make a sale was pick up the phone and talk to someone with a budget? That would be easy! But it would also be droll. Like it or not, successful sales requires sales follow up—sometimes lots of follow up.

Sales follow up both helps to move a prospect through the pipeline towards a decision, but it also helps to keep your organization top of mind when a prospect isn’t ready to start down the path toward a purchase—yet.

To help you improve the effectiveness of your or your team’s sales follow up techniques, we have a few Who, What, When and Hows for you…

The “who” of sales follow up
Sales reps have a tendency to want to go after the easy sales, meaning those leads we consider “hot.” And who wouldn’t want to target the prospect most likely to turn into a customer? However, that’s a dangerous focus to have, as an article in Entrepreneur magazine points out. Make sure your team (or you, if you’re the rep) continue to do follow up with warm leads too, as they’re the ones likely to turn into hot leads later. And for those reps who say they can’t tell a warm lead from a cold one, guess what? Doing your sales follow up consistently will help you weed out one from the other.

The “what” of sales follow up
OK, you know whom to follow up with, now the question is, what do you say? Whatever it is, don’t say “I’m just touching base,” for reasons Jill Konrath offers in her post 3 Follow-Up Strategies to Replace “Touching Base.” Instead, re-emphasize the value you can offer to their business. It’s all about what you can do for them, make this really clear. Bring up their pain points and how you can help.

Jill also suggests you offer insights rather than “touch base.” Give them other options and opportunities to show you know what you’re doing and that you know their industry. Show that you’re constantly thinking about how you can improve their business. This will help you gain their trust and make a sale more likely.

Educate. Offer valuable content to the client. This shows you’re knowledgeable and truly want to help. Make sure to repeat your pitch a couple of times because you may know your product and services like the back of your hand but, the prospect likely doesn’t and you want to make sure the information sinks in.

The “how” of sales follow up
You already know it takes time to make a sale. So keep track of the number of times you contact someone. You might think you’ve reached out many times when in reality it has only been three. The consensus among salespeople is that to create leads you should have at least seven points of contact with your prospects. Keep track so you know if you’ve followed up enough. And remember, persistence wins.

When scheduling follow ups, be sure to establish a specific date and time with your prospect. Avoid vague comments like “I’ll call next week” because that will likely end in a game of phone tag or you never reaching your prospect. In fact, in an article on 8 essential tips for making a perfect follow up call, Jim Domanski’s number one tip is to get a commitment for the follow up.

There’s a strategy in the channel you choose for your follow up too. We recommend you send a thank you card after your first contact. It serves as a friendly reminder about your next appointment and you’d be surprised at how impressed people are when they receive an actual handwritten card! It shows you care and you’re willing to invest time in doing so. It’s a lot more impactful than an email, though if you’re unable to send a card send a thank you email at a minimum.

That said, just remember that email is an easy option but it’s not very personal and can get lost in cluttered inboxes. It’s better to use email more for reminders and content. Following up with email also makes it possible to include a link to a relevant article about your industry or something you talked about in your first conversation, in order to provide value to the prospect. Like the handwritten note, it shows you’re willing to put extra effort in.

When following up by phone, first send a reminder and agenda in an email the day before your call. Then make sure you call on time and that you have a strong opening statement. Avoid something generic like, “I just wanted to make sure…” Instead, be clear and concise and to the point. Re-introduce yourself and your company, and reiterate what was discussed in the previous call, including any pain points you learned about.

You can also follow up on LinkedIn and Twitter by liking comments and updates they make, but beware looking like a stalker.

The “when” of sales follow up
We’ve covered the who, the what and the how. Now for the when, because this should be strategic too.

Send an email immediately after your first call summarizing the conversation, and providing more recommendations or other valuable content. If you get voicemail, leave a message and tell them you’ll try back in 10 minutes. Leave a second message if they’re still not there. Call again 4 hours later (a half day later) and remind them of your first conversation just in case they forgot. If you still haven’t gotten through, make four follow up calls, spaced three business days apart to show your dedication without being excessive. Here’s a suggested a strategy for touch point timing from Hubspot:

  • Day 1: Call and email
  • Day 2: Email and Twitter
  • Day 3: Twitter
  • Day 5: Email and LinkedIn
  • Day 7: Email
  • Day 10: Call and email
  • Day 17: Email and Twitter
  • Day 21: LinkedIn
  • Day 28: Call and email

Sales takes persistence and persistence happens with follow up! Follow these follow up guidelines, and you’ll be staying in touch with hot and warm leads both, and increasing your chances of increased sales.

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