May 17, 2022 0

Why ‘Follow Up’ is the most critical Sales Action and how to do it?

Posted by:Shrivallabh onMay 17, 2022

“The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.”

– John C. Maxwell

Francis was in love. College was about to finish, and it was high time Ragini knew how he felt about her. Mustering courage, he finally expressed his feelings. “You don’t have to respond right away Ragini. Take your time, think it over and let me know. I’ll wait”, he had said. Wait he did but did not hear from Ragini. College life got over, they went their separate ways and Francis for a long time was a dejected man.

Zakir needed a short-term hand loan and approached one of his friends Gabriel for the money. “I am expecting a roll over cash in ten days and can give that to you. I will call you then.” Gabriel had said. Zakir waited for Gabriel to call but he did not. After waiting for twenty days, Zakir went to meet up with Gabriel, only to realise that he had diverted that money elsewhere. “I waited for your call.”, he said. Zakir was disappointed at this response.

Shilpa, a sales consultant with a leading luxury passenger car dealer met with Nimesh Mehta, owner of a leading Chartered Accountancy firm in response to his enquiry. Nimesh got Shilpa to draft ‘The best quote’ after a couple of discussions. “We have a board meeting early next month and I will post this for approval then. I will call you after the 10th to take it further.” Nimesh had last said. Shilpa waited for his call until the 20th. When Nimesh did not contact her, she called his office, only to be told that he had decided in favour of a competitor. Shilpa was shattered.

What is the one common factor in these stories that led to the protagonists not achieving their goals, rendering them disappointed? They seemed to have done everything right except that they forgot one important aspect; Follow up.

I was following up on a proposal with a client recently. After a couple of days, the client responded with an updated and ended his note saying, “Sorry for the delayed response and having to make you follow up”. He was a kind man. My response to him was, “Please don’t be sorry. Follow up is a salesperson’s Dharma and I hope that my follow up has not inconvenienced you in any way.”

I will go a step further and say that follow up is not just a dharma (universal truth) but also a Karma (necessary deed/action) for a salesperson. Following up is a crucial action in the sales process and what good is a salesperson if they don’t know how (and when) to follow up?

So, why is follow up such a critical factor? Let me come straight to the point. The sale is more important to you than the purchase is important to the client. The client has many options, but the client is probably the only option you have. The client may have several reasons not to revert to you and they may not feel obliged to honour the commitment of calling you back. Sometimes, they simply forget. Follow up is therefore a very critical step and an important aspect of sales effectiveness.

Now that we discussed the importance, how do we put the skill into action? Here are some tips. The list is only indicative and not all inclusive.

  • Honour your commitment: If you had agreed to reconnect with the client on a particular day, ensure you contact them before the end of their business hours on the promised day.
  • Give them just the right time:  If it was the client who had promised to reconnect on a particular date, do not rush to follow up on or before the day. It is important for the client to know that you are serious but not desperate. I use the thumb rule of D+1 (the day after) or D+2 (two days after), depending on the client, industry, relationship, and any variables related to the situation. D+1 has worked the best for me.
  • Ensure clarity in communication: Do not beat around the bush. Come straight to the point. The client most probably remembers the context unless they have met many more prospective vendors. I use the following format as a thumb rule, to COPE with such situations, each step explained with an example:
    • One line Context (“I hope you got an opportunity to think over my proposal I mailed you”)
    • One line Objective (“I am following up to check if there is progress from your side and any update you think I should know”)
    • One line Probe (“If there is any further information that will help you with your decision, I am happy to provide.”)
    • One line Eagerness (“Partnering with you/ your firm means a lot to us and I eagerly look forward to your response.”)  
  • Use the communication mode you agreed upon: If you agreed to call, make that call. If it was agreed that you would email, then type the mail out. Always align to the client’s preferred mode of communication. I have always found that following a call with an email helps.
  • Time your follow ups: Do not overwhelm the client with an email every day or ten missed calls in a day. Apply discretion about when and how often you follow up. I use a thumb rule of three emails or phone calls, one week apart from each other before I bucket the prospect as a cold lead.

Some reasons why people don’t do a great job with follow up are:

  • The prejudices and pre-conceived notions they hold about the action
  • Uncertainty about what the client will think or fear of being judged
  • Fear of antagonising the client
  • Our own insecurities related to the transactions

These can prevent us from following up effectively. But remember, you are the one in need. If you don’t follow up, someone else will.

In my experience, most clients actually respect salespersons who follow up and they don’t take it as an invasion. Back in 2012, when we started DimenZion3, I had submitted a proposal to a promising prospect. We eventually closed the deal, after a good 18 months. The feedback we received from the client was, “There were other contenders for this project, but we loved your follow up and its consistency, which is why we decided in your favour” In the same breath, I would like to confess that I also once antagonised a potential client with my consistent follow up. It was probably the language that I used. Not that I intended to annoy the client, but I wrote something to the effect that she was wasting my time. Be sure your language is courteous and respectful. Do not sound desperate, do not sound rude.

Francis learned his lesson but a little late in the day. He is now married and has a lovely wife and a wonderful daughter. Ragini however has stayed unmarried. Word among the college mates has it that Ragini had similar feelings for Francis that she never expressed, for reasons best known to her.

Zakir learned his lessons and made sure that he followed up on time the next time round. It seems Gabriel thought Zakir wasn’t too much in need of the money else he would have followed up.

Shilpa attended the Sales Effectiveness training program offered by DimenZion3 and has never looked back ever since. We heard that she was recently promoted as an Area Sales Manager.

About the Author:

Shrivallabh is the Founder of DimenZion3 Global solutions with more than two and a half decades of work experience in consulting and training in the areas of Sales, Inclusion & Diversity and Leadership. He is also an author, actor, writer director. Shrivallabh specialises in offering theatre based training solutions to the corporate world

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