Are Your Follow-Up’s Accomplishments, Or Just Activities?

in Following Up

Do you really know where you stand with the prospects in your follow-up files right now?

Come on, really now? I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but my experience is that many sales reps have no clue where they are in the sales process with a majority of the people they are following up with.

Yet, they continue to call, continue to leave voice mail messages ("Hey, I’m just checking in with you, wondering how it’s going…"), send an endless stream of emails, and HOPE that something will happen.

It’s like running on a treadmill. There’s lots of activity, but you don’t go anywhere.

And it can exhaust you. (Actually, the treadmill is better since at least you are accomplishing something physically-more people should do it. I digress.)

Although some reps argue that at least they are making contact and "touching" their prospects through their messages, I say,bull. Here’s why:

1. Repeated messages with no value puts you in a position where you’re viewed as a vendor...a salesperson whose goal is to sell them something. The more you call to "just check in," the more the image of the "stalker salesperson" is solidified in their mind.

2. You waste time, and money, on a couple of levels. First, let me make the assumption that many of these "prospects" never will do anything with you. Therefore, you are throwing away time–which translates into money–by continuing to call them. Not only are you wasting the time when you actually DO reach them, but factor in all of the attempts and messages you leave.

And then add the prep time for each call (You are doing pre-call planning, right?)

OK, so what should we be doing?

Let’s zoom in to a call. We need to gauge the temperature of the prospect and get a snapshot of precisely where we are with them. I’ve found that it’s always best to let the prospect tell you their perception of the progression of the sales cycle and what the next steps should be.

For example, when you reach the point where you feel things have moved sufficiently, ask,

"So, where are we right now?"

"Where do we sit right now?"

"How far do you feel we have progressed to this point?"

"How close are we to making this happen?"

"What are the next steps?"

"What next?"

"What needs to happen on your end to move forward?"

"How do you see us proceeding?"

And then…?

Assuming you’ve done this, received good information, and the person truly is a good prospect, then what?

Well, let’s use a real situation posed to me by a reader. Donald Holbrook with Stanford Keene asked,

"I manage three guys that are on the phone every day and talking to the top executives in companies worldwide. I am continuously working on my verbal communication as well as theirs. As you can imagine, we have to "follow up" with our contacts and have found that it is common for these guys to say that they are calling back to "touch base" or "when is a good time for me to get back in contact to touch base and see how things have progressed?" What suggestions would you have to replace these words?

Recommendation
To tie this into what I have covered earlier, I always say the success of the follow up is in direct relation to the success of the previous call, and what is to happen next.

It involves getting a commitment that they (the prospect) will do something and you’ll do something as a result of the call.

Then you can follow up with,

"I’m calling to continue our conversation of last week where we had discussed ____ and you were going to review the statistics I sent you. I’d like to go through those with you and I have some additional information I believe you’ll find beneficial."

On your follow-up calls it’s important to remember that your prospects are likely not doing pre-call planning like you. Therefore, you can’t assume they are in the same frame of mind as you when your call arrives. Actually, you should assume they might not even remember you. Then you’ll make it a point to briefly review where you left the previous conversation:

"The last time we spoke you had shown interest in…"

"I’m calling to continue our conversation from last week where we had discussed ____ and you were going to…"

Remember, activity is not accomplishment.

Worse, it could be costly. Use these ideas to move your prospects forward, and your sales higher.

 

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