As 2016 draws to a close, sales teams are hoping to finish the year strong.
Still, there are unreached numbers and distant quotas. What could be done now–just a few weeks before the year ends–to seal the deal, or maybe even to put these deals in a better position for 2017?
Surely, if there’s one thing salespeople need to be pushing the pedal on right now, it’s following up–attending to those pending deals, unresponsive leads, and those countless contacts on your “I’ll get back to you” list.
Despite the fact that closed deals often come from a series of conversations and very rarely from just one, salespeople still struggle with follow-ups.
So we asked 20 experts, “What’s your #1 sales follow-up tip?”
The answers are insightful and eye-opening–all of them reinforcing the fact that follow-ups are necessary if you want to succeed in sales.
Here are their responses.
U.S. CEO and President of beBee.com
When you make a sales follow-up call the most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to provide something useful to the potential customer. If your only intention is to see if they are ready to buy, your potential client will just see you as an annoyance and someone who is just looking to part them from their money.
It’s better to have something they want to know or can use: Something they can use in their business, a free offer, a new price, or a change in the product or service that is beneficial to them. Your goal is that the potential customer should always get something positive from you.
They will then always take your calls, answer your emails and chose you and your company when it is time to buy.
The future of sales is realtime. Following up with prospects hours, days or weeks later is like ignoring a person when they walked into your store and sending them postcards in hopes that they come back. Not very effective.
Talk to your prospects when they’re most interested in your product or service. In a world where any person can live stream themselves across the globe with nothing more than an iPhone you need to add more tools to your toolbox. The days of relying only on email and phone calls to close deals is over. Welcome to the new era of selling.
VP of Sales, Avrios
Ensure you have an agreement with your prospect when you will be in contact again to follow up. Helps both sides to set expectations and you won’t surprise anybody when you reach out.
Pro tip: if you do set a time and date to follow up, commit to it 100%. If you keep up with what you promised, you set a high standard to this relationship as well as to what they can expect from working with you.
Chief Marketing Officer, CMO Temps, LLC
You need to reboot your initial approach. Take some time to gain rapport and build your credibility. Help the executive understand how a relationship with you could reduce their risk. Your main goal is to develop a deep level of trust.
If they trust you they are more likely to open up and let you ask the questions that would extract their pain points and determine if they can create funding for your project. If you understand their pain points you will then be in a better position to customize your sales process to address their exact needs. And that’s what “following-up” is really about.
Founder, Innovation Nights
Fast, fast, fast is my number 1 tip for sales follow-up. At every Mass Innovation Nights event (92 of them so far!) we tell the entrepreneurs to have a strategy for following up with sales leads as quickly as possible because they grow cold so fast.
When we go to an event for Innovation Women, we try to get the cards and names into our system and send out a follow-up message as soon as we get back to the office. In a perfect world, I might try to get that initial message out right from the show floor!
President, People First Productivity Solutions
DWYSYWD (pronounced dee-whiz-ee-wid) stands for Do What You Say You Will Do. DWYSYWD is the behavior we first observe in people to determine whether or not they are credible. Your prospects are paying attention, judging whether or not you are credible and trustworthy, and expecting you to follow up–even in small ways–precisely as you promise.
So don’t say “I’ll call back tomorrow” unless you will call back tomorrow. Deliver proposals on time. Find the answers you said you’d get. Preserve your credibility by doing what you say you will do.
President, Sales for Life
Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result… is insanity. Not only do you need a multi-touch cadence, that cadence needs to diversify over multiple communication mediums. I love testing phone calls, email, twitter, LinkedIn, text… and see if one is more consistently returned by a specific buyer.
Don’t assume the medium you’re most comfortable with is the same communication medium your buyer prefers. I have some buyers that return texts in minutes, while other clearly have twitter alerts on their phone. Recently I’ve been using Facebook chat to talk to buyers as well.
Marketing Manager, CloserIQ
Be concise and upfront Prospects don’t have time to read lengthy emails.
They also already know why you’re following up, so a short and direct approach demonstrates you respect their time.
As a general guideline, keep emails to less than 200 words — because the longer the email, the less chance it has of being read. To write more concise emails, try filtering out unnecessary phrases like “just checking in.” You’ll be more effective if you get to your CTA without meandering.
Project Manager, McLeod & More
My number one tip is for sales follow-ups is pretty simple: Actually do it. Most salespeople don’t. It’s easy to miss when you have a lot of leads or you’re overwhelmed wth new accounts. If you don’t have a CRM system, create one for yourself that keeps you accountable for consistent follow-up.
Founder, JUST Creative
Persistence and perseverance. People lead busy lives and can’t always reply to that email or call, so constant reminders is the key to staying top of mind. Eventually, they will get back to you!
Oil & Gas Sales Expert, Modalpoint, LLC
Make sure you clearly define next steps and get buy-in from the prospect, for every step of your sales process. Having open and clear communications, along with understanding your prospects buying process is also key.
You should be on a journey together with your prospect, not waiting on them to lead you through it. If your prospect does not see the value in working with you as a partner, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong. And your time is probably better spent elsewhere.
And your time is probably better spent elsewhere.
Content Marketing Practioner, The Social Media Hat
My most effective follow-up messages have always been one where, instead of directly following-up on the sale, I offer value.
While most follow-up messages say something like, “Hi! Just wanted to touch base to see if you read my email about XYZ…” – instead, give the prospect something of real value and interest. It could be a link to an article, or even better, a PDF white paper that you’ve created specifically for this purpose.
Now, you can send a quick email that says, “Hi! I thought you’d benefit from our latest industry research. It’s packed with actionable advice and interesting statistics. The full report is attached. Just let me know if you have any questions, or find any of the recommendations particularly interesting.”
My best follow-up tip for my sales team is locking down the preferred form of communication for the prospect. I find that if you have the perfect prospective client, but always call them when they prefer email, you will not secure that sale.
So my team will always make sure to find out how the person prefers to be contacted for any correspondence. When you find out their preference, make sure and note it and have all follow ups and outreach done via that method to best secure the sale.
VP of Marketing Technology, SHIFT Communications
The number one answer for sales follow-ups? DO THEM.
When I worked in sales, procrastinating on followups was the #1 way sales people lost sales. They let deals lapse, let prospects go silent, and left money on the table. There’s no substitution for follow-ups – and human follow-ups, at that. Don’t rely just on your software, because software is fallible and rarely implemented as well as a human’s personal touch.
Chief Marketing Officer, HealthJoy
Get commitment for the follow-up.
I think the biggest mistake I see salespeople make is not establishing time and date for a follow-up call on the first call. I stress that strongly with all our sales people here at HealthJoy.com, you need to get a firm date before you hang up. It’s easy to just say “I’ll call you next week” or some other vague statement and rush off a call but this just makes the sales cycle longer.
Take a few minutes on your first call at the end and try to get a firm commitment, ideally you should be sending a calendar invite at the end of the call to your prospect. When you get it on their calendar, you’re usually golden.
Director, EdTech Review India
Respect customers’ request; be patient. Don’t get desperate and overdo.
We see and experience sales reps. getting desperate. To get the account they start ringing bells and email every day which gets annoying for an individual and turn them off which is very bad from the sales point.
Sales follow-ups, I typically keep them very short such as Just wondering if you’re crazy busy (reply with “1”) or not interested at all (reply with “0”). Mind replying with either 1 or 0 ? I set them up so I have 4 emails in this fashion going every 2 or 3 days or so. People will respond usually.
Co-Founder, Black Shell Media, LLC
Stay focused on the value proposition in question, and put yourself in the client’s shoes. If you had to balance budget, goal achievement and deadlines, what decision would you make? Figure out how the client is evaluating your value proposition, and make sure you address their concerns holistically.
Co-Founder at Enplug, Inc
Personalize the message with new information that is tailored to the customer. This can range from new updates or features to examples of the product being used in a way relevant to the prospect. We regularly feature customers and use cases like internal communications on the Enplug blog, and might even generate a blog post specifically to cater to a segment of users we are interacting with via e-mail.
Social Media Manager, Consultant & Strategist, The Link
Always, always call back on time. It’s never good to start a relationship off on the wrong foot, so do not be late with your follow-up call, not even by a minute. When a customer receives a follow-up call on schedule, it shows that you value your customers time, you are prompt and this will reflect well on your company and products.
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