What is your “follow-up reputation” in your business? Is it ‘always and promptly’? Or, is it ‘usually fairly timely’? Or, could it be ‘doubtful it will get done’? The highest performers keep their promises and exceed the expectations of their prospects and clients. Be a bear about this one. It isn’t a task to be dreaded; it is an opportunity to be seized. You can set yourself apart with good follow-up skills.
What is the difference between “following up” and “following through”?
If your prospect declines or delays the decision to do business with you, you still have obligations to that person, which requires following up. If they do become your customer, you need to follow through; ensuring that every promise is completely fulfilled.
Let’s take a look at the bad news first: No sale! Time for following up with this prospect.
First, the prospect deserves to be sincerely thanked for her time and for giving you an opportunity to exchange information. A hand-written note is always appreciated and sets you apart from a vast majority of salespeople that take shortcuts.
Next, you need to stop and objectively reflect upon the circumstances that caused the prospect to say, “No, thank you.” Depending upon the situation, you may have a high likelihood of landing the account sometime down the road.
Here is a list of questions that you should ask yourself when debriefing each sales call:
- Did they decline because I proposed a solution before fully exploring their needs and collaborating solutions with them?
- Did I do my best possible job of asking questions; encouraging them to share their ideas, or did I do too much “presenting” of my ideas and possible solutions?
- Did I adjust to their pace (faster versus slower) and to their priority (task versus relationship)?
- Am I confident that I helped them make the best possible decision that is in their best interests?
- By behaving respectfully and professionally, have I left the door open for doing business later if their situation changes?
- Based on their reasoning for not buying, might the situation change in the future?
True sales masters become comfortable hearing “no”, as long as they have gotten to the real reason(s) for the answer.
After careful, objective analysis, you are now fully prepared to follow up with this prospect. We believe that in many cases you can often turn a “no” into a “yes” if you execute customized, long-term follow-up campaigns.
It is common for salespeople to be in the right place (a qualified prospect), but at the wrong time. Many prospects, if empowered to educate themselves over time, can—and often do—change their own minds. However, no one likes to have to do so in front of a salesperson.
There are two different types of follow-ups that you can execute; each serves a specific function.
The first is a standard type of follow-up. You send literature, case studies, testimonials and other “value proposition” information designed to further educate the prospect about the value your product/service delivers. Sometimes this does work, but no matter how cleverly disguised, it might convey a message similar to: “You didn’t say ‘yes’ during our discussion, so here’s evidence that may help you change your mind.”
While this “traditional” practice of marketing is acceptable, it can be improved. Although educating prospects is never a bad idea, “attention erosion” is making it harder to get your messages received, read and digested. Businesspeople today are over-taxed, stretched thin and have little time to spare reading your literature and newsletters.
However, we bring good news: The second type of follow-up makes the first type much more effective…
Dale Carnegie taught us that to get what you want, first help others get what they want. He said that if we live our lives helping others achieve their goals; everything we desire will come back ten-fold. We heartily agree.
“Treat others the way they want to be treated,” is my mantra. It’s The Platinum Rule®. By blending the Carnegie philosophy with The Platinum Rule, then adding a mix of cutting-edge customer retention management (CRM) technology, you are able to create a new method of following up with everyone in a customized, effective manner that ensures marketing messages are received with open arms (and open minds!).
Goal-specific Communication is the act of sending people (prospects, customers, clients, colleagues, referral partners, etc…) information that helps each of them achieve specific goals or seize a new opportunity.
If you take the time to ask interesting questions and pay careful attention to answers, you can now leverage technology to automate follow-ups that send articles, tips and ideas to each of your contacts that match their goals, challenges, interests and preferences.
Pay careful attention to this statement: If you send people helpful information—especially if it is unrelated to what you sell—you will position yourself as a helpful, thoughtful professional, and not as a pesky, pushy salesperson.
For example: Let’s say that you’re calling on a sales manager and exploring ways to possibly help the sales team develop new skills and create more effective marketing messages. While your company happens to provide solutions in these areas, you also discover that the prospect is relatively new to his position and has not received formalized management training. Additionally, you learn that they invest large amounts of time, focus and money attending several trade shows.
After the sales call, you execute a “blend” of follow-ups for this prospect. You select a series of articles written by experts in the areas of interviewing, hiring, managing and interpersonal communications; all containing information that the prospect would find helpful in becoming more successful in his career. These are “relationship building” messages; chosen specifically to help this prospect become a more effective manager. These messages contain no information about you, your company or your products; they only serve to help the prospect.
When the prospect receives a few emails or articles mailed from you, he begins to perceive you as someone who is thoughtful, and also as someone who takes action on his ideas. As you might imagine, this type of communication begins building a bridge between you and each of your prospects.
More importantly, this approach dramatically increases the odds that when you send “value proposition” information (literature, case studies, etc…) that the prospect will receive each message with an open mind.
By truly helping each prospect, you have earned “mindshare” with each person. By matching messages to the goals, preferences and interests of every prospect, you eliminate “attention erosion”. People in your CRM actually anticipate your follow-up messages!
If you discover that the timing is poor with a prospect, you “fill the time” by sending helpful information to him. If the prospect suggests that you call back in six months or so, you tell your CRM what type of articles to send, when you want them sent, and ask for your CRM to remind you to call back at the appropriate time. In other words, you don’t get frustrated when you are in the right place at the wrong time. Instead, simply leverage this to your advantage. By filling the time gaps with showing the prospect that you care about their success, you ensure that when you call back, your phone calls are eagerly accepted and/or your voicemails get prompt return calls.
As many thought leaders often remind us: If you want to get everything you want, first help others get what they want!
If your intention is to help other people; help them make decisions that are in the best interest of their company and/or career (even if it means not buying your product or service), help them achieve more, help them solve problems and help them succeed, then you are living The Platinum Rule. You are leveraging the power of persuasion in a positive fashion to create win/win outcomes in your business relationships.
As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his best-selling book Blink, almost every person has the innate ability to detect authenticity in another person in mere seconds. As importantly, they do it on a subconscious level without even knowing they are doing so.
Here are some important questions you should pose to your sales manager and to your marketing manager:
- Are we effectively leveraging information gleaned from the field (sales calls)?
- Is our contact management system (or CRM) being used to full capacity?
- Are we effectively communicating with everyone in our database?
- Does every one of our prospects know about each product and/or service that we offer, and why they should be buying from us?
- Are we effectively cross-selling to each customer who makes a purchase with our company?
- Should we consider matching our benefits to the DISC behavioral styles of our prospects?
- Since it is now possible to automate customized follow-ups (even if salespeople forget), would we grow our sales if we added effective CRM technology to our process?
- Do we have a system for developing leads, cross-selling, increasing customer retention and growing referrals?
These are very important questions for your team to consider.
While it is important for you to learn how to adapt to each prospect or customer during your sales process, it is equally as important for you to market/communicate effectively to ensure that you have a steady stream of qualified prospects, your current customers feel appreciated and thought of often, and you never lose another client due to perceived indifference.