Sales calls are integral to getting the conversation started around a business deal, but the real magic happens in the follow-up. Without proper follow-up, you and your team could be meeting with/talking to dozens of leads per week and only landing a few. Thoughtful—personalized—follow-up is the key to sales success.
Why is this? Because the sales process is changing before our eyes. No longer do potential buyers blindly open the Yellow Pages and work their way down lists of companies in search of the right vendor. These days, customers are spending a significant amount of time on the backend researching companies, reading review sites and talking to other customers to determine if they want to make an initial call.
A recent study commissioned by Google and CEB titled The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing found that most customers engage sales reps when they are already 60 percent through the sales process. Therefore, providing personalized follow-up could be one of the only things you can do to differentiate yourself from your competitor.
Here’s how to revamp your follow-up process:
During the shop-around process for a new vendor, potential customers are focused on time. If a lead sends you a request (be it over phone, email, web chat or the like), drop everything and respond right away. The faster you follow-up, the more likely the lead will convert. Especially when responding to web-based leads, you are nine times more likey to land a client if you respond to their request in five minutes or less, according to InsideSales.com.
The minute you get a lead on the phone, take out a pen and paper (or boot up a Word doc) and start writing notes. In addition to explaining the details of your product or service, try to lighten the conversation by engaging in casual banter about what the person has planned for the weekend, if they are following an upcoming sports game, etc.
On the professional side, ask them about the problems they are experiencing, even if those things don’t have to do with your offering. Write down everything they say no matter if you think it will be applicable to the sales process or not. You will need it later.
If you find your lead trying to get you off the phone, don’t panic and offer a discount on service. Customers will see right through this strategy and consider it tacky. Instead, end the conversation cordially and try to suppress that feeling of dread in your stomach. Remember: Most B2B sales don’t happen during the first call; the decision process usually involves multiple parties.
Time is of the essence when it comes to following up, so send a note to your lead immediately after seeing/talking with them. Send a personal email, not a form letter. Make it short—just a few sentences—and recap what you spoke about, adding any personal anecdotes (refer to your notes) from your conversation.
Depending on the size of the deal, consider waiting a day or two and then sending your lead a hand-written card. Don’t go into great depth on your offerings (you already spoke about that and it would be overkill). Just thank them for their time and include your business card.
I love sending care packages, and find that when leads receives something personalized to their address, they almost always at least call back to say thanks (and, more often than not, convert).
One of our sales reps was talking to a lead on the phone a little while ago when the lead said something like, “Ya know, I haven’t had my Red Bull today, so it isn’t a good day for making a decision.” Our sales rep didn’t push and the call ended pleasantly. But within an hour, we’d over-nighted a case of Red Bull with a little note attached. The lead called back the following day to thank us and close the deal.
Another example was when one of our sales reps sent a signed Brian Urlacher helmet to a lead that was obsessed with the Chicago Bears NFL team. The sales rep had taken notes during their phone conversation and learned of the lead’s affinity for Chicago football. Yes, the helmet cost money (around $100 or so), but the effort converted into a sale of much more than that, proving it was worth every penny.
I highly recommend sending care packages. You aren’t going to convert every one of those leads, but even if a potential customer passes on your company, they will always remember the sincere, personalized follow-up you facilitated. And, you never know, that memory may inspire a future call for business.
Yaniv Masjedi is the vice president of marketing at Nextiva (@Nextiva), a leading provider of cloud-based, unified communication services. In his role, Yaniv manages the firm's marketing and branding efforts by working to create strategies that drive awareness, strengthen the Nextiva brand and share the story of the company's unique customer-centric culture (dubbed "Amazing Service").
To learn more about the guide to winning sales every time, visit salesforce.com, or download the free e-book.