Published on September 1st, 2014 | by Susan Baka0
How to Master the Art of Follow Up
The ABCs (Always Be Closing) of sales need a little updating in today’s market
By Susan Baka
It’s rare to make a sale on the first attempt with a new prospect. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study found that 80% of new business materializes on or after the fifth sales attempt. Follow up is vital. But how do you keep prospects interested? When and how often should you follow up? You don’t want to be forgotten, but you also don’t want to become an annoying pest. And you don’t want to waste your time with those who will never buy your product or service.
Here are five tips to get results from prospect follow ups:
1. Have a process. When business is brisk, we tend to fall down on follow up with new prospects. Put a process in place, including a calendar and what action you’ve taken, so that you don’t lose track of valuable opportunities. And follow up with indirect prospects: gather website data about who has visited your site or downloaded information from it. Make sure that you contact event and trade show attendees too.
2. Tell them what you want. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to take your eyes off the prize. If you want a meeting, for instance, ask for it. But don’t be needy or vague. For example, don’t just say, “Could we please meet sometime?” Say, “I’m available to meet on (date and time). Are you free then?”
3. Break through the noise with multiple media and creativity. It was a long time ago that Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” But with all the distractions and competitors approaching your target, it’s as true today as it ever was. Phone calls can go to voicemail. Emails can get lost in a full inbox. But a postcard or certified mail piece can be an attention getter. You have to be bold, creative and memorable in your communication. For example, send a mini flashlight with the message, “I appreciated your time today. I hope you found our conversation as illuminating as I did.”
4. Get personal. Include something about the prospect as an individual (you’d be amazed what you can find out via social media), like where she/he went to school or a previous city lived in. You can also customize and show your value by sending articles or information of interest (without including a sales pitch). When you do pitch, focus on helping by solving a business problem or issue.
5. Know when and how to back off. By using a combination of email, phone, note, package, etc. you can make up to six or seven follow up attempts. Once you get some attention, if you’re unsure whether the prospect is ready for a follow up meeting, ask if it is premature to schedule one and what you need to do first. If it becomes obvious that you aren’t going to make a sale, why continue? A good “Dear John” letter, however, doesn’t slam shut the door. Instead, it concisely recaps why you were trying to connect, including your value proposition, and is friendly enough to let the recipient reply now or in the future.
By changing up your follow up methods, using a little humour, and showing yourself to be a valuable connection to have, you will be remembered – not as a nuisance, but in a positive way. And being well regarded drives sales.
President, Bay Communications & Marketing Inc.