Follow-Up Calls Can Give You the Competitive Edge

By Keith Rosen, MCC

The Executive Sales Coach™

Most salespeople are reluctant to follow up. They worry about “bothering the prospect.” Quite often, this reluctance stems from not having a follow-up process they are comfortable with. They don’t know what to say, they don’t know when to make these calls, and they don’t know the frequency or how often to make follow-up calls. Here’s a story that illustrates how a consistent, permission-based follow-up system can generate more “free” sales for you.

My wife and I were about to undertake our last remodeling project. Being a consummate consumer, I wanted several qualified companies to bid on our next project. After calling 10 contractors, I scheduled an appointment with the 5 that called back.

Following our meetings, one gave me a price on the spot and two never responded with an estimate. Two contractors mailed an estimate, and one of them followed up a week later.

Guess who got the job. Just by making a five-minute phone call! What fascinated me most was that only one contractor called back to discuss his proposal and ask for my business.

How can these salespeople afford not to follow up? Conducting my own research, each one said they needed more business, yet didn’t know the status of the majority of proposals they sent. I sensed that following up regarding their proposal was not their typical M.O. Instead, here’s what they said:

  • “I thought you were using someone else.”
  • “I didn’t think you were ready to buy.”
  • “I thought you felt the price was too high.”
  • “I didn’t want to bother or pressure you.”

While these contractors formulated their own conclusion, they never bothered to confirm if their assumptions were, in fact, true! They were operating under the costly assumption “The prospect will call when they’re ready.”

I asked Bill, one of the contractors, “If you’re sacrificing valuable time to drive to an appointment, deliver a presentation, write a proposal, and then don’t follow up and ask for a prospect’s business after taking all of the steps that earned you the opportunity to do so, who are you really helping?” Then it hit him between the eyes. “My competition!”

Bill realized something that only a select few have. While prospects need his remodeling knowledge and skills, they also need his help in making their purchasing decision.

Bill recently called me with some exciting results. After making 30 phone calls to past prospects, he spoke with 10 prospects he had met with. Bill sold three more deals ($78,000) in one week that he never would have sold.

In many businesses, especially the ones that sell directly to consumers (such as home remodeling), cold calling consumers via the phone is no longer an option to generate new leads. Aside from canvassing door to door, networking, asking for referrals, posting job signs, or traditional (and sometimes costly) marketing/advertising campaigns, what else brings in more business? Follow-up calls.

How many prospects are waiting for your phone call so they can send you a deposit? How many people are out there waiting to begin working with you?

Bill and I sat down to crunch the numbers. I shared this observation with him: “Consider that you can make about 15 calls per hour (one hour per week). Assume that out of 15 contacts, you make one more sale (average sale $10,000). Four hours a month equates to four more sales. Over a year, that’s $480,000 in volume. This exceeds the yearly volume of most contractors just by making one hour of follow-up calls each week!”

If you take a moment and look at your call-back list, how much business does that equate to? Now ask yourself, “How much of it am I willing to give to my competition?”

Since your competitors aren’t paying you commission, here’s your opportunity to utilize a simple, efficient three-step follow-up system that will bring in more (free) sales.

1. Get Permission. Whether you need to follow up after an initial conversation or once a prospect receives your proposal, tries out your product, speaks with references, or needs to check their schedule before they meet with you a second time, it’s just good business sense to get permission before doing so. For instance, you inform the prospect they will be receiving your proposal next Friday. Before you leave the appointment ask, “May I follow up with you to discuss and answer any questions you have regarding my proposal?” Gaining permission to follow up eliminates your fear of appearing overly aggressive or pushy. Now they’re expecting your call.

2. Schedule A Meeting. Now that you’ve gotten permission, schedule a time that you will be calling or meeting with them. Immediately put it in your planner or PDA. This eliminates the time-consuming game of phone tag and having to hunt your prospect down in order to schedule yet another time to meet or review your proposal, reducing the number of calls you’ll have to make or respond to.

Tip from the Coach: There is an exception to this rule. Say part of your selling strategy requires drafting a proposal for a prospect. Rather than sending your proposal and then scheduling a time to meet after it has been received, it’s always better if possible to schedule a time to hand deliver your proposal. This way, you can review it face-to-face (or computer-to-computer) with the prospect and immediately address any concerns or barriers to the sale. Reviewing the proposal upon delivery provides you with the luxury of handling all possible objections immediately so that you can then ask for the prospect’s business, thus reducing the chance of your proposal becoming another item on the prospect’s lengthy to-do list. In many cases, the longer it takes to reconnect with a prospect, the closer your proposal gets to the bottom of their priority list.

3. Just Follow Up! Depending on the sheer number of prospects you connect with, start by putting aside at least one hour each week that’s strictly devoted to this practice. Considering your ROI, it’s time well invested. Otherwise, something else will always take precedent.

Instead of thinking about how many calls you need to make, consider how many sales you’ll be giving to your competition if you don’t. If something as simple as following up provides you with a competitive edge, then your next sale is just a phone call away.

About Keith Rosen, MCC — The Executive Sales Coach

Keith Rosen is the executive sales coach that top corporations, executives, and sales professionals call first. As an engaging speaker, Master Coach, and well-known author of many books and articles, Keith is one of the foremost authorities on coaching people to achieve positive change in their attitude, behavior, and results. For his work as a pioneer and leader in the coaching profession, Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country.

If you’re ready for better results quickly, contact Keith about personal or team coaching and training at 1-888-262-2450 or e-mail Visit Keith Rosen online at Profit Builders and be sure to sign up for his free newsletter The Winners Path.