Sales Follow-Ups: Do You Have a Plan?

Sales follow-ups are only successful if you have a plan of action. The who, what, when, where, and how of the sales follow-up plan, or leads-nurturing plan, need to be drawn up in advance so your follow-ups achieve maximum impact.

The following are keys to making such a plan work in your favor:

Have a system in place: You do not need the latest computer software to create a leads follow-up system. You just need a means of collecting all the data you can gather in one easily accessible place (or two, actually, because backing up all customer and potential customer data is a must).

Gather information: Try gathering as much information on your potential clients early on so you can put together a plan of action. This is where listening is more important than selling. Learn what they want and why they are interested in making a purchase so you can tailor your outreach to the individual rather than using the same set script.

Start sorting: Hot leads are those where you have plenty of information and a client who is hungry to make a purchase, perhaps to meet a deadline. Other leads are vague, with less information from or about prospects who may just be checking around. Obviously you’ll want to go after the hot leads first. However, schedule time to follow up on all leads. You never know when a lead that appeared to be on the cooler side will become a hot one.

Know what to say: No matter which medium you intend to use, preparation is critical. Your goal should be to advance the sale, not just check in. While a thank-you card is a nice way of building the relationship, focus your initial follow-ups on bringing something more to the table, such as new or additional information about the product or service or some incentive or timetable for buying sooner than later. Your contact should be planned and scripted to a point, with plenty of wiggle room depending on the customer’s response. Also, avoid sending automated e-mail until after several months. In the early going, it’s a surefire way to alienate people.

Choose the best medium: The truth is, the best medium is the one that results in the sale. Today you have many options, including phone, e-mail, postcards, brochures, and other high- and low-tech means of reaching your potential clients. If you determine their favorite means of communication, start there. If not, try mixing it up.

Schedule contacts: In the beginning, you’ll want to reach out to a hot prospect more often, perhaps three times in the first two weeks. Then you’ll schedule your follow-ups at longer intervals, such as once a month until you’ve reach three or four months. You need to have a schedule that lists when to make the next contact.

Be prepared for voice mail: With more and more people screening calls and limiting phone contact, e-mail becomes an excellent tool. However, at least one or two phone calls can be valuable in opening dialogue. Be prepared for voice mail and leave a few tidbits of information within a short message. Perhaps you can provide a discount, add additional services, or mention an incentive.

Be reachable: One of the biggest mistakes in sales is being unavailable when the client or customer tries to get back to you. Make sure to specify times when you can be contacted by phone. Cell phones make it easier to be reached. Make sure your voice mailbox is not overloaded, check e-mail often, and respond within 24 hours. Millions of dollars in sales are lost every year because the customer could not reach the salesperson.

Know how and when to close: Some customers will dance around forever if you let them, asking more questions and seeking endless information. It’s up to you to know when to ask for the sale and to try to close the deal.