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8 Essential Tips for Making a Perfect Follow-Up Call
If you’re calling to follow-up, check on the delivery of your proposal, or just because the prospect told you to call back in a month, you really need tele-sales expert Jim Domanski’s advice to fine tune your follow-up calls.
In many ways, a follow-up call to a prospect is more challenging than a cold call. Typically, the follow-up call is what really gets the sales cycling rolling. It’s where value truly begins to manifest itself, substantive information is gathered, and the relationship begins to develop. It is absolutely vital that you have superb follow-up strategies and tactics so you can make the most of the moment. Here are eight tips for making a perfect follow-up call.
Get commitment for the follow-up
Perhaps the single biggest mistake reps make is not establishing a specific date and time for the follow-up call at the end of their initial call. Vague commitments from prospects (”call me next week”) or sales reps (”I’ll send the proposal and follow-up in a couple of days”) result in missed calls, voice mail messages and ultimately a longer sales cycle. All you need to do is ask for a follow-up date and time. For instance:
”I’ll be glad to write up the proposal (quote, whatever) and email it to you. And what I would like to recommend is that we set up Tuesday, the 19th, at say, 8:45 to review it in detail and determine the next steps if any. How does that sound?”
If this is not a good time, recommend another time. If that doesn’t work, get them to establish a time and date. Creating a deadline is a simple but extremely powerful tactic. Use it.
Build equity and be remembered
After every call to a first time prospect, send a thank-you card. Handwrite a message that simply says;
”John, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I look forward to chatting with you further on the 16th! Kind regards. . .”
No more, no less.
In today’s fast paced world, a handwritten card tells the client that you took the time and the effort to do something a little different. This registers in the client’s mind and creates a degree of ”equity” in you. It differentiates you and is remembered. And, it gives the client a reason to be there when you make your follow-up call.
If you don’t think a card will get there in time, send an email with the same note. Just be aware that an email does not have nearly the same impact as a handwritten note.
Email a reminder and an agenda
The day before your follow-up call, email your prospect to remind him of your appointment. In the subject line, enter the words: ”Telephone appointment for March 19th and article of interest.” Note that the subject line acts as a reminder but it is vague enough that the prospect will probably open it. There is a hint that maybe the date and time has changed.
Your email should confirm the date and time of the appointment and then briefly list your agenda:
”John, the call should only take 10 minutes. We’ll review the proposal and I’ll answer any questions. And then we’ll determine the next steps, if any.”
Notice how the words echo those used when the follow-up was initially set. In particular, notice the trigger phrase ”. . .the next steps, if any.” The ”if any” helps reduce some of the stress or concern first time prospects might have. Often they skip out on the follow-up call because they are worried that they’ll have to make a commitment. This is natural. If prospects sense an easy, informal, no pressure type of phone call, they are more likely to show up on time for that call.
Add value in a P.S.
Notice the reference to an article in your email’s subject line. At the end of your email, add a P.S. that says, ”John, in the meantime, here’s an article I thought you might enjoy regarding. . .”
The article may be about your industry, the market, a product or better yet, something non-business related that you had discussed in your initial call. This creates tremendous value even if the client does not open it. Why? Because you took the time to do something extra. This helps you be remembered and gives the client yet another reason to take your follow-up call.
Of course, this means you have to do some homework. Start looking on the web for articles of interest and value relative to your market and industry. Keep a file of these articles because they can be used over and over again.
Call on time
Don’t start your relationship on the wrong foot. Call on time. Never, ever be late with your follow-up call. Not even by a minute. The promptness and respect you show on a follow-up call reflects on you, your company and your products.
Avoid the opening statement blunders most reps make
So many reps stumble and fall by using these routine follow-up opening statements:
”I was calling to follow-up on the proposal.”
”I am calling to see if you had any questions.”
”I just wanted to make sure you got my email.”
”The reason for my follow-up was to see if you had come to decision.”
These opening statements are not only poor; they are commonplace and do nothing to differentiate you. You are perceived as yet another run of the mill vendor looking for a sale. You need a little more pizzazz.
Build a follow-up opening statement that gets through the clutter
There are four simple steps to creating that pizzazz. First, introduce yourself using your full name. Second, give your company name. Step three is where you differentiate yourself: Remind the client why you are calling and what prompted the follow-up call in the first place. This means going back to your initial cold call and reminding the client of the ”pain” or the ”gain” that was discussed or hinted at in your previous call. For instance,
”Phyllis, this is Michael Sacks calling from BVS Training. Phyllis, when we spoke last week you had two concerns. First, you indicated that you were concerned about having your current online training program renewed automatically before you had a chance to review it in detail, and second, that there were several modules whose content was questionable.”
Michael reminds Phyllis why she agreed to this call. He does this because he knows that clients are busy; that they forget; or that the urgency of last week may not seem so urgent this week. So he scratches at the scab. Remind your client of the irritation and the move on to step four, the agenda:
”What I would like to recommend at this stage is two things. First, we review those modules that have you so concerned, and second, we’ll take a closer look at the current contract. Then we’ll determine the next steps, if applicable. How does that sound?”
Clients like a clear, concise agenda. They want a vendor who is organized and doesn’t waste their time. They want someone to takes control and move the call forward. This gives them confidence.
Finally, notice how the rep repeats a theme that he established in the first call and in his follow-up email. He indicates that they will ”determine the next steps if applicable.” It’s a nice touch and reduces client resistance.
Be persistent, be polite, and be professional but not a pest
If you follow this formula, about 70% of the time the client is there to take your call. But, that leaves 30% who are not for one reason or another. If the prospect is not there, leave a message so that he knows YOU called on time. Say,
”Hi Phyllis, it’s Mike Sacks from BVS Training calling for our 8:45 appointment. Sounds like you might be tied up for a few moments. I’ll call in 10 minutes if I haven’t heard from you. In the meantime, my number is 555-1212”
Next, call in 10 minutes. Exactly. If the prospect is still not there, leave another message:
”Hi Phyllis, it’s Mike Sacks from BVS Training following up on our 8:45 appointment. Looks like you’re still tied up. Please give me a call when you’re free at 555-1212, otherwise I will call you later this morning or early this afternoon.”
So far you’ve been persistent without being a pest. Now, give the prospect a chance to call. A good rule of thumb is half a day. Four hours is plenty of time for the prospect to call you and more importantly, it doesn’t make you seem desperate or annoying. Here’s what you can say,
”Phyllis, it’s Mike Sacks from BVS Training. I called a couple of times today but as of yet we have not been able to connect. When we last spoke you where concerned about the contract expiry date and the content of some of the modules. I’m sure you don’t want that date to come and go. . . So, my number is 555-1212.”
Notice how the reps reminds the client of the call but does not make her feel guilty or embarrassed by using the phrase ”. . . but as of yet we have not been able to connect.” Also notice that the rep reminds the client about their early talks and the ”pain” the prospect was experiencing. In effect, he wants Phyllis to think, ”Oh. . . yeah . . .that contract is nagging me . . .I better get back to him.”
If that doesn’t work make four more follow-up calls spaced three business days apart. This shows persistence but the calls are spread far enough apart that the client doesn’t feel like she’s being stalked. If there’s no response by then, you probably won’t get one but at least you took a good stab at it.
Having solid follow-up strategies and tactics will separate you from the dozens of other sales reps who call the same prospects as you. This gives you a distinctive edge. Make the most of your follow-up calls and watch your sales grow.