One of two things is usually happening when I start working with a client on follow-up. They are either not following up at all or they are following up like is it still 1982.
The top excuses I hear again and again from professionals and business owners are, I don't have time to follow up, or I am just too busy to do my follow-up. Really, that busy? Too busy to follow up? That is nonsense. When someone tells me they are too busy to follow up, what I hear is that they lack the discipline to finish what they started. They would rather make excuses than make sales.
There's no excuse for dropping the ball on potential business. You lose money every day when you choose to neglect the follow-up. It is a costly behavior.
There are many reasons why sales are lost. One of the biggest is improper or no follow-up. Following up is not optional. It’s a critical part of the sales process. Sadly, it’s become the most neglected. Many people invest enormous amounts of time meeting with prospects, engaging in sales conversations and preparing proposals only to drop the ball on follow-up.
Why bother to start a business, have a sales conversation and meet with a new customer, then not be committed and serious about following up. What good excuse could you conjure up to avoid follow-up and not complete the business you started? Willingly letting your customers fall through the cracks is just bad business.
How much money is not following up costing you? The art of follow-up is less important than the act of follow-up. Take action. You are either taking action or making excuses.
There is another side to the follow-up equation. The basic and overused follow-up email you send to a prospect that goes something like this, "Hi John, I just wanted to follow up and see if you have any questions from the proposal I sent?” Or, "Hi Susan, I wanted to follow up with you to see when would be a good time to get started on your program?” Or, "Hi Alex, I was just following up on our meeting last week.” And more monotonous variations like those.
Just following up, just checking in, or just touching base, does nothing! They may make you feel like you’re moving the sale forward. The truth is you have not. If “just following up” really worked then why would you have to keep following up with someone 10 or 12 times?
When you establish the rules of the follow-up with a prospect, you will not have to follow up so many times. Ask yourself this: did I take the time to ask my prospect when we will continue the conversation, or what the next step looks like, or define how you will openly communicate moving forward. If you don’t establish what happens next or choose to skip this step, you will turn into the annoying sales person who is “just following up.”
You can radically change the way your prospects interact and stay in touch with you. Change your approach, and you will change your results. Instead of using the same language as your competition, say something different. If you don’t, you will blend right in. So, avoid using, “I was just checking in, following up, touching base, reaching out.” And, start saying, “The last time we spoke you mentioned, or in our last conversation you wanted me to, or I was calling to pick our conversation where we left off regarding…” Get creative! Be different! Stand out!
You can rationalize you are too busy to follow up. You can tell yourself you are super busy and don’t have time. Only you know why you are choosing to continue this behavior. Dig deep to find out why you let leaving money on the table become a better option than successfully completing all steps of the sale.
A good follow-up system will generate sales and keep your business more profitable. Customers respect business owners and salespeople who are efficient, organized and dedicated enough to follow through in a professional manner. When you follow up professionally, you win customers. And you get an instant raise.
Liz Wendling is the author of two books (and counting) — The Unstoppable Business Woman and Everyone Sells Something, a columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, and one of the first nationally credentialed facilitators for Napoleon Hill Mastermind groups. Learn more at lizwendling.com.