We’ve all gotten sales calls at inopportune times. As a sales professional, you don’t want to be that annoying salesperson on the other end of the phone. However, you also know that following up is a critical part of the sales process. The question is, how do you follow up without annoying your prospects?
Preparing for the follow-up
At the end of your first conversation with the prospect, ask them the best way to contact them for a follow-up. This is critical, because it lets the prospect know you’re going to be contacting them again, and it also allows you to get their preferred method of communication. Once you get their preferred method, make sure you track it in a system like CRM so that you can contact them the right way in the future.
Be sure you set a deadline, and track it so you don’t miss the appointment. Also, keep your contact information in a safe place so you always have it readily available.
Establish a timeline for your initial follow-up with business prospects. This can happen as soon as 24 to 48 hours from your first contact. Don’t wait too long to get back in touch.
When you make contact, be unique and stand out from all of the other sales calls and emails they’ll get that day. Here are some boring openers you should avoid when you contact your prospect:
“I wanted to call and see if you had any questions.”
“I am calling to see if you have come to a decision on our service.”
“I just wanted to make sure you got my e-mail.”
Instead, use one of the methods discussed below.
Making sure your email gets read
According to securelist.com, 63.5% of email in March 2014 was spam. With this much spam, you have to make your emails stand out.
When you send the customer a follow-up email, use a subject line that will get your email read. For example, if you spoke with Susan, you could use:
“Hi Susan – Here is the XYZ service info we spoke about on Wednesday”
This personalized subject gets their attention since you mention the service and time you last spoke. This way, they know the email is not unsolicited.
Make sure you keep your email brief, a couple of sentences if possible.
Add value for your client with the PS at the end. For example, “Susan, I found this article about a new cleaning process that might help save your company money.” By taking a few extra minutes to find helpful information for Susan, you will get an opportunity to increase trust.
Just a phone call away
You can send an initial email to remind the person about the follow-up phone call with an agenda of what you want to accomplish. This way when the phone rings, they will be expecting your call. When you set a time for a follow-up, it’s very important that you’re punctual. This helps to further build trust with your customer, and shows that you do what you say you will do.
When you call, make it early or late in the day. When you make a call at 7:30am or after 5:00 PM, a lot of the decision-makers are still in the office but alone and usually without a gatekeeper. This means they are more likely to pick up their calls.
Dealing with voicemail
Voicemail is a part of sales. Maybe the prospect is away from their desk and not able to answer the phone. If you do get voicemail, make sure you’re prepared to leave a message.
When you leave a message, don’t give too much information that will allow the person to make up their mind about your product or service. Have a call to action in your message and give them a specific reason to call back that will interest them.
Give your phone number twice. This way if the person doesn’t write it down the first time, they get a second chance without having to repeat the message.
Try to avoid leaving messages on a Friday afternoon because messages left at this time are the least likely to be returned. Monday mornings can also be a bad idea for voicemail as higher priorities demand attention, and your call may not be one of them. Some of the best times to leave a voicemail are 7 AM to 8 AM and 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM.
Combining phone and voicemail
Sometimes the best solution is to use a combination of phone calls and emails to reach your prospect. If it’s alright with the client (they didn’t specifically say “don’t email me!”), you can alternate between voicemail and email touches.
Other methods to stay in touch
Another method to stay in touch can be a handwritten note. This simple follow-up can have class and a personal touch. Notes are sometimes more likely to get through to the person than an email or even a phone call.
You can also use social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to connect with potential clients. However, proceed with caution in this area and only connect to one account initially. If you start connecting to every social media account they have, you might seem like you’re stalking them and get a very negative result.
Google Alerts can give you a powerful way of staying in touch with your clients. Using a Google Alert, you can have Google send you an email whenever it finds your prospect’s company is mentioned on the internet. This allows you to see news events which you can then use during your follow-up conversation as a point of interest. This shows your customer that you are interested in their business.
Grab their attention
When you get in touch with your contact using the methods described above, make sure you start the conversation by getting your prospect’s attention. You can ask about their company using information you found while doing research. If the prospect volunteered personal information in your first meeting (i.e. their kids’ soccer game, etc.), you can ask about those details.
The key here is to make your follow-up message about the prospect. This is not the time to make it all about yourself or your company. Providing a recap of your first meeting with prospect is another good way to break the ice. Be sure you are organized and have a plan before the follow-up conversation. This shows your prospect you are considerate of their time and are knowledgeable about their needs. And last but not least, say thank you at the end of the conversation.
If you don’t succeed with the first attempt follow-up, be persistent. However, there’s a fine line between persistence and stalking. Using your company’s sales policy, you can make sure that you properly communicate with your prospects without pestering them.
Always be polite and don’t act desperate. If you are only concerned with making the sale, you can come across as being too pushy or desperate. Prospects do not like dealing with people that are desperate.
Know when it’s time to break it off
If you’ve made a few attempts and are still unable to reach your client, it may be time for a final email or voicemail. When the time comes that you’re ready to make the final phone call or send the last email, you can try something like this:
“I know it’s been a while since we initially spoke and I’m guessing this is because you’re no longer interested in our service. I really don’t want to be a pest, so if you’re still interested, please call me at 555-2222. If I don’t hear back from you, I’m going to assume that you’ve chosen another service and I won’t bother you again. I wish you and your company the best of luck with their endeavors.”
By doing this, you are asking the prospect if they would like you to stop contacting them. If you don’t hear back, don’t take it personally. You are letting them off the hook for the deal, and this gives you the opportunity to spend your time on prospects that show more promise.
Using these steps, you can follow up on your sales leads without annoying your prospects. By first preparing them for the follow-up stage to expect your call, you can increase the likelihood of your success. Then using email, phone, social media, and other methods, you can contact the lead professionally. By alternating between email and phone, you may have a greater chance of success without annoying your prospects.
The key is being persistent without pestering, and taking the appropriate time to follow up. Using a tool like CRM will allow you to properly monitor your prospects and set an appropriate amount of follow-up time. In some cases, the customer may not be ready to make a decision for a few months. If this is the case, you can simply make a note to follow-up at that time.