Perhaps the most misunderstood and debilitating part of the average sales process is…the follow-up. This is where your intelligence, your ego, and your empathy can absolutely be your worst enemies to converting prospects.
I recently ran into a very talented corporate sales speaker/trainer, Judy Garmaise, who brings a unique focus to the practice of sales follow-up. When she is through with you, you will never skimp on follow-up again. You will find that through follow-up, you will more than compensate for other deterrents to your sales closings, such as lead shortages, challenging economics, or insufficient corporate marketing.
Kathy Tito: Judy, your focus on follow-up is remarkable. I was very impressed that you’ve parsed out this mission critical piece of the sales process, and decided to make it your business. First of all, kudos on being a sales trainer with a difference – and secondly, let’s dig in to why strong follow up practices tend to allude the best of us.
Why the Reluctance to Follow-up?
Kathy Tito: If you had to choose one reason why sufficient follow-up is so hard for most people to achieve, what would you say it is?
Judy Garmaise: I focus on follow-up because it is the most mission critical part of the sales process. Opening is just the beginning. It’s having the skills to see the process through to the close, and to run that marathon, that’s how sales happen. It’s many people’s inclination to live on an overpopulated place I call “Hope Island”. Residents of Hope Island are reluctant to follow-up, because they hope that somehow, as irrational as it sounds, “enough” opportunity will land in their lap. Because they fear rejection, they bank on hope.
“Fear of rejection is the #1 reason that gets in the way of effective follow-up.”
Let’s pretend you find a genie on the beach and she gives you a dream day of getting “yes” from everyone you’d like to sell to – how many calls would you make? Now look at the average day. How hard do you practice follow up? Not as hard – because you know that you’re not going to be flooded with “yes” – and that’s depressing your effort.
What I personally do is anticipate the yes. And that makes me come across with positive energy – I’m not afraid to ASK ASK ASK! Only through a series of ASKs can you accumulate the “yes-es” you need to make a revenue goal.
Be F.U.L.L. of yourself – and conduct upbeat energy in your phone call. F.U.L.L stands for “Follow Up Light and Lively”. Build rapport, build trust, and develop the relationship. Make your point quickly, and always know that you are going to come back and follow-up.
Kathy Tito: As you know – the numbers are discouraging. The amount of follow-up required is seldom discussed in real terms because nobody wants to admit the amount of messaging it takes to convert a prospect. Can you give us some real-world examples of “what it takes” to even get that first meaningful conversation started?
Judy Garmaise: The metaphor that I like to use is that of a sculptor – the more you work the clay, the more perfect your image will be. You have to work the clay. Get it to trust you. You’ll always get the low hanging fruit – but if they don’t need you right now, always leave the opportunity to follow-up with them in the future.
Fifty percent of all sales people make one call, 10% of all sales people make at least 5 calls. You’ve got to get to 7 follow-ups on average. In order to make a close – it may take 5 closing attempts, not just 5 phone calls – all different varieties – a phone call, a visit, sending materials, and today – social media.
“Fifty percent of all sales people make one call, 10% of all sales people make at least 5 calls. You’ve got to get to 7 follow-ups on average.”
Kathy Tito: I know that when you have a lot of contacts to follow-up with, it’s easy to say, “I left them an email…there, I’m done”. But who is to say that you message(s) were actually received. What is a good way to ensure that your messages are reaching the intended recipient? Or that they even understand anything about you or why they should care that you contacted them?
Judy Garmaise: I understand that people are very busy nowadays. When you are following up consistently, one thing you can’t do is rely only on email. When you follow-up by phone, you are not being a nag, you are leaving a reminder. You’re not being a stalker, you are being efficient. Knowing that cyberspace has its faults, like the email that doesn’t get through, that is a great opportunity to get on the phone, and say that you left an email. Use that possibility of the missed email to your advantage. Knowing that voicemail gets deleted by mistake, use email to follow up. The key is using them both together.
Plan your Follow-ups Thoughtfully
Kathy Tito: With so many methods of outreach today, what do you encourage salespeople or marketers to use at a minimum when attempting to get a conversation going?
Judy Garmaise: Try something different and unexpected. For example, send a personal, funny, handwritten card – a great use for your business card, which you seldom get to use these days. Keep track of birthdays. Give presents that your prospects can use or give to their family.
Kathy Tito: What can you suggest for varying-up the follow-up? In other words – how can people avoid simply dropping the same message over and over again?
Judy Garmaise: This is where a little bit of strategy goes a long way. Plan on varied follow-up. Not only plan on something to give, but plan on what you’re going to say, based on having researched the prospect. Come up with something that is interesting to them, a recent accomplishment for example. You can use the same vehicle, but at least try to have something different to offer now and then, like some type of marketing asset, or something fun.
When it comes to follow-up, it’s really good to be creative. For example, one year I was having trouble getting a meeting with a difficult prospect. I found these great little chocolate feet, and I sent them to him as a symbol for my trying to get a foot in the door. If you think of creative tactics, you’ll always find a way to get through to your prospect sooner rather than later.
Kathy Tito: Agreed. Today, there are more ways than ever to mix it up. Think about how you can vary your platform (voicemail, email, twitter, facebook, even video) as well as the content or spin of your message. Are you going to be speaking somewhere, or giving a webinar? Make sure you invite that hard-to-reach prospect. Find as many different ways as possible to expose them to your expertise – and sometimes you’ll turn the table. They’ll follow-up with you!
The Top 5 Myths to Shatter Regarding Sales Follow-up
Myth #1 : That you can close a deal with less follow-up effort than is really needed.
This speaks to the culture of your sales organization. It may prove very useful to stop pretending that it’s a sign of “weakness” if you can’t get what you want in a call or two. It’s not weak, it’s normal. Base your sales process on that reality.
Myth #2: That your message was received.
Never assume that your message was received – especially if dealing with email.
And, instead of referencing previous messages, think up a new reason to contact your prospects. They should not respond to you just because you already left two messages – they should respond to you because they feel you have something valuable to offer.
Myth #3: That your message was understood and remembered.
You live and breathe your own offer – but it may be a new concept to your prospect. Don’t assume that they know what you are talking about when you refer to specifics in a voicemail or email. Save the specifics for when you have adequately engaged them personally in order to go into detail. Keep the focus of your follow-up on the prospect, and their interests and requirements.
Myth #4: That voicemail (or email) is your only means of following up.
Don’t limit yourself. Snail mail and token gifts are a great way to break through the clutter of incoming communications going out to your prospects each day.
Myth #5: That repetition is effective follow up.
Your message has to be repeated with integrity and with differentiation in order to be respected and heard. Don’t be ashamed of following up. Having something positive to say, or give, is something that can be done with confidence. If it was as easy as sending three of the same email, or leaving three of the same voicemail – we’d all be reaching goals a lot earlier in the year.