Follow-​Ups: Why 5 Is the Magic Number

follow ups

Follow-​ups directly impact your close rates, but do you know just how much of an impact they have? The answer may surprise you. Only 2% of sales are closed after the first meeting, which reveals that 98% of first meetings must be followed up before making a sale. And, as Sean McPheat reports in a MTD Sales Training post, “…it takes an additional 5 follow-​ups to close 80% of the remaining deals.” He also reports that according to research, 44% of salespeople give up after their first attempt! Even if you struggle with follow-​up, finding yourself unsure of how to proceed or frustrated, don’t give up. McPheat shares a few valuable tips, backed up sales research, for making sure you keep at it and close.

Follow-​ups: How many are needed?

Some decisions just take time. While it would be nice if salespeople could close a deal after only one or two touchpoints, that just isn’t the case with each prospect. McPheat understands this, and he encourages sales reps to, at the minimum, to have a “5 NO policy.” He explains, “…if you are giving up without at least attempting 5 follow-​ups then you are leaving a lot of money on the table…you follow-​up at least 5 times. After the 5th attempt you should take them out of your Sales Funnel and put them into a nurture [program] if you have heard nothing.”

Pinpoint what’s going wrong

By doing a minimum of five follow-​ups, you’re giving yourself adequate time to diagnose what isn’t working or still needed and to adjust accordingly. There are several factors that could be contributing to the prospect dragging their feet, and the more you uncover, the better your chances of closing. McPheat suggests keeping an eye out for the following possible issues:

  • No clear need for the product or service
  • Budget wasn’t discussed
  • You weren’t speaking to the decision-​maker
  • Internal politics within the prospect’s company
  • Your price is thought to be too high
  • The prospect is just too busy 
  • They did not have the courtesy to just say no

With each follow-​up, attempt to uncover, and then address, issues like these that could be stalling the sale. “Most of the above can be [checked] off if and when you eventually are able to get in touch with your contact,” McPheat explains. “This is why effective and consistent follow-​up is so essential.”

Follow-​ups work

Don’t waste too much time when reaching out, and reveal your commitment to excellent communication by always responding quickly to the first inquiry from a prospect. Then, once you’ve established a connection, be tenacious! Resolve to not disqualify the prospect until you’ve had at least five follow-​ups as McPheat urges. And finally, keep in mind that some deals just take time. It can be easy to give up hope and throw up your hands in frustration after a couple of touchpoints that go nowhere. If needed, adjust your follow-​up process to allow for more time, and consider ways that you can enhance each and every follow-​up

Keep in mind that just by considering how you can keep the sale alive is already more than what 44% of other reps are doing. “Even if your product is not the best on the marketplace, the fact that you are following up means that you’re in the game to begin with by selling to prospects that are ignored by the rest,” McPheat points out. By continuing to follow-​up, and improving that process, you’re bound to boost your close rates.

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.