Following up is rarely a fun activity. Compared to sales calls, demos, and meetings, following-up with prospects and accounts is something that everyone in sales does, but few enjoy. It’s a necessity and one of the few tasks in sales that often needs repeating.
Regardless of how you follow-up, the outcome is usually the same: Call, email, or message.
Often, sales professionals are met with silence. Or it can take days or weeks to get a response.
Bad follow-ups to avoid
When this happens, bad habits and negative approaches can creep in. Have you ever seen yourself say or write any of the following:
- “Sorry for bothering you.”
- “Just pinging you again about this.”
- “Wanted to move this to the top of your inbox again.”
Sometimes, follow-up attempts are so bad they go viral on social media. Such as “just bubbling this one back to the top of your inbox”, which was seen on Twitter and LinkedIn recently.
No one wants to be that guy, but at the same time, when you want to hear back from a prospect where there were plenty of promising signs, it can be challenging to find more effective ways to get the answers you need.
Why saying sorry isn’t the right approach when following-up?
Although it can seem like the polite thing to do, it implies weakness. It implies your time isn’t as valuable as the person on the other end of the email or phone.
It also suggests you’ve done something wrong. You haven’t; but understandably, no one wants to be met with a wall of silence, even when a prospect - who is going to buy - is busy, it’s useful to keep the lines of communication open and flowing in a positive direction. If you struggle with positive follow-up approaches, here are 7 approaches you can take to keep in contact without falling back on saying sorry.
7 approaches for more effective follow-ups
1. Send an article
Send them a link: “I remember we talked about [x], I saw this article and thought it might be of interest.”
Even better if this article is something your company publishes. This way, you can encourage them to sign-up to a newsletter or follow the company on social media, thereby keeping your proposal within a positive mental feedback loop.
2. Refer them to a useful connection
Maybe during one or more conversations that you’ve had with a prospect, they mention something else they need help with. Always make notes, and whenever possible, refer them to a connection who should be able to help. This sort of contact pays off in the long run and they can easily refer other clients to you.
3. Send them a case study
Keeping a prospect interested means giving them examples of what your company does. Case studies are wonderful for doing that, especially if the reference provided is for a company similar to them, or facing similar challenges.
4. Show them client testimonials
Testimonials work equally well. Giving them a chance to see what other clients have said reinforces the positive impact of any meetings, demos and calls.
5. Suggest other ways you can help
When keeping an eye on prospects, you might notice relevant industry reports, moves competitors are making, or things your prospect has done recently. Whenever possible, drop them an email that shows you are paying attention and how you can provide extra support, or tailor what you are already suggesting around new needs and goals.
6. Suggest walking away
Instead of saying sorry, if you’ve been trying to get a response for a few weeks or month with little success, ask if they’d prefer contact cease. This way, they will either continue being silent, in which case, that is the same as them saying yes. Or they will realize that a response really would have been polite and preferable, and therefore contact can be re-established.
7. Don’t talk about work
People buy from people, and we are all more than the sum of our job titles, inboxes, and daily work. We have interests and activities, or families, outside of work. If during your conversations so far, anything beyond the workplace has been mentioned, use that to re-engage a prospect in a more casual way.
It could be a great approach worth trying around the approach to holidays, long weekends, or even on a Friday afternoon when you are working on prospects that have gone quiet. A 15 page industry report might be less interesting to a prospect than chatting about hiking in the mountains, so go with a more casual approach if it feels right.
Keeping prospects engaged or re-engaging quiet prospects isn’t easy. Pipelines can go dead if they’re not nurtured, so this is a necessary task in sales. But working out the right approach is never easy. Hopefully these new methods will help you keep your engaged prospects moving forward.