When we talk about the idea of effective follow-up in sales, what does that mean? It’s effective in terms of making sure that we’re on the same page with the person, making sure that our conversations are moving forward, making sure that their questions are being answered, and ultimately getting to a decision.
Are we going forward with this? Are we not? And if so, when is that going to happen?
David: Hi, and welcome to the podcast. In today’s episode, co host Jay McFarland and I will be discussing effective follow-up. How much is too much? Welcome back, Jay.
Jay: Thank you, David. Such an important question. And again, something that I struggle with. You know, I have a customer management system, and it shows me I talked to them three days ago.
And it comes up on my tasks and it says it’s time to talk to them. And I find every time I go through this emotional thing. Are they going to think I’m bugging them too soon? And a lot of times I’ll say, let’s give them three more days or let’s give them two more days because I guess I’m not ready to talk to them or I’m afraid I’ll be a bother.
David: Yes, and you’re not alone. Because it’s pretty much impossible to know exactly how often to call any one given prospect, let alone all of them. It’s not like there’s one rule where you say you must call every other day or you must call every three days or every week or whatever your thing is. I mean, there are rules that have been put in place for salespeople to do that, and maybe it’s not a terrible thing, but a system like that pretty much guarantees that you’re going to be wrong as often as you’re right.
And so, if you understand that going in, one of the things that I think it’s important to recognize is that people are going to sort of telegraph how annoying you’re being, or how often they want to be in touch, want to have you in touch. And if you ask them more directly, they’ll be a lot more inclined to give you an honest answer.
If we make up our minds that we’re going to contact this person every so many days, and that person doesn’t want to hear from us that often, then obviously we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
So a lot of times, if we can find out from the prospect roughly how often they would like for us to be in touch with them, and it’s easier to do with established clients, where you know them, they know you. With prospects, it’s not as easy.
But in the early stages with a prospect, we need to be in touch more frequently in order to get to decisions about qualification levels. Are they actually qualified to buy from us? Do they have the need, the desire, the money, the budget, the willingness to spend, the interest?
Do they have any of those things? And if we can’t determine that in the first conversation, we need to have a second conversation. But of course, their level of interest in that first conversation will also help us to determine, well, how much time should I give this person?
And when I think about how much is too much, one of the things that I’ve seen a lot, and I saw it myself, in my own behaviors in the earlier stages of my sales career, and then in a lot of other people along the way, is that since we can’t know how much is too much, many of us in sales tend to err on the side of too little contact rather than too much.
And we talked about being a pest in a previous podcast. I don’t want to be a pest. Therefore, I’m not going to pick up the phone and call. And the problem with that is that if we’re not in touch with them, when they’re ready to move forward, then someone else is going to get that business.
So we have to find this balance of, yes, I don’t want to be a pest, but also I’m not going to abandon this person so that somebody else can get in there and get that business while I’ve been working to cultivate it over a long period of time.
Jay: Yeah, and it could be that depending on what type of product, there’s a time limit as well. So if they don’t get their order in within three weeks, you’re not going to make their deadline. So that could affect how often that you’re going to talk to them.
One of the things that I’ve found in my business is to just flat out, ask them to schedule a follow-up appointment. You know, we’ve just had a discussion. I’m going to send you the information. Would you mind if I reach out to you on Friday at this time? And I find that that works very well.
I’ve got that relationship going. You know, we’re friends now after 20 minutes. And they’re more than happy to set a follow-up appointment. If you’re in a situation where you can do that, that’s ideal.
Because once I lose that scheduled appointment, now we’re playing phone tag or text tag or something else. So that’s always my first attempt anyway.
David: Yeah, and I think that’s a really great point. And it’s critical, particularly these days, because reaching somebody when they’re not expecting you is very difficult.
The other thing that it does is when you schedule a follow-up call on a certain day at a certain time, If they’re going to ghost you, you’ll find out sooner rather than later. Right?
Because if you leave it open ended, “Oh, I’ll give you a call in a couple of days,” or “give me a call after you’ve had a chance to review the information.” you don’t know what to expect.
Because if you say, “give me a call after you’ve had a chance to review the information,” it could take them 10 minutes. It could take them a month. You just don’t know. So by doing exactly what you just suggested, suggesting or scheduling a time for your next contact is really the smart move.
I think at this particular time in history to not do that is really setting yourself up for failure.
Jay: Yeah, and it’s hard. I mean, at first I’m like, you know, I’m feeling pushy again, you know, but I do that after we’ve had this great conversation, they’re saying they want to use me, there is no better time that I’m going to find to schedule a follow-up appointment.
If I let them off the line and then later on text them and say, “hey, can we set up another time?” I’ve probably already missed the opportunity. So there are moments to strike that, if you don’t do it, you may never get again.
David: Right. And we can ask them, “when would be a good time to get back in touch?” If they need to review that, when would be a good time to get in touch?
And then if they say, well, you know, why don’t you give me a week and it’s Thursday, you can say, Oh, okay. Well, should I give you a call same time on Thursday?
David: And they can say yes or no. They can schedule something else, but at least you’ll have an idea. And that way it also sounds like their idea because you ask them, when would be a good time to get back in touch?
They tell you a timeframe and then you just pin them down to a time that’s based on the timeframe that they gave you. So now it’s not you being pushy and trying to schedule a call. It’s you listening to what they said and delivering what they asked for.
Jay: Yeah, I like that. Again, anytime you can avoid being a salesperson and get them to initiate is so important.
I’ve also come to realize that it’s not something that I should fear. It’s actually something that makes me look more professional and more interested in them. Right? And say, let’s set up a time. You’re interested right now. When can we talk so that we can get this process started?
It doesn’t make me look pushy. It makes me look professional. And it took me a while to come to that realization.
David: And professional is the key word right there. Because if you think about the way that actual professionals behave… A doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, whatever — anybody that the world considers to be a professional — they’re not just going to say, “oh yeah, well give me a call later,” or whatever.
They’re going to schedule an appointment, if an appointment is warranted. They’re going to determine the timeframe. You’re going to get agreement, you’re going to agree on the date and the time, and you’re going to follow up. Because that’s what professionals do.
Leaving it open-ended is very often comfortable for salespeople who are afraid to ask for the commitment.
But then, for the little bit of anxiety that could be created by asking for a date and time to follow up, they’re creating a world of anxiety because they have no idea what the next step is, when the next step is, or if that person is going to be available to take it with them.
Jay: Yeah, and then the other thing I find is that because people can schedule on my calendar without me there, I may fill up, and now when I should be following up with that client, I’m taking new calls, and as we’ve kind of talked about before, suddenly that person could be getting pushed to the background. And they’re the one that I could make the sale with instead of these new clients.
So I found that I have to be very purposeful about scheduling that follow-up. Even if they won’t set a time with me, I set a time so that it’s blocked out on my calendar. Otherwise it’ll disappear.
David: Yeah. You know, something else I find in sales, in particular, is that the term follow up, it’s a term that we use freely, we speak of it very often. But it’s not an ideal term to use with prospects and clients.
David: Because it is seen as such a salesy kind of term. And so when, even if that’s what we’re doing, if we know that we’re calling to follow up with someone in a week and we schedule a time, when we get on the phone with them, it’s probably best not to say, “I’m calling to follow up.”
David: It’s “okay, hey, we scheduled a time, looking forward to continuing the conversation.” Something other than those words. And it’s a small thing maybe, but I find that it’s a small thing that really helps to set the stage for what the conversation is ultimately going to be.
Jay: Yeah, we say something like, “looking forward to get started on your product, so that you can start saving money as soon as possible.” Because follow up conveys no urgency. Right? No urgency whatsoever. It’s more like calling your friend and saying, “Hey, what’s up?” You know?
Jay: If you can build some urgency into that call, like, “Hey, I need to get you started in the next couple of weeks, or you’re going to miss another month’s worth of tax savings,” or whatever it is, then that urgency from the first call carries over to the second call.
David: Right. And just the idea, keeping in the back of your mind that the goal here — when we are communicating on an ongoing basis with a prospect or client — the goal here is to have it be effective.
So when we talk about the idea of effective follow-up, what does that mean? It’s effective in terms of making sure that we’re on the same page with the person, making sure that our conversations are moving forward, making sure that their questions are being answered, and ultimately getting to a decision.
Are we going forward with this? Are we not? And if so, when is that going to happen? So, to me, that’s pretty much the definition of effective follow-up, is that it’s goal driven, it’s mission driven, and we’re staying on course. We know what the next step is.
And a lot of that needs to take place in your conversations, and in your contact management system, so that you can pick up the next call exactly where the last one left off.
Because if you just call to say, “Hey, I’m calling to follow up.” Well, what’s the context? What was the last conversation? So if you can bring them back to that last minute of that last conversation, you’re going to have a much better chance of moving things forward.
“Hey, Jay, when we last spoke, you said that you were interested in this particular product. You have an event coming up on this date, and you weren’t quite sure if you wanted to go with this particular one or that one. What do you think? Have you given it any thought? Which way are you leaning at this point?
And then that way you can literally pick up that conversation right where it left off. You don’t have to say, what’s your decision? Because that could be too harsh. Which way are you leaning? You could ask him something like that.
“Well, I was thinking about this one, but then I wasn’t sure about this other thing.” And then you can have the conversation that will allow them to come to the right decision so that you can then ideally take the order and move forward.
Jay: Yeah, and an important part of that? Copious notes when you have them on the phone. Write down everything, whether they were on vacation, whether they talked about their son or daughter, write down everything.
So like you said, you can just pick right up. Cause they’re not thinking you have the system in front of you. They’re like, “wow, this guy really remembers me.” It calls up the conversation and the emotion of that conversation. So write it down, even if you don’t have a system, and it’s just. Index cards, write that information down. It’s incredibly valuable.
David: It really is. And so few people do it, and I think people who consider themselves to be great salespeople, but aren’t, tend to wing it. right?
David: They think they’re so good. I’ll just wing it.
David: But the truth of the matter is, even if you’re a great salesperson, if you do what you just said, if you take notes, if you reference back to previous conversations, if you pick up the conversation right where the last one left off, you are still going to be a hundred times more effective than if you’re just winging it.
So the core of effective follow-up is pretty much what we were just talking about there. Know where we’re going. Know how we’re getting there and then take those steps toward the goal every step of the way. Pay attention, listen to what they’re asking you, get them the answers to their questions, and ultimately that’s going to get us all where we need to be.
Jay: Hundred, hundred percent. How do people find out more, David?
David: Well, you can go to TopSecrets.com/call, schedule a call with myself or my team. We’d love to have a conversation with you. If you’re in a situation where you’re looking to bring more clients through the door consistently, like clockwork, TopSecrets.com/call.
We’d love to have a conversation with you and help you to get to the point where the follow-up that you’re having is going to result in more sales.
Jay: Well, as always, I love our conversations. Have a wonderful day.
David: Thanks. You too, Jay.
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