We all learned in Sales 101 we must follow up with our prospects until they buy. Unfortunately, while we're busy trying to make all these follow-ups, some very fine prospects who are ready to buy now are flying under our radar.
The trick in sales is to talk to buyers. Rather than responding, "Duh!", professional sales people find this the hardest discipline to execute. But like most successful strategies, it requires a tactical plan. If you've been relying solely on follow-up phone calls to close sales, why not try this plan for 30 days?
1. Create a follow-up activity series. If you use ACT! or another contact manager, assign the series after you send your proposal. If you close the sale, you can always end the series early. Your series could look like this:
0 Day-Proposal Sent
2 Days-Follow-up Phone Call
4 Days-Follow-up Email
7 Days-Follow-up Voice Mail
10 Days-Follow-up Email
14 Days-Follow-Up Voice Mail
30 Days-Follow-Up Email
2. Write a compelling voice mail script. Limit it to 10-15 seconds. (Time it!) Start with your name, company and phone number (which gives the recipient an opportunity to retrieve your number without having to wait for the entire message to play). Next, say your compelling message; then, a declaration about what you want them to do. Finally repeat your phone number at the end. I often give my email address as an alternative way to "return the call."
My voice mail sales follow-up call goes something like this: "Hi, ___, this is Lori Feldman with Aviva, 800/264-5478. I just completed a project for another client who was as concerned as you are about ___. Listen to what happened when they bought my services: (Recap story). I have some additional ideas for (Company's project for which I sent you my proposal. When are you available to discuss it? Here's my phone number again and my email address, if that's an easier way for you to contact me: (Phone and email address.)
3. Send a Fax. Once I get 30 days out from a sent proposal, with no feedback from a prospect, I figure it's time to put him back in the prospect bucket where he'll receive the regular direct marketing I send to all customers and prospects (ACT! Tips, User Group invitations, newsletters, etc.) However, because he was interested in my services-enough to ask for a proposal-and he hasn't said "no" yet, I still want to give him his own follow up.
Based on the value of the proposal, I may put in a recall date every 30 days, or start emailing again, but first I'll try my "last ditch effort," a fax that says, "It looks like your needs may have changed since we last talked. Please check the appropriate box and fax it back to me at your convenience: 1) We're still interested, but I've had no time to follow up with you. Try me in ___ days/months; 2) Our needs have changed, and we don't need you! 3) We went with another vendor, sorry! 4) Who are you again?" Humor goes a long way, too.
It's true that persistence pays off in higher close rates. But your prospect is busy, too, and sometimes you're just not the high priority you think you are. Many potential customers prefer responding via email, which is faster and less intrusive in their day than a phone conversation can be. Giving a prospect several ways to communicate with you-especially when it cuts down on the time you're spending with non-buyers-is a more effective long-term sales strategy. When you focus selling time on buyers who want to buy today, your sales go up!
Lori Feldman is president of Aviva, a mailing list/database marketing and Internet consulting firm and an ACT! Software Certified Consultant. She is this year's Direct Marketer of the Year, awarded by the Direct Marketing Assn. of St. Louis. Reach her at http://www.aviva-aviva.com/act.html