Once a salesperson has made that all-important cold call, there’s still plenty of work to do. Sure, it would be nice to close deals right away, but we know that’s just not how the world always works.
That brings us to the equally crucial follow-up call. Handling it the right way may make the difference between having a new loyal customer and having the door slammed in your face.
Especially for those of you just starting your career in sales, here are a few tips for taking on that follow-up call or visit:
Set the date: After you’ve made your initial pitch, set up the follow-up. But as Jim Domanski writes for salesgravy.com, do it with a specific date and time in mind: “Vague commitments from the prospects (‘Call me next week’) or the sales rep (‘I’ll send the proposal and follow up in a couple of days’) result in missed calls, voicemail messages and ultimately a longer sales cycle.” So establish that specific date and time, and then don’t be late on that follow-up.
Provide value: Don’t blow the follow-up by leading with a generic greeting — “just checking in,” “just following up” or “just wanted to touch base.” It may seem too casual, or perhaps convey that all the information has already been presented, and there’s nothing new to add. Keith Rosen recommends taking the time to “weave in a compelling reason” in a story for allbusiness.com. “How can you deliver value to them?” he writes. “Is there something timely that you can share with them about your product/service or about their industry? Is there something newsworthy that you can discuss that applies to them?”
Share success stories: Another possible boost may come from a past experience with a similar business or scenario. Sales consultant Jill Konrath notes that people “want to work with someone who’s constantly thinking about how they can improve their business.” Here’s her example of how that might sound: “Pat, I’ve been thinking more about how we can help you increase sales [reduce costs, speed up productivity]. I thought you might be interested in what we did with XYZ organization when they were dealing with the same challenge. Do you have a few minutes for a quick conversation?”
Persistence, to a point: Prospective clients who are hard to reach may be expecting you to hound them for an answer. Sales strategist Ari Galper recommends skipping the overly aggressive techniques and shoot for the truth in a story for SalesHQ. “Eliminate all sales pressure by telling them you’re okay with their decision not to move forward, based on their not having called you back,” he writes. “In other words, take a step backward. Most of the time, this will open the door to a new level of trust-filled communication.”
If several efforts are unsuccessful, it might be time for what Niti Shah of hubspot.com calls “the break-up,” which he notes is sometimes a way to finally gain some traction. Mention your previous attempts and acknowledge that it might not be the right time to explore the idea further.
“Prospects are busy and they often do want to talk to you — they were just busy when they read your initial emails and listened to your voicemails,” he writes. “But, those messages left a positive impression and they are interested in speaking with you about how you can help them. They were relying on you, like every other salesperson, to keep trying to get in front of them.”