Become a Follow-Up Fanatic

Become a Follow-Up Fanatic

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It’s time to shine. Targets have been set, marketing activities are in full swing, and sales collateral is hot off the press. Like a bull in the chute, your sales team is clawing the ground, frothing at the mouth, hungry to corner and close prospects. Time for one last pep talk…”OK, everybody,” you say, your voice rising to a crescendo, “let’s get out there and…nurture.”

You are surprised; the word ‘nurture’ is not exactly a word that a salesperson expects to hear from the sales manager. But given the prevailing mindset of B2B and B2C prospects today, it’s just the kind of tactical advice a fire-breathing sales force needs to hear to set the tone for a successful sales campaign. There’s a perception – often a valid one – that salespeople tend to be hunters, not nurturers. But some experts feel that if you go through a nurturing process with your prospects, you will have a competitive advantage over the hunters, and your margins will improve.

Resist the easy sale

This attitude is great, as long as that energy is properly channeled during the sales process. What plagues many lead-conversion efforts is an over-emphasis on low-hanging fruit – ‘sales you can close the same day’. Findings from a recent study by international lead-generation firm Resource Nation support this. The study finds a direct correlation between the speed at which a company’s sales force follows up with leads and the company’s lead-conversation rate; yet, it also reveals that many companies are surprisingly weak in their follow-up with prospects.

For example, only 33% of companies followed up with prospects within an hour of prospects submitting a request online for more information about products or services; a larger portion – 47% – followed up within the second hour after contact by prospects; 14% didn’t follow up at all. What’s more, 37% of companies failed to follow up with a second phone call if their first call to a prospect went unanswered, while 33% didn’t even bother to leave a message if they couldn’t reach the prospect. Lurking between the lines of those findings is a compelling, encouraging message for business: If they stress responsiveness, resourcefulness and relationship nurturing during the sales process, they’ll put themselves in a position to beat their competitors – even the most entrenched ones – to the deal.

It’s follow up or die in today’s competitive landscape. Here’s how to get it right:

Be first to respond

There’s no substitute for timeliness. The first person to respond to the client is usually the person who’s going to close the deal. Waiting even several hours to respond to an Internet or phone lead leaves too much room for competitors to gain traction. Prospects that make the effort to contact you are likely to do so with a sense of urgency and they expect a similar urgency with your response. This is a very directed behaviour. They’re looking for something very specific from you, and most likely, they are looking to make a decision quickly, even if a long sales cycle is involved.

Take it personally

While Web-based vehicles certainly can play an integral role in advancing prospects through the sales process, there’s no substitute for person-to-person contact, either by phone or face-to-face. People respond well to warmth and human contact from a salesperson who actually speaks to whoever they’re considering doing business with. Having meaningful personal conversations is what closes the sale.

Track your touches

As vital as timely follow-up is in the sales process, it’s critical for salespeople to track their touches with prospects during the process. While customer relationship software is viewed by some as a luxury, others see it as essential for their growing businesses. Keep good, detailed records – how the prospect found you, what they did when they visited your website, who the decision-maker or decision-makers are, and the contact you had with them.

Be the prospect

Salespeople gain a distinct advantage by making the extra effort to understand their clients’ businesses and the problems clients are trying to solve, or the need they’re trying to fill, with the product or service you offer.

Follow-up Tips to close the deal

1. Be an information source
Find an article you think would interest prospects? Send it to them. It’s a non-salesy way to keep yourself on the radar screen and shows them what it would be like to partner with you.

2. Shoot straight
Stay away from ‘wishy-washy’ language. You want to drive a clear future, where you tell prospects exactly how you plan to go about following up with them.

3. Give prospects space
You want to let them feel like they’re dictating the pace of the process, and that you’re there to help them make a decision.

4. Don’t fear mistakes
Be cognisant of your weaknesses. You can often learn more about sales from your failures than your successes.

David Port is a freelancer who writes on small business, and financial and energy issues.