How To Effectively Follow Up With Your Potential Clients Without Irritating Them
By Jawad Khan
Why sales follow-ups are important
Eight tips to make your follow up emails valuable and effective
You've just come back from a sales meeting with a high profile prospect, and you've absolutely nailed it. The prospect was blown away by your industry knowledge and how you understood his business needs.
The deal is almost sealed. All that is left is for the decision makers to have a consultation meeting and then go ahead with your proposal.
But now you're confused because you're not sure how to follow up on this meeting. You're afraid you might mess up the deal. But you so badly want this company on board.
If the above sounds like you, you're not alone.
Studies indicate that almost 80% of sales leads require at least 5 follow-ups after the initial sales meeting. But nearly 44% of salespeople give up after just 1 follow up, or forget to follow-up altogether.
On the other hand, there are sales reps who bombard their prospects with follow up emails and calls. Most of them never manage to seal the deal.
You need to approach sales like real life relationships. How would it feel if you got a daily reminder email from your better half asking if you still valued this relationship? Or a “just checking” call every other day?
Annoyed, of course.
You can’t be too pushy, especially in new relationships. And this is what you need to understand while following up with your sales prospects. You need to strike the right balance.
Here are a few ways to approach sales follow-ups without irritating your prospects.
1. Ask for the Best Way To Follow Up
When you are in sales discussion with a prospect, you need to understand that you’re trying to create a win-win situation. The client needs your services and you need the business. So there’s no need to feel guilty in following up.
In fact, the best way to create a win-win scenario is by simply asking the best time and mode of follow up right after your first discussion. Your prospects are busy people and they’d appreciate if you show concern for their time.
“I understand the value of your time so I’d like to know what’s the best way to reach you and when can we discuss this in more detail?”
Jon Barrows, a sales trainer for companies like LinkedIn, Salesforce and Box, recommends this straightforward approach. It will not only build confidence between you and the prospect but also give you a clear idea of how to go about your follow up sequence.
2. Determine the Next Action Items
A sales meeting, no matter how successful and effective, without clear action items often goes to waste. Before you conclude your meeting, try to come up with at least one clear action item. You can use this to not only keep the client interested but also give you a way to stay in touch with the lead.
The action item can be anything from a higher management meeting to a more detailed product brief. It needs to be time capped or at least have an approximate schedule.
You can’t, of course, push the client to make a decision in the first meeting, but you do need to extract something that both you and the client can look forward to.
3. Get in Touch the Same Day
Intelligent follow-ups at the right times can have a very powerful impact on your prospective clients, and keep you at the top of their mind while choosing between different service providers.
Make sure you get in touch with the client the same day as your first meeting. In my experience, a short thank you email which includes the meeting minutes and the key action items, along with their approximate deadlines works really well.
This achieves two objectives.
It clearly communicates your understanding of the meeting to the client. So if he has a different understanding of one or more issues, he can immediately clarify.
It implicitly communicates your understanding of what the next action item is going to be.
4. Build Confidence By Offering Free Advice and Resources
Following up doesn’t always have to be sales oriented. In fact, in most of your initial meetings, the focus should be on resolving the client’s problems and fulfilling their needs instead of closing the deal.
You can do that by offering additional advice on how the prospect’s problems can be resolved effectively. Forget your product, just offer solutions that can cause an immediate impact. Send them research articles, links to eBooks or other resources that can increase their understanding of the issue.
Hate writing repetitive emails? You'll love Hiver's Email Templates. Know more.
All of these confidence-building measures not only get you in the prospect’s good books but also keep you in touch with them and help you nurture the lead.
5. Connect on LinkedIn and Twitter
Almost every business professional has a LinkedIn profile these days. It’s such an effective tool for B2B sales professionals that almost 80% of all B2B sales leads generated from social media come from LinkedIn. Twitter, on the other hand, is a great place to learn about your prospect’s interests.
You can combine the strength of these platforms to get closer to your target decision makers. Connect with them on LinkedIn, study their profile and engage them in discussions on LinkedIn groups. Demonstrate your functional expertise and win the client over by showing a clear understanding of their problems.
The Inmail feature of LinkedIn is especially useful for sales professionals. You can use it to approach potential prospects directly. LinkedIn has also recently launched LinkedIn for Sales Professionals which provides specific follow up tools to stay in touch with your target customers more effectively.
6. Create Follow Up Triggers
Most sales teams adopt some kind of follow up sequences or triggers that are applied at different stages of the lead nurturing cycle. While the selection of follow up modes largely depends on the preferences of your clients, I generally find the following sequence applicable to most businesses.
Thank you email after the initial sales meeting along with the meeting minutes and action items.
Follow up email 24 hours before the deadline for the next action item, seeking acknowledgment.
In case of no acknowledgment from the prospect, send a mobile SMS/call for confirmation (depending on the prospect’s preference).
If none of these work then give your client a break, he might be busy in something more important or urgent. Instead, send a follow-up email a day after the missed action item, and inquire when the meeting can be rescheduled.
Similarly, the frequency of emails can also vary depending on the time duration between different milestones/action items. For example, if there’s more than one month between two action items, send a fortnightly follow up email with a reminder of your previous conversations.
Do you often forget to send follow-up emails? Use Hiver's Email Reminders to get reminded just at the right time. Know more.
7. Offer Value in Every Follow-Up
Your follow-ups should never be self-centered and product focused. Your real objective is to deliver value and build trust with the prospect. Your conversations should be so valuable that the client should look forward to having a chat with you.
This is only possible when you study your prospects closely, understand their current problems and initiate discussions that are actually valuable to them (and not only you). Offer new ideas and tell them about your client success stories.
And even if, for some reason, you fail to reach a win-win with the prospect and they decide to turn down your offer, be gracious enough to offer them advice and refer the right people who can help them.
8. Don’t Push – The Client Owes You Nothing
Follow-ups are often exhausting and can eat up a lot of time. But that is no reason to show frustration and anger at your prospective clients. Don’t push them into making any decisions. They don’t owe you anything. They’re running a business and their decisions will be based on their own interests, not yours.
No matter how slowly the whole process moves, you need to be patient and consider it a part of your job. This way even if you fail to win business, you’d still have a long-term professional relationship that can be leveraged in future.
Wrapping it up
Follow-ups are a crucial part of any sales cycle. But effective follow go beyond just repetitive calling and automated emails. The most successful salespeople make their follow-ups valuable for their prospects and implicitly demonstrate strong industry knowledge and a deep understanding of the problems at hand.
By approaching your prospects with a multidimensional strategy, you can not only make follow-ups much more effective but also use them to build long-term business relationships.
About the author
Jawad Khan is an experienced project manager, a content marketing consultant and a freelance blogger for hire. He's an active consultant to several tech startups and SaaS companies in the US, Middle East and Australia. Follow him on his blog Writing My Destiny, Twitter and Google+