Selling can be frustrating. You spend hours practically chained to your desk researching potential clients and finding out the right angle to approach them. You try to make the initial contact and if you’re lucky, you meet some of them in person and you sell.
But, in spite of all that, nothing may happen. You may make no sales and hear nothing back from your prospects.
You fear that there’s something wrong with your product, service, brand or prices. Or perhaps that it’s something that you have said during the presentation. Out of shame, or desperation you move on to another prospect and start the process all over.
The thing is, your sale might not be lost. Most sales don’t happen during the first presentation. You need more than just a meeting to make the sale.
This happens for a number of reasons:
- Your prospect might not need you right now
- Their decision making process is complicated
Think of large corporations. No decision there is made without forming a committee, a number of meetings and getting a number of signatures. This might be the case with your prospect too.
- They may still be uncertain about you and need reassurance about hiring you
- They are uncertain about their project
- Lastly, they might have not been impressed with you
And in that case there isn’t much you can do. However, until you know for sure, you should assume it’s one of the other 4 points above.
In other words, until said otherwise, you still have a chance to win the sale; you just have to work for it a bit more. And, I have the best tool for you to do so.
A Follow Up
It may seem that a follow up is one of the most guarded secrets in sales. I certainly have noticed many sales experts deliberately omitting this part, or reduce it to a simple phone call two weeks after the meeting.
There is, however much more to a follow up than this. On many occasions, you win new business through a good follow up strategy.
Before we go any further though, let me specify what I understand as a follow up. By no means is it calling the prospect to check if they have received your promotional literature or had a chance to think about your offer. A properly conducted follow up is a means to keep in touch with prospects that haven’t bought from you yet. Most importantly, you do it with the prospects absolute permission.
How to Successfully Follow Up with Prospects
The secret to a good follow up is getting the prospect to agree to it. Naturally, you don’t need a permission to contact your potential client again, however, I can guarantee you that you won’t make a great impression by doing so.
Instead, get your prospects permission to stay in touch. You can do it by simply ending your sales call, if it hasn’t progressed to discussing an actual project, by asking if you could:
1. Call the prospect in 2-3 weeks time (or whatever time period is appropriate in your market) to see if they would like to discuss the project then. You can repeat this request every time you ring them if there is no progress in a sale.
2. Add the prospect to your mailing list. State the benefits of being a part of it. If you offer great value, I can assure you that most prospects will have no problem with that.
3. Send them a revised proposal after a certain amount of time. This is by far the weakest form of a follow up, however it still can work for you. Just remember to arrange with your prospect that you will check if they had a chance to act on it.
4. Another great way to ask for a follow up, especially if you are not comfortable asking the prospect in person, is to email them after the meeting. Use this opportunity to thank them for their time (which you should do anyway) and end your email with a follow up suggestion.
Any of the above is usually enough to keep in touch with the prospect with their permission. And all that is left to do is to simply act on that.
If your prospect has agreed that you would get in touch in a couple of weeks time, ring them then. Remind them who you are and ask if they had a chance to think about your proposal, or if they would like to meet again to discuss the project further. Do not prolong the call. If the prospect tells you that they didn’t have time to consider your offer, thank them and ask if you could follow up in a couple of weeks again.
If you added the prospect to your mailing list, simply continue sending your newsletters. There is nothing else you can do here except for providing insanely useful advice regularly. I can guarantee you that if you send them quality information in your newsletters, when the time comes they will get in touch with you.
Quite often, you lose a sale because you simply give up. By persisting and using follow up to stay in front of the prospect all the time you increase your chances of making that sale after all.
Related reading: 15 Templates for a Sales Follow Up Email
Sales Photo via Shutterstock
I would add that you should be mindful of what followup method they seem most receptive to. I hate getting followup calls, but a followup email keeps you on my mind and I’ll reply to that if I need more info, etc.
Hi Robert, many thanks for the reply. I agree, those follow up calls can be a little irritating, however, from the salesman perspective, they are the most effective way to follow up.
Robert: I say the same regarding receiving the traditional followup call out of the blue… 😉 I prefer to receive an email or that the company is reaching out to me via social media, e.g. Twitter. I like Anita’s wording, “touches” that keep you top of mind.”
Hi Pawel, Welcome! and congrats on your first article here.
Another thought for follow-up is social media. It’s weak, but social media can be one of those famous “touches” that keep you top of mind.
If the prospect company is a small business and on social media such as Twitter, you could follow their account on Twitter and occasionally retweet their items. Or follow their Facebook page and participate there.
(If from a larger company this won’t work as well. The person probably won’t have anything to do with the Twitter or Facebook account and that will just be a waste of time.)
Hi Anita, thank you and many thanks for the opportunity. More posts to come soon 🙂
I agree, social media can be great for follow up, especially between small businesses. I see it as a replacement or a counterpart of a good, old mailing list signup that I mention in my post. As you say, it’s an emerging trend and I believe we should see more of that in the nearest future.
Great article. A key means to track and keep pace with followups is a good CRM system. By scheduling,coordinating and tracking followups with key events in CRM effective communications can take place in a timely organized fashion.
Bill, i couldn’t agree more! A good system is half of your sales success. Thanks for the comment!
In your opinion, what is a good CRM system to use to facilitate the sales/follow up process?
A great article Pawel. This is very timely as with us getting our glove business ready to go we had also just done a sample mailing and this gives us a good insight as to how to follow up properly. Thanks again
Telephone calls unquestionable are the best. If you don’t get a call back however you dont know if the prospect is sitting on the fence for you or not.
Next best I like sending email with a “read receipt”. If they acknowledge reading it, i’m encouraged, even if they don’t respond immediately.
Don’t pop my bubble, but at least i believe they are showing some interest and leaning over my side of the decision fence!