Stop Saying This During Follow Ups

BY Jessica Helinski
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Sorry to bother you.” This simple polite phrase is very common, especially among salespeople. But, one sales professional believes saying it has become a bad habit. “Seemingly innocuous phrases like, ‘Sorry to bother you,’ sneak into our regular sales emails and phone calls and poison our relationships without us even realizing it,” writes HubSpot’s Meg Prater. She goes on to explain why reps should avoid this phrase during follow-​up communications; two of those reasons are below:

It implies that you are an annoyance to the prospect. In the most basic of interpretations, apologizing for communicating again with someone implies that you consider yourself a bother. Plus, it also shines a light on the fact that you are reaching out yet again, which can make you look pushy!

It communicates that your time isn’t as valuable. Don’t apologize for doing your job as a salesperson. As Prater advises, “maintain authority and equal footing with your prospect by never apologizing for being in their inbox or voice mailbox.

After explaining why reps should avoid this phrase, she then gives alternatives. If you find yourself typing out, “sorry to bother you…,” stop and regroup. She encourages reps to focus instead on expressive value to the prospect (rather than immediately apologizing). A few ways to do this include

  • Send a customer review or testimonial. This will break the ice of the communique and simultaneously boast the value of what you’re selling.
  • Share a blog post link. Grab the prospect’s attention with a relevant and interesting blog post. This will engage him or her much better than an apology.
  • Don’t talk business. Another alternative is to start the conversation with a totally different topic: A shared hobby, a bit of industry news, inquiries about an upcoming holiday, etc. “While your prospect might not be ready to discuss business — most people like talking about their hobbies and out-​of-​office interests,” Prater explains. “Once you have them engaged again, use your best judgement to steer them back to the topic at hand: your offer.”

Among her other alternatives, she also suggests simply sharing that you can walk away. If you still aren’t getting anywhere with the prospect, despite repeated attempts at moving forward, just let him or her know that you can move on if there’s no interest. “If your prospect is still interested, this should grab their attention,” Prater writes. “If not, it gives them an easy way out. You can always leave the door open for a call or email six months down the line to see if things have changed.”

So, the next time you feel like opening a follow-​up call or email by apologizing to “bother” the prospect, remember Prater’s advice. Regroup and refocus your message to bring value rather than apologies.