Overwhelming your prospects with incessant and pushy sales pitches is (hopefully) a thing of the past in sales. With consumer awareness at an all-time high, customers can easily see through flimsy “techniques” and “formulas” that claim to “convert” them. At the same time, do you need to constantly engage your leads and make sure they know the benefits of your products.
Pretty challenging, isn’t it?
Data shows that acquiring a new customer is 5x expensive than retaining an existing customer. Your first interaction with a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) is undoubtedly crucial. But you cannot just sit back and relax after an initial meeting or a demo.
They’ve witnessed your show. Now you need to keep the communication clock ticking. How?
The answer: Follow-up!
Someone who has just seen a product demo on your website is a hot lead. Research shows that if you follow-up in the next five minutes, you’re 8x more likely to convert them.
Of course you don’t want to miss out on these small windows of opportunity. Here’s how you can perfect your sales follow-up plan.
- Your conversion rates will remain abysmal until you get your follow-ups right.
- Data helps you understand your prospects and personalization helps you form a connection with them.
- Combining human insights with automation is crucial to acing your follow-ups.
1. Use Their Preferred Means of Communication
No two leads are the same. The differences start right with the forms of communication they prefer at various times. Some would rather you email them, while others expect you to call them. You’ll get higher response rates if you can package your offer in a format that works for the lead.
Email is arguably the most common (and one of the most effective) methods of contacting leads and following up with them. This medium is where prospects feel free to respond at a time of their choice. Modern email templates let you take advantage of visual elements that subtly encourage recipients to respond in some way.
One of the cons is that your leads’ inboxes are probably flooded with dozens, if not hundreds, of emails every day. Chances are, you might not get any response for your first few emails. However, wise use of your subject lines help you stand out from the clutter. Including words like “Urgent” or “Follow-up by (date)” in your subject subtly nudges recipients to take some action. At the very least, they’ll probably open it, and if you’ve asked nicely, they might re-direct your email to the person who can do something about it.
Source: Sales Hacker
Another preferred method of following up – once you’ve established basic rapport with the lead – is the phone call. People don’t mind talking to a real human being (as opposed to a bot) who has made a genuine effort to understand their needs and who is resourceful enough to come up with a solution to their problems. If you’re good at building relationships through conversations, calling a prospect is the best option, provided they don’t mind. Plus, conversions happen faster over phone calls – usually a couple are enough to get a clear idea.
If the prospect doesn’t answer your call, you might try leaving a voice message, but there is no guarantee that they’ll get back or even listen to your message. So always say when you’ll call them next, so you know if they’re really interested or ghosting you.
Don’t limit yourself to telephone or email. Social media, IMs and even plain old text are popular in their own ways. Many B2B professionals are always online on social networks like LinkedIn, so you could try connecting with them and following up there.
Still unsure of the best follow-up method? Ask them!
2. Personalize Your Message and Deliver Value Every Time
Always personalize your email messages and calls so that they don’t sound like a boring sales pitch. Every follow-up should have a hook or a context that lures the prospect further into your funnel. Provide information that is contextual, relevant, timely, useful and valuable.
Yes, all five. Some tips:
- Pay special attention to news and updates in the lead’s industry or business domain.
- Describe their pain points and show how your product is positioned to fill the gaps.
- Ask what the prospect expects you to do next. Do they need your technical experts to be available on the next call? Do they need further references?
Reiterate your USP and salient points from your pitch at every follow instance, just to drive home your offer better. Back it up with some useful and interesting information such as a how-to guide, a customer story, or even a funny video that your prospect would enjoy.
Continue the conversation by seeking their opinion on the content you shared. Direct them to further resources such as blog posts related to your product or industry news – more than 70% of consumers rely on content marketing to learn more about brands and businesses.
3. Clearly Define the Next Steps for Them
Never leave your prospect guessing or without a clear direction after a call or email. Make it clear what would be the next move and who is expected to make it. Summarize your conversation and get a confirmation or acknowledgement preferably by email.
Say you just walked a lead’s team through your demo and they’re asking for a week’s time to get back after they discuss things internally. Fix a time and date the following week with something specific like, “OK let me give you a call at 10:30 am on Tuesday” rather than “Fine, let’s touch base early next week, then.”
If they need additional information, send it over asap – like in a flash. And then, never let them get away with “Send X over; I’ll look into it and get back to you.” Set a time and date when you can re-engage with them to understand if the info answers their questions.
If someone has expressed their interest in buying your product, arrange a call or meeting to discuss commercials as soon as possible. Be ready with your negotiation strategies and customized deals.
Without clearly defined next steps, sales follow-ups are nothing more than a cat and mouse game.
4. Create a Complete Follow-Up Schedule
How do you time your emails? How do you space them out? How long do you wait before following up? Before following up on your follow-up? Are there slack times when you need to pause and restart sending prospecting emails?
Glad you asked!
Prepare a detailed follow-up schedule that’s appropriate for the channel or medium that your lead prefers – emails, phone calls, instant messaging, or social media. Set your automation software up to shoot follow-up emails at optimum times (or varied times if the contact hasn’t responded). Also set up notifications to alert you as soon as they respond, so that you can get back to them while they’re still active on the channel. (Remember those five minutes we talked about earlier?)
Use your follow-up schedule as a guidepost. Remember that your prospect will make the next move only when they’re ready. There is a possibility that they might eventually give in to your persistence or report you as a spammer. The key is to remain alert to changes and opportunities.
5. Know When to Break Up
Beyond six or seven, follow-ups become meaningless, pushy, and counter-productive. Diminishing returns is a thing.
Salespeople need to get that in most cases, a lack of response is a “No.” It’s okay – not every conversation ends in a sale. Being in the lead gen business for years, our experience tells us that a nice “let’s be friends” email is the best way to end the communication. Just let them know that although persistence is a virtue, you hate annoying someone and will now cease all communication. Leave your contact details once again so they know how to reach you if they want.
If the prospect is indeed receptive to your product but didn’t get a chance to revert, your break-up email might just push them to respond. But if they don’t, you’re better off stopping all contact rather than crossing over into spam territory.
Turn It into a Habit
Many salespeople are hesitant to follow-up either due to the fear of rejection or to coming across as annoying or aggressive. Others simply give up too soon. But the single most important characteristic that separates top sales performers from the rest of the pack is being steadfast in their follow-ups.
Remember: Failure to follow-up can cost you dear. 80% of successful sales happen after at least five follow-ups.
Source: IRC Solutions
To make your follow-ups successful,
- Arm yourself with accurate information and intent data on your lead before you approach them.
- Take notes at every interaction you have with the prospect. Prepare a summary and have it handy.
- Use email templates and automation to help you ace follow-ups. And oh, embedded analytics gives you wings!
- Provide additional value and information at every touch – align your sales process with thought leadership content marketing.
- Space out your follow-ups wisely.
- Use follow-ups to keep the conversation going and fostering loyalty even after the sale.
But your options don’t end here.
Our outbound email software and lead generation services are custom-built for startups, consultancies, marketing agencies, and other B2B organizations. Schedule a quick call with us and find out how we can help you win more clients.