From a telemarketing perspective, I think it is fair to say that relatively few sales or appointments are made during our very first contact with the decision maker. It can often require anywhere between 5 and 10 calls to gain genuine interest and to book a sales appointment.
More often than not prospects will want to look at some information about whatever it is you are promoting, either by post or in most cases by email and consider things, before committing. That’s great! No-one wants to travel a hundred miles to a meeting that has been forced as opposed to well qualified to discover it’s really just a cup of tea and biscuit type meeting with no chance of business. The crucial element of this first call, where the prospect isn’t ready, is agreeing a convenient time to call back and continue the conversation i.e. the follow-up.
Why is this so Crucial?
Well, let’s imagine that you have made a great call, built rapport, presented your proposition well and the decision maker says ‘I’m really interested in this! Send me over those figures to have a look at and give me a call back on Thursday morning to look at getting a date in the diary to meet up’.
Fantastic job! Well done! You diarise the call for Thursday morning BUT, Thursday arrived and you get a little bit side tracked with other things so you push the call into Friday. When you call back, you reach the PA who tells you that her boss, your decision maker, is not in the office now until next Tuesday. She may tell you he’s at a conference or on holiday or off sick.
It may seem minor. “Ok, so I missed a call but no worries I will catch up with him on Tuesday.” However, what message does this convey to your prospect? You didn’t call when you promised. You let him down. He’s now wondering if this is a clue to how you do business in general. The longer it takes to reach the prospect again, the more the momentum seeps out of the opportunity. And the more time the decision maker has to perhaps think about tracking down one of your competitors to get a comparable quote or viewpoint.
Follow up is crucial!
If you agree a time / date to call back then put it in your calendar, in your task list or preferably on your CRM system and treat it as an essential meeting by phone that MUST take place. After all, you wouldn’t not bother to turn up to a face to face meeting or a scheduled call with your most lucrative customer would you? Well, the call you miss may well have turned out to be your new best customer!
So here are our top tips for follow up:
- Make sure you keep good notes of the conversation so you can refer to it in the next call. This is especially true for any actions.
- Make sure you have undertaken any actions from your first call promptly e.g. sent info, sent a follow-up meeting reminder in Outlook, checked their website or store. If you don’t you will be ill-prepared and could be caught out.
- Call when you say you will. If they’re not there, leave a message on time. Then follow up again.
- Use a blend of calls and emails if you don’t succeed in reaching the decision maker
- Remember that it isn’t personal. Stuff happens and people do get sidetracked. It’s possible that they may have gone cold on the idea. However, I’ve had countless situations where something just cropped up. Had I not maintained my efforts to reach them, I would have missed the opportunity.
It’s particularly important to follow up where you are investing in other forms of marketing. Attendance at an even can be costly. How intensely do you follow up the priority 1,2 and 3 leads from the exhibition? And for what length of time? It would be a terrible waste if those leads aren’t nurtured over time since there may come a time when they become hot. But if you’ve dropped them after a few calls, you’ll never know. And what about direct mail or even email marketing? Are you following up? Do you call those that open the email and click throughs? How many times? And over what period?
The point is that we invest time and money in lead generation but it won’t work if you give up too soon and fail to follow up appropriately. It will fail if you’ve identified your target audience but don’t nurture your sales leads over time. If they’re the right kind of company with which you’d like to do business, they merit regular communication by phone and through other forms of contact.
Don’t lose your biggest opportunities through lack of follow-up!