5 Fatal Follow-up Mistakes that Are Costing You Clients

By: Mark Heerema

There's a popular expression on the golf course: "Drive for show, putt for dough." Meaning, the game of golf is won or lost not by how far you can crush it, but by how well you putt. (No wonder I'm so bad at golf.) Your prospecting efforts follow the same mantra. Read on.

Out of the top 100 prospects in your pipeline, how many will you close on the spot on the first call?

The answers vary depending on the industry, and some of you might say "a ton." However, most of you probably would answer "very few, if any."

Knowing how to generate interest on the initial call is absolutely important. However, elite sales professionals know their income is tied directly to how good their follow-up game is. Follow-up to sales professionals is like putting in golf. That's where your money is.

If you want your follow-up calls to succeed, you must avoid these five fatal follow-up mistakes.

1. Losing control: Even if your prospect tells you, "I'll call you back," or, "I'll get that to you shortly," don't hang up without putting yourself back in a proactive position of controlling the next step. Be sure to respond with, "Thank you, Tom. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll call you on Friday, OK?" The sales rule I try and live by is, "never believe what I hear, only what I see." You determine the next follow-up, not the prospect.

2. Not letting your prospect know that you will follow up with him: If people are surprised when you follow up with them, then you are not being as effective as you could be. When you let people know you are not letting them off the hook, then following up shouldn't come as a surprise. A rule to sell by is at the end of every call let your prospect know you are not going anywhere, and set the expectation as specifically as possible as to when they will hear from you again.

Many buyers claim salespeople don't follow through on their promises, so one way you can quickly and clearly distinguish yourself without selling them is with accurate and timely follow-up. Tell them you will follow up, and then do it. Every time you follow through on what you say you'll do, you show them that you are trustworthy.

3. Not getting permission: According to sales studies on persistence, many salespeople give up too soon. There are several reasons for this, but one I've seen is that some salespeople don't want to be that "annoying salesperson."

You can maneuver around that ugly, self-imposed obstacle by communicating your humanness to buyers. Here's what works for me because it's true and open:

"Debbie, I hope you don't mind my persistence. It's just that I am so confident in how this will help you. You don't mind me continuing to follow up with you, do you?"

Nine times out of 10 people will acknowledge healthy and effective persistence as a positive and will leave the door open to follow up with them.

4. Not knowing what you specifically want out of the follow-up call: You know you need to work with the customer to meet their needs and not bulldoze through your agenda. However, you must have a specific intention of what you want to accomplish on a call. Remember, when your prospect picks up the phone, they have a thousand other things besides you that they are working on or thinking about. Your job is to get and keep their attention. Your time to accomplish that is limited, so be selective and effective with your words, be concise, and deliver the goods while moving the ball as far forward as possible.

Your follow-up calls should not be cookie-cutter conversations in which you treat each prospect the same way. You don't want to act like a robot. Nor do you want to wing it. You want to master your craft and know what to say or what question to ask before you pick up the phone. This is about knowing what delivery will give you the best odds of winning.

5. Not re-qualifying at the right times: Your time is money. Every call you make has a price tag on it. Why waste even one more phone call if the prospect isn't interested? If you feel like things are beginning to stall or if your prospect has not moved forward, then it's time to re-qualify them. You could say:

"Susan, I really believe my solution will help you achieve your productivity goal. Are you still interested in pursuing this with me?"

Generally, people want to avoid conflict and don't want to let you down. That means you must give them the opportunity to tell you. If you don't, you run the risk of continuing to chase them down despite the conclusions they have already made but aren't telling you.

Mark Heerema, owner and founder of Better Your Best, is recognized for his work in debunking old sales myths, his recent and most popular bold claim being, "Why Traditional Sales Training Is Overrated, Over Taught, Over Used, Ineffective and Keeping Sales People From Higher Sales and Bigger Money." To learn more, visit www.betteryourbestnow.com or email Mark at mark@betteryourbestnow.com.

strategic account management