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by David Houston David Houston on July 11, 2016

The Art of the Follow-Up: Why One Sales Call is Never Enough

If you're looking for leverage to advance your sales, mastering the art of the follow-up is it.

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Anyone can make a phone call. It’s the follow-up that distinguishes the bad sales people from the good; the good sales people from the great.

Did you know that 80 percent of sales require five follow-ups? Yet, the average sales person only makes two follow-up attempts, and 44 percent of salespeople give up after just one follow-up. In this article, we will teach you how and when to follow-up with your prospects. More importantly, we’ll offer advice to prevent you from pestering your prospects and unnecessarily invading their schedule.

Step One: Set the stage for a successful follow-up by entering into your first correspondence with purpose. 

Only 2 percent of cold calls result in an appointment. Instead, use social media, your CRM, and other prospecting tools to learn as much as possible about your prospect and conduct a warm call. The goal is to have a reason for calling instead of blindly reaching out and risking an awkward, uneventful conversation. The more you know, the more you’ll have to say and the better able you will be to relate to what your prospect has to say. Conversation will flow more easily and you will have the insight necessary to communicate with confidence.

 

Step Two: Recognize the power of email and use it.

Email marketing has 2x higher ROI than cold calling, networking or trade shows.

Here’s the catch. You can’t be generic in your email follow-up approach or you risk your prospect dismissing your outreach. Don’t lead off with “just checking in to see…” or “just wanted to check in to find out…”. Be more direct. Determine what the objective of the email is and lead off with that. Maybe it’s to set a face-to-face appointment, or to ask a question. Clearly state your purpose and use the subject line to reinforce that purpose. This, paired with the preview text (the first couple sentences in the body of your email that display below the subject line in your prospect’s inbox) is what your prospect will use to filter which emails they open.

Expert tip:  HubSpot recommends  creating a sense of urgency in the subject line by using words such as “quick” or “tomorrow.” Some studies even suggest omitting the subject line altogether to yield higher open rates. In other words, either do the subject line well or don’t do it at all.

 

Step Three: Get your timing right and cease the moment.

Don’t hesitate or put outreach off another day; 30 to 50 percent of sales go to the first sales person to contact a prospect. You could end up losing the sale to someone else. Likewise, don’t wait to long to make your follow-up call. Your prospect could get impatient and start working with someone else. 

As for exact timing? It truly depends on the nature of your prior interaction with a prospect and what type of follow-up you’re sending. The rule of thumb is:

  • 24 hours for “thank you” emails, or to follow-up after a meeting or conference
  • 1 to 2 weeks to follow-up on a meeting request
  • Every 3 months to “catch up” with a connection

You also need to consider which day and time of day best suits your prospect. According to research, the best days are ranked in order as follows:

  • Tuesday
  • Thursday
  • Wednesday

And the best time of day to send email is:

  • Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
  • Between 8 p.m and Midnight (likely because people check their email before going to bed)
  • Around 2 p.m. (when people are looking for distractions)
  • Around 6 a.m. (because many professionals begin their day by checking email while still in bed)

 

Step four — be human and put the buyer first. Only 13 percent of customers believe a sales person can understand their needs.

Table the charming sales talk and make sure your voice isn’t the only one being heard. What you learn in your initial conversation with a prospect will be the fuel you need to enter into the next conversation. You’re also making a first impression that will set the tone for the remainder of your business relationship with a prospect.

You want to be friendly but direct. Casual but professional, and always respectful of their time. Think of yourself as a consultant rather than a sales person. Your job is to understand what your prospect needs, and help them determine if the product or service you offer is genuinely the right fit for them.

The most important thing to remember with each correspondence is to always add value in some way. Whether it’s providing information they need, or offering professional insight — give your prospect what they won’t easily find online. Honest, friendly, well-timed conversation that adds value to your prospects life rarely get’s perceived as obnoxious or intrusive. It’s also the best way to develop trust and secure a prominent place on their list of companies to consider.

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David Houston

Written by David Houston

David’s 30 years of marketing experience bring valuable insight into every aspect of a company’s marketing approach. He naturally sees the bigger picture and has a strategic approach to marketing that is laser-focused on measurably growing his clients’ businesses.

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