Follow Up: The Why, The How, and the How Not

Sticky note with "Call Back" written on it

Part 1: Why Follow Up is Imperative & Why We Don’t Do It Enough

Imagine this:

You are high-level management at a large company. Your assistant persuades you to talk to a sales rep for a new CRM solution because she’s not happy with the one you currently use, and neither are you for that matter. By the end of the call, you are intrigued and ask for more information to be sent via email. The sales rep agrees to follow up with you in a week after you’ve had a chance to look at the email and attached information.

Happy to have found a possible solution, you hang up the phone and go about the rest of your day. Unfortunately, the rest of your day does not go nearly as smoothly, with one catastrophe after another. In fact, the whole week is like that and the email that sales rep sent is put on the back burner.

You avoid the next call from the sales rep because it’s still catastrophe central and there’s no reason to talk until you’ve read the email he sent. The sales rep calls again a week later, but you miss it. He sends another email but you’re about to leave on a business trip and decide you’ll just have to look at it when you get back. A week later, you come back to a mountain of to-dos, meetings, and work to catch up on and the emails and phone calls from the sales rep are all but forgotten.

Then, one day, after things have settled down and you finally have a chance to breathe, you remember that long-forgotten email and start to search for it. It dawns on you, however, that you haven’t heard from that sales rep in quite some time. He stopped following up. Guess he’s not that interested in your business, you think to yourself. But there’s this other rep that called just a few days ago, and her product looks promising too. Maybe you’ll take her up on her offer for a webinar. You have her email right here with the link. You really are tired of hearing your assistant complain.

Do you see how the first sales rep blew it by not continuing to follow up, thus paving the way for a competitor who just happened to have the luck of better timing? While it’s understandable why the first sales rep might have assumed that the prospect wasn’t interested, the fact is that false assumption cost him the sale. In reality, the prospect wasn’t getting back because he/she was busy, as most people are.

Of course, there is a delicate balance between good follow up and becoming a nuisance because you are reaching out too often, but most sales reps don’t come anywhere near crossing this line. In fact, most don’t follow up enough, just like our imaginary one in the story above.

Why is failure to follow up such a prevalent issue in sales? There are a number of reasons, actually. Sometimes it’s a problem with the CRM system, sometimes it’s pure laziness / lack of follow through, and sometimes it’s because a set of hotter leads takes the forefront and pushes the ones that need more nurturing to the back burner. If it’s the CRM, get a new one. If it’s laziness, hire a new sales rep. If it’s hotter leads, come up with an automated system to temporarily take over in those situations, kind of like auto-pilot, or hire an outside firm.

Other times, however, it’s none of the above and the sales rep gives up too soon because of his/her skewed perspective of the situation at hand.

A prospect’s perspective and a sales rep’s perspective are polar opposites.

A sales rep (who’s any good, that is) will have researched the prospect, imagined how their offering can help, prepped the right message and responses to objections, crafted sales collateral to entice and inform, and kept detailed notes about any conversations or email responses – and that just scratches the surface. To the sales rep, the prospect is everything.

On the other hand, from the prospect’s perspective, the sales rep is just one tiny part of their day. And, depending on how that day, week, month has gone, the sales rep – even the one that makes an impact – can be easily forgotten. Unless the prospect is in dire need of the product the sales rep is selling, that gap in perspectives will always be there. This is why the sales rep should never assume that lack of response is an indication of lack of interest.

In the end, no matter what the reason, failing to follow up is going to cost you the sale. Stay tuned for the second installment of this article where we will discuss the best practices for following up to help you win the sale.