Do you follow up on your sales?

Diane Hall

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male customer and female car dealer shaking hands at showroom

It seems such an easy and straightforward thing to do, but many small business owners fail to follow up on the enquiries they receive if a sale doesn’t instantly occur. This can be for various reasons: they believe the client will come to them if they truly want their product/service; they don’t want to appear pushy; they believe the client didn’t show any interest; they don’t make the time to follow up; the client becomes out of sight and therefore out of mind…


One of the biggest reasons is the fear of rejection. Leaving the ball in the potential client’s court means you have nothing to worry about and you can move on to the next enquiry. However, according to IRC Sales Solutions, businesses only achieve 2% of their sales through initial contact. The rest, i.e. 98%, is achieved through following up. (I don’t know how IRC arrived at these figures, but I can believe the percentage of sales lost by not following up with people is significant.)


Actively approaching a client and asking for the sale is scary prospect to a lot of people, on the premise of ‘What happens if they say no?’


Then they say no.


It’s a common word in the English language. If they do say no, you won’t self-combust, no one will die. You may feel a little hurt and perhaps embarrassed, but after you’ve gone through the process a few times, you’ll detach and learn not to take it so personally. It will become just a decision, no more important than someone deciding what to have for their tea.


It may take a few attempts at following up, i.e. more than one conversation with a prospect before they decide to act. Of course, there’s a fine line between keeping in touch with a client, gauging whether their situation has changed and remaining at the forefront of their mind, to pestering the life and soul out of them before they submit in desperation (or report you to your superiors/badmouth you to their network). Always be led by your client. It’s not difficult to read bona fide ‘go away and never darken my door’ signals. And neither is it too difficult to tell when someone is genuinely wanting you to come back to them at a future date versus them trying to put you off in a roundabout manner because they haven’t the courage to just come out and tell you they’re not interested. Again, the more you follow up, the better you’ll become at reading whether each one is hot, warm or absolutely freezing!

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couple meeting with a consultant

I’m quite a stubborn customer, who abhors a pushy salesperson. If I want something I will make it happen and buy it there and then. If it’s a larger purchase or something I need to think about, I will ask for some time. Often, life takes over and I just don’t get round to revisiting the person/store in question. At this point, if I’m prompted by the salesperson or their automatic follow-up bot, this tends to lead to a sale, and I’ll feel glad they’ve reminded me. Because it’s easy to forget things in my busy life, I don’t mind someone following up with me—as long as the provider/company in question only does it once. If I say ‘no’ after I’ve said ‘I’ll think about it’, it’s because I’ve thought about it and I don’t want to go ahead with the purchase. Any contact after that annoys me.


For instance, I had a chat with someone at a networking event about a service I was considering, connected to my website, which they provided. There were a few things that, in my mind, I needed to sort out with my website before I engaged their help, which I explained to them. Over the following weeks, I received numerous emails and phone calls from the provider asking if I wanted to go ahead. I think I responded to a couple of them, stating that I still wasn’t ready, but they ignored this and continued to harangue me for the sale. Even though I ignored all further contact after the initial few occasions, they carried on. It got to the point where I blocked them on all my devices. Not only did this infuriate me, I don’t speak kindly of them if someone in my network asks what I think of their offering.


They didn’t get my sale and they certainly didn’t gain a fan. I’d made clear my situation, and whilst I didn’t mind the initial nudge, I felt they never listened to a word I said. They were only interested in making a sale; it didn’t matter who I was or what my needs were. I was simply a walking wallet (or that’s what it felt like).


That’s the extreme. That’s following up too much. But going back to my earlier point, where I’ve purchased items I’d not had time to commit to in the first instance, or which I wanted to think about—if those companies hadn’t followed up with me at all, they’d have missed out on my sale completely.


There’s a moral to this story. A good follow up strategy involves three elements, in my eyes:


· Making the time for following up, because sales could be missed if not

· Accurately defining the needs of the individual prospect

· Recognising when no means no, and respecting that prospect’s decision


For a myriad of reasons, prospective buyers may not be able to/want to make a purchase decision there and then. Following up is an integral part of a business’s marketing; however, it’s a skill to perfect, like any other.

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