14 Ways To Make The Sale Instead Of Giving It To The Competition Tip 12: Follow Up

14 Ways To Make The Sale Instead Of Giving It To The Competition Tip 12: Follow Up
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On the heels of the last tip about having a good website, which may have seemed a bit obvious yet so often throws people off their games, this one is going to seem like obvious-take-two. But as simple as it seems, it’s so important that I’d venture to say you could even be a little off your game in 13 other ways and still win business with this one tip.

You’re either doing it, or you’re not. And if you’re doing it, you may as well do it right!

Tip #12: Follow Up

If you’re one of those rare, lucky people who can meet a prospect, make your pitch and walk away with a check in your hand, you can probably stop reading. But if you’re like most of us in a competitive world, ask yourself this: who would you do business with?

The person who meets you once then disappears, or the person who meets you, calls to ask if you have any questions, emails to give you a bit more info, sends you a Christmas card…? You get the point.

There’s a difference between follow-up and nagging, so don’t cross the line into being one of those annoying sales-y people who won’t stop calling to the point where you make someone cringe every time they see your number on the caller ID.

But don’t go away and leave the decision in the hands of your prospect, either.

Be “Top Of Mind”

Sometimes all it takes to make a sale is being in the right place at the right time. And the right time may not be when you first meet someone. If you do get the opportunity to meet with a prospect but don’t walk away with a check in hand, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost a customer.

That person might be mulling over the decision to work with you or someone else, might not have the budget to pull the trigger yet, or might be plain old too busy. Or maybe there was a turkey in the oven and your prospecting call got cut short. It would be a shame to lose business just because someone got distracted and forgot about you in the space between first meeting and final decision.

If you follow up consistently, who do you think will come to that person’s mind when the funds are lined up, the ducks are in a row, the turkey’s on the table, and they’re finally ready to make a decision? Like the cream that’s been there all along, your business name will float to the top of your prospect’s consciousness.

In a perfect world we’d all find perfect customers to do business with who will be loyal to us forever. But relationships change, budgets change, needs change, geography changes. Even if you’ve “lost” a prospect to the competition, don’t give up on following up. When your ex-prospect is ready to make a change, guess who’s name is still floating around?

Make The Right “Touches”

Few people make spur of the moment decisions. Most of us like to weigh our options and think through the pros and cons, risks and rewards before committing, especially if that commitment involves a chunk of our time and money.

Without follow-up to guide your prospect through the decision-making process and make sure you’re still in the running, you might as well just tie a bow around that prospect and hand him over to your nearest competitor.

When you don’t walk out of a meeting with a check in your hand, make sure you reach out and touch your prospect again… and again… Ask questions. Make calls. Send newsletters. Have a cup of coffee with your prospect, then have another.

Remove the doubts that a person may have about working with you by being present and available.

Remember my article about the down side of choice? With so many choices available, it can be difficult for someone to make the decision to work with you or any one of your probably dozens or hundreds of competitors. Sometimes winning a prospect is about being the one who makes the choice easier.

Do this by being the one person who is consistently available, ready and able to answer questions or provide as much information as your prospect needs to feel comfortable with his decision.

Have A Process. Then Forget The Process.

It’s always a good idea to know what you’re doing by setting a basic process to follow. It will save you time and energy and you’ll be able to perfect your message and timing with practice.

If you wing it every time you meet a prospect, you’ll never really know what you’re doing, what you did or what worked. You’ll spend a lot of time just trying to figure it out.

So decide ahead of time how you want to follow up. A phone call in a week? Email next month? It wouldn’t hurt to script a few of these things. Have a simple “thank you” note on hand or a two question survey.

Choose a follow up method, then set the timing. Next time you meet with a prospect you won’t need to figure out what to do. Just follow the steps you’ve already established.

And once you practice that a bit, forget it. Not entirely, but enough to show that you’re not a robot, triggering form-emails at standard intervals. Remember, there’s a human component to doing business and if you get the sense from one prospect that it would be best to follow up with a daily phone call rather than your carefully timed emails, go ahead and do it. It’s important to have a starting point, but just as important to be flexible.

Take The Low Hanging Fruit

Following up doesn’t have to be some huge, scary obstacle. It can be as simple as asking your prospect for her email address and adding her to your monthly email newsletter list. This is a perfect way to create a top-of-mind awareness and multiple touches all at the same time, right within a process you’ve already got going.

Take your prospect’s mailing address and offer to send promotions or news when it’s available. Send your prospect an invitation to connect with you on LinkedIn. These things can all be done simply and don’t require any extra steps or new processes.

If you leave any meeting without asking your prospect to Like your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter, then go home and hang your head in shame. Seriously, this is such a no-brainer but so often overlooked.

In fact, if you’re sitting with a prospect and either of you has an internet connection, whether via workstation, laptop, iPad or cell phone, work it into your pitch to get your prospect to Like your Facebook page right then and there. Then you can follow up, stay top-of-mind and make those important touches naturally and consistently.

Don’t Be A Creepy Sales-Stalker

It’s worth repeating: be consistent, don’t nag. Start with unobtrusive follow-up opportunities, such as Facebook Likes, LinkedIn connections and monthly newsletters (which always have an “unsubscribe” link). Tread with care into regular follow-up territory; the “just checking in” phone calls and “let’s schedule another meeting” email requests.

Be attuned to clues that you’re stumbling into the stalker realm: your prospect is always in a meeting, out of the office or busy on any day that ends in a “y”. Back off if you get the sense that someone is just one verb away from wishing they’d never met you.

That’s why it’s important to start with a process – it lets you set a reasonable follow-up schedule and gives you a baseline to judge how well it works.

Whatever you do, don’t meet with a prospect then sit back and wait. And wait. And wait. You’ll wait yourself into bankruptcy. Get out there and follow up.

You’ll be leaps ahead of any competition that fails to do this and can tackle the competition head on if you do it right.

How soon do you follow up with a prospect after a first meeting, and what form does that follow-up take?

Read More In The “Make The Sale” Series

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera