Are you making the critical mistake of not following through with following up with prospects and existing clients? Learn sales follow up tips from one of the top sales experts.
- If you don’t follow up with prospects and even existing clients, you risk being “out of sight, out of mind” when they’re ready to buy.
- Business growth strategist Meridith Elliott Powell explains that “sales always happen in the follow-up.” That’s why you should leverage your CRM to schedule touchpoints (with appropriate cadences).
- It’s also crucial, she says, to add value with content (but don’t get too obsessed) and to track your progress.
Newton’s First Law, a.k.a. the law of inertia, tells us that a body in motion tends to stay in motion. If you roll a ball, it will keep rolling unless something stops it. But the opposite is true, too: a body at rest tends to remain at rest.
Whether or not you slept through physics class, you still know that’s especially true for us humans. Inertia (and plenty of coffee) can propel us toward our target. But interruptions, distractions and disorganization can derail us in an instant.
That’s why we have to overcome inertia and follow through until we reach our goals. And in sales, following through means following up until we seal the deal.
Sales Follow Up Tips
But when it comes to circling back around, sales reps often falter.
“We pretty much suck at this,” says Meridith Elliott Powell, successful business coach, author, and motivational speaker. She argues that “it’s harder than ever to get people’s attention, and to differentiate yourself from the competition.”
Meridith says you’ll close more deals if you focus on nurturing prospects and clients rather than just hunting them down. She states that without a follow-up process, you are opening the door to your competition (5 Strategies for a Powerful Follow-up System).
On an episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Meridith shares simple techniques that can transform your follow-up routine. She talks about finding a cadence that both works for you and your prospects, the virtue of patience, and why follow-ups are crucial for existing clients as well.
1. Don’t get cocky: Use your calendar
Meridith has a theory about why the follow-up struggle is real.
“I’m a salesperson at heart,” she says. “We’re all about the hunt. We like to chase what’s new. There’s no bigger high than actually getting a customer to sit down and talk with you.”
When we realize we’ve got to nurture them to close a sale, the process “loses a little bit of its sex appeal,” Meridith adds.
Statistics suggest it takes anywhere from eight to 12 attempts to get a prospect to bite –– but unfortunately, many reps give up after about three. Follow-up is everything with prospects, but in today’s marketplace, you need to follow up with existing customers too.
“If somebody has bought from you, they trust you. They believe in you,” Meridith says. And the worst thing that could happen is for one of your customers to discover a new product or service they want or need –– from somebody else.
It’s also unfortunate when a prospect says, we’re not ready. But two weeks, six months or two years after your last phone call, anything can change. By that time, though, they’ve forgotten about you: Out of sight, out of mind.
“What you need is a system, which really begins with a schedule –– a series of steps to use,” she explains. “But rather than thinking of them as individual steps, understand that they work together. They have a compounding effect.”
The best place to create that schedule is within a trusted CRM (like VanillaSoft!). However, at the beginning of her sales career, Meridith admits she, herself, “fought the CRM.”
She falsely believed she would remember everything she needed to follow up on, and that she’d stay up on top of it. Now, when asked about the biggest mistake she’s ever made, she immediately says not using a CRM.
2. The rhythm is going to get you (more deals)
Every lead requires follow up, but especially qualified leads because they have a need for what you’re selling. Typically, more than 50% of qualified leads are interested in buying. But the chances of interacting with them at the exact moment they’re ready to buy are slim to none.
“Nobody got up this morning, got down on their knees and prayed to God that a sales professional would call them,” Meridith says.
That’s why you’ve got to nurture that lead along. If you don’t, you’re opening the door for competition.
This is especially important if you’ve initiated a handful of touches already. Chances are, you’ll have done all the heavy lifting but won’t reap the rewards.
“I guarantee you,” says Meridith, “the next person who picks up [contact with your prospect], if they just stay in the ring for four or five more touches, they’ll close the deal.”
She tells her clients that cadence depends on where the prospect is in the sales cycle.
— > A prospect who’s literally told you in a real conversation that they’re ready to do business: rapid-fire follow up.
— > A prospect who expressed interest, but can’t buy right now: follow up every other month.
— > A promising lead that hasn’t shown interest yet: check in two or three times a year.
“I’m like a barnacle on the side of a boat,” she quips. “If you fit my target market, I’m staying in touch until you pull the trigger.”
Meridith recently closed a deal with a prospect she’s been chasing for two years. “Patience always makes a difference,” she notes.
But the only way to accomplish that is with a strategy in place –– a cadence that “makes sense for them, not for you,” she adds.
3. Keep cool (even if they’ve gone cold)
Meridith claims that follow-up is more about adding value than asking for business.
Wait, isn’t that backwards? We should always be asking, right?
Not so, she says.
Meridith has seen her share of prospects who claim: You’re amazing. I’m ready to buy. But when she followed up immediately, they went dark.
It happens to every single one of us, she adds. A hot lead goes suddenly cold. Why?
“You have to understand that when people don’t respond to you, it’s not about you,” Meridith explains. “Life is insanely busy right now.”
Especially now. In the age of coronavirus, civil unrest, and hurricane season, who knows what might be happening in the prospect’s company, or personal life? So even if you’ve heard them say that they’re ready to do business, don’t push too hard.
The same goes for clients or prospects who haven’t overtly expressed interest, of course. Asking too early and selling too hard will make anyone pull away.
If you keep pinging them over and over, especially in the midst of a crisis, you might reach a point at which the prospect thinks, I don’t care that I loved her and her product or if it’s the best thing on the market. I hate her now; I’m not going to buy from her, even if she was the last person I could buy from.
4. Take your temperature (not just because it’s 2020)
Meridith advises tracking, measuring, and analyzing the results of follow-up calls, especially the conversations, appointments, and deals that result.
If you look at these on a monthly basis, you’ll start to see what’s working and what’s not, and you’ll ensure that your follow-up system is constantly improving.
A while back, Meridith wrote an article about sales leadership and how it can take your team to the next level. It was published in a leading B2B magazine. She shared it with her network and garnered quite a bit of positive response.
“When I do the review, I’m able to see what my audience is responding to and what they’re interested in,” Meridith says. That’s how she makes sure that her follow-up system is constantly getting better and better and better.
Another example: In the age of COVID-19, Meridith is not booking speaking engagements, so she has shifted her follow-up system to focus more on strategic planning and coaching – which she can do remotely.
5. Do the ‘70/30 split’
In a nutshell, “balance” in the sales game means you can’t spend all your time creating content or other things that add value without actually asking for business.
“Most things I read and write about, I learned the hard way,” says Meridith.
A while back, she spoke at a conference, and the organizers said, we’d love to have you back next year.
“I assumed that meant I’d be speaking on the platform again. So my cocky self followed up with them –– all year long. I sent value-added articles. I published in their magazine. I did their podcast. I did everything to add value.”
But a month before the conference, she hadn’t heard from them. She began to feel nervous. She called the conference folks, who simply replied: We’re so sorry. We’ve already booked everybody, but stay in touch.
Remember what Mom always said about the word ass-u-me?
That’s why Meridith recommends a 70-30 split: “Add value, but spend 30% of your time saying, hey, I’m still here, and I want to do business with you.”
She tells us to remember that sales always happen in the follow-up. At the same time, she encourages us to follow our intuition.
“I always say that the best sales coach you’re ever going to have is yourself,” she says.