Always intended but easy to overlook as the days go by, follow-up in the sales process is often the first area I zero in on when helping someone identify problems with their sales process. Why is it so often a culprit? Because of the second problem of not asking enough questions and making note of the answers which provide the avenues for meaningful follow-up.
In my experience in Sales Management and Training, I always found that not asking enough questions when there was an opportunity for it and lack of well planned follow-up are the two weakest links in most organizations' sales process. Follow-up requires advanced planning, no different than the way you would plan and deliver a marketing campaign.
So how can you construct an effective follow-up plan? You must always be keeping track of how your company is engaging with a prospect and logging the resulting reaction (or lack of one). All information and behavior needs to be in the right context to allow it to be incorporated into your follow-up.
Here are some things to consider to help you strengthen your follow-up process:
- Make sure the sales reps know and are up to speed on any marketing campaigns being done by your marketing team and whether your prospect engaged with them in some way.
- The prospect’s behavioral patterns are crucial in connecting with them on your follow-up. Your sales team must have avenues to efficiently gather information they need to set the stage for successful follow-up. HubSpot has great features in their CRM that track whether a contact has visited your website, which pages were visited, etc. It also provides a place for your notes, and ability to log the most common types of contact with the prospect like phone calls and meetings (it can even automate some of these for you through integration with the tools you use to carry out these tasks). The information your CRM has available is only as valuable as you make it but the first step is having and USING it.
- Create a realistic schedule for following up with your business contacts. Many CRMs have an ‘Open Task’ feature to schedule follow-up tasks. If attention isn't given to exactly how and when the tasks can realistically be completed these lists can become a catch-all. A place where good intentions go to die, especially when there wasn't enough substance to allow follow through.
- Use your CRM tools and schedulers. This is a pretty basic step, simply use the CRM tool you have to its full capacity. Make sure your team gets the support to set up the tools in the first place.
- Always follow-up based on what your contacts need not what you want. Needing to meet this month's sales goal is not a good foundation for follow up activity.
- Your follow-up will always be more effective if you recap the last communication, if applicable, and the reason you're reaching out to them now.
- Sometimes follow-up can be done without an agenda or a mission to sell something. Reach out to share information, something you read or heard about their company, an article on their industry, etc. A lot of sales people know this but don't engage in a system to consistently use this technique. Finding ways to make it more efficient for them might fix this problem.
- Be VERY creative in your follow-up and always try to vary the approach, or angle. Plan something new you can bring to the table to add value. This falls back on the need for asking a lot of questions. Without having detailed information it will be a struggle to be creative the next time you reach out to your prospect.
- Really, really listen to your prospects and take note of what they tell you. It's the only avenue for being SINCERE in your follow-up activities.
What it comes down to is good follow-up requires gathering a lot of information and managing it well. Doing a good job with the front end work to setup the tools that will make this process efficient, structured and intentional adds value to the people you engage with and is more likely to result in a sale. Happy follow-ups!