How to Follow-Up with Prospects the Right Way
Have you ever heard the phrase, “sales are made in the follow-up” or something like that? °sigh°
Yes, follow-ups are incredibly important. But relying on following up is a dangerous and terrible strategy that will lead to low sales numbers and lots of prospects hating you. The thing is, if you’re relying on the follow-up to close the sale, you probably missed some crucial steps earlier in the process.
And it makes you more likely to follow-up way too much.
Fairly quickly, each follow-up email or voicemail is completely ignored, and your chances for closing the deal get lower and lower.
But, again, they are important, if you do them the right way.
For example, you’ve gotten a prospect to the proposal stage. In your last conversation, you were both on the same page about the proposal, now you just have to build it and send it. But after sending it, you never hear back. What happened?
Well, it could be one of or a combination of several things:
The first one might be how you presented the proposal. If you just agreed to “send it over” when you’re done building it, and then emailed it on an unspecified date, you’re leaving that part of the process up to chance and hope. We’ll go into this more later, but don’t send your proposal out into the void of the unknown. Actually present it.
The second issue is that you may have failed to set next steps for a follow-up after the proposal.
Once you have confirmed a time to present your proposal in whatever way works best for you both, ask about the next steps. Actually, in every single stage of your sales process, you should ALWAYS have mutually agreed-upon next steps.
“After we go over the proposal, when would be the right time to follow up with you?”
Allowing them the opportunity to choose a time and method for follow-up makes it much more likely that they’ll be invested when you do. You’ll save tons of time and grief by not blindly calling or sending emails that end up ignored.
This is also another opportunity to ask them to tell you no if they’ve already made their decision. Again, tons of time and grief are saved by being able to go onto the next prospects.
If they try to push you off by saying that they’ll get back to you with their decision or something equally vague, they may be trying to avoid telling you no. Your prospects should always have the encouragement they need to turn you down if they’ve made their decision. And being upfront with you about that will make both of your lives easier.
Follow Up After Their Decision
Whether they decided to go another way or they’ve said yes, consistent and meaningful follow-ups are vital.
We’ve written before about how important following up after a rejection is. You’ll get more insight into why they went another way, and you’ll maintain the trust you built during the sales process so that they may think of you next time.
Following up after they say yes to your proposal is equally important. Failure to lock in airtight next steps could lead to them changing their mind, losing trust that you’ll follow through on promises, or finding somebody a little more responsive.
Again, that window of eagerness closes quickly, so you have to make sure they’ve bought into the closing and fulfillment process after they say yes.
Build it into Process
Setting next steps and following up with your prospects should be built into your sales process at every step in the selling cycle. If your CRM is customized to your sales process —which it should be!— it’s easier to never miss these important steps.
To improve the likelihood of following your process even more, some CRM’s have a function that will show you that there’s been no progress on a deal after a certain amount of time. In Pipedrive, it’s called “deal rotting.” Maybe not the most attractive name, but it’s accurate.
If you don’t have the next steps set up for a deal, it will label it as rotting. That helps you pinpoint the deals that maybe shouldn’t be in your pipeline anymore. If you think there’s still an opportunity there, set up that next step. Otherwise, let it go.
At least in Pipedrive, any next step, no matter how far out, will prevent the deal from rotting. Whether you set it up as a future activity in an open deal or a follow-up in a lost deal, this helps to keep your pipeline clean, accurate, and simple to keep up with.
Make it About Them
Anything you can do to make sure you follow up with your prospects will help you close more deals and build long-lasting relationships.
But that doesn’t mean you should automate it…
Automated messages are impersonal and cold. Some short automated messages may have their places in sales, such as quick cold outreaches or something similar, but most communication should be done personally and in real-time. Most people can spot automated messages from a mile away; don’t break the trust and rapport you’ve built up by falling for the convenience of automated messaging.
Remember, while prospects follow-ups help you in hundreds of ways, your needs don’t come first. The focus should be on them: what their needs are, what their hopes are, and what their expectations are. This will maintain and continue to build the trust and rapport you’ve developed during your sales conversations.