We received a cold telephone call at home a couple of weeks ago from a company offering private tuition for children. Like most parents, there is nothing better to stir our emotions than getting the best for our children. Their cold call was successful, and we met with a sales representative a few days later.
As the meeting ended, we were promised a follow-up call in a couple of days. That was fine – it gave us time to talk, and we were to expect a call.
Half an hour after the meeting, the phone rang. This company wanted to arrange another meeting with us. We said, ‘No, the lady who has just seen us is calling in a couple of days, we’ll talk to her thank you. We then received several more phone calls to know if we had decided or wanted another meeting. All of them were polite and none persuasive, but all were hassling.
This is an extreme case, and I’m not suggesting that all salespeople hassle their prospects. Still, it raises the question of where the line is between respectful follow-up and objectionable hassling.
In this case, they didn’t seem to get it that every call lessened their chances of getting any business from us.
Let’s be honest here when was the last time you made a follow-up call to a client, and they said – ‘thanks for calling. I’ve been waiting for days for you to call so that I could give you the order’. Buyers don’t do that. If they want to and are ready to do business, they call you. Don’t they?
But we all know, follow up is necessary…
So How Do You Follow Up?
Follow up is necessary. You have to progress the sale. People are busy, reprioritise and forget things. They need help in making a decision, and your call may provide that help through your ability to aid the logical decision or influence emotion.
But self-serving questions don’t help or encourage anybody to buy.
Don’t pour your credibility down the drain by looking like a desperate salesperson and asking the obvious questions like ‘Have you decided yet?’ or the dreaded ‘Can I do anything more to help?’
So how do you follow up, build trust and maintain credibility at the same time?
- At every engagement with the client, set the next step, then stick to it.This way, you manage the clients’ expectations and will not appear to be hassling. If you have agreed to talk again in a week, then talk again in a week.If you are sending some information by the end of the week, send it by the end of the week. Include a note to say what will happen next, then stick to the next step.
- When you make the follow up call be prepared to discuss their business, not yours.(Your business is what you want to know – did they receive the information, when are they going to place the order, what you can do to help?….)Their business is about how you will:
- Reduce their costs
- Improve their process efficiency
- Help them become more profitable
- Find ways to get ahead of their competition
- Anticipate and solve future problems
If you do this well, the answers to your questions of when a decision will be made and what you should do next will come out in conversation.
On long lead time opportunities, consider these ways to maintain contact and build trust with the client:
- Send some additional information, a report, or a website link that will be of use or value to the client.
- Introduce clients to your network
- Help at a project or event
Be there when a client is not expecting it – e.g., send a card or make a ‘good luck’ phone call.