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How To Follow Up Without Being A Pest

by Johnny Bravo

How To Follow Up Without Being A PestIt was recently brought to my attention that although I’ve spent time talking about prospect follow ups I’ve only focused on the what [to say] and the when [to do it] but not the “how often”.

Perhaps the “how often” can be called the third leg of the prospect follow up tri-pod. What, when, and how often.

There are many idea’s about prospecting, and like many sales people, I have my own set of rules and best practices. All of which I openly share so that YOU can be the best sales person possible. I don’t claim to know all the answers and I don’t pretend that all my answers are the best option.

But I do like to answer sales questions based off my experiences and interactions. This post is one such example and it came about because of an email I received from a reader:

“Do you have an article written about ‘email/call follow ups?’ If not could you write one? I would love to have some insight/training on how to follow up with clients without being a pest. I feel like 75% of the time I’m annoying and 25% of the time I’m doing friendly business. Any ideas?”

I initially did two things. The first was to point them in the direction of three previous posts on prospecting.

I felt these would be a good place for them to start understanding the other two legs.

The second thing I did was write this post :-).

This was an excellent topic to cover and one I’m glad was brought top of mind. Being able to take real world situations and questions and write about them for all to read is why I created this site.

How Often To Follow Up

How often you follow up can mean the difference between annoyance and friendly business (as told by the above reader). It’s a fine line you walk as a sales person. And as much as I’d like to give you a solid rule and exact time between touches; there’s no such thing. Sorry to burst your bubble.

How often you follow up with a customer or prospect depends on a few different factors. Below I’ve listed the top four points I use to determine my follow up cadence and if I’m going too far or not far enough with my followups.

First: What Is Your Current Relationship

Is this a prospect you have a great relationship with? Do you talk about kids and sports scores?

Or is this a customer that is at risk? Someone who is only talking to you because they’re looking at a competitor. Their only interest is in finding out if they can get a better deal out of you or them?

Your follow up cadence should be based closely on the relationship you have with your main contact.

I was recently working on a deal where I felt I had a great relationship with the contact. For a couple of weeks we were talking daily, even multiple times a day. And throughout the contract negotiation that cadence kept up.

Is this normal…no. Do I recommend touching base 5 days a week in most cases? Absolutely not. But there are times when it is appropriate and often times necessary.

If you have done a great job bonding and building rapport with your champion then you might be able to reach out more often without being a pest. If the contact is hostile, you might want to pull back a bit.

Second: Who Are You Dealing With

This relates to the type of person you’re dealing with. Are you working with an IT person (pretty common for software sales) or are you dealing with a Dir.of Sales?

I guarantee you can up the activity with a Dir. of Sales. Heck I remember one time I was offered to interview for a sales job after touching base with a sales leader over a dozen times.

When you find yourself touching base with a position that understands the importance of follow up (CEO, CSO, Dir. of Sales, VP of Sales, etc) you have much more latitude for how often you can reach out.

In fact, if you are dealing with someone who can appreciate consistent follow up I recommend you follow up with them as much as you feel comfortable with. Remember that the stronger your rapport with them the more consistent you can contact them.

Third: What Are Your Intentions

When you’re reaching out to someone as a sales professional there are usually two possible reasons for it.

The first is that they are a current customer and you’re looking to up-sell them. Usually this is the case before the end of month, quarter, or year. Or maybe you have a new promotion that would be perfect for them.

We’ll call this selling. You’re trying to sell to your current account base which in general is easier than prospecting to new customers.

When this is the case you don’t want to be too pushy. You already have them as a customer, they are already warm, there is no reason to cross any boundaries. They’ll get back to you when they have had time to review your offering. Once a week or every other week works well for touching base. More than that I’ve found to be a little too much for them.

The alternative is when you are prospecting. When this is the case I believe you have every right to reach out to them one to two times a week. Honestly, until they call you back you should keep at it.

I promise you, if they are getting 2-3 calls, emails, or letters a week; they’ll call you back. Especially if you keep at it for weeks and months on end.

Fourth: What Are Their Reactions

The last aspect to take into consideration when deciding how often to follow up is the reaction you get from your touches.

If there is no response, I recommend accelerating your calls. Let me give you an example as to why this is completely OK.

Lets say you are calling on Ms. VP of Sales and she is not returning your calls or responding to your emails and handwritten letters. What are the possible explanations for it?

  1. She is getting your calls but avoiding them
  2. She is getting your calls but hasn’t been able to set aside time to call you back
  3. Her gate-keeper is screening the calls and none of them are getting through
  4. You’re calling the wrong person and they are passing your message along

These are the most common reasons I’ve found for not getting a call returned but if you can think of any other reasons, be sure to comment below.

Also I want to make something crystal clear, especially if you are new to sales, the above do NOT mean “No”. Until they tell you “No” and the reason why, it is at worst “Not yet”.

So keep at it and don’t give up. When you finally do get in touch with someone they might tell you, not right now, check back in a year, or we’ll be looking at this in the 4th quarter.

When this happens, my recommendation is that if it’s over a year, cut that time in half and check in. So if they say give me a call in a year, I’d reach out in about six months. If they give you a time frame less than a year, take them for their word or follow up no more than a month before that time frame.

Also be sure to confirm if that is when they are going to start looking or when they are planning to make a decision.

How To Know When Enough Is Enough

Well anytime you start hearing it (annoyance, contempt, disgust, hatred, etc) in their voice you might want to take a step back and figure out if you’re doing something wrong. Also maybe slow the cadence of your follow ups. Maybe cut your touches in half and go from there.

As a last point be sure that you are mixing up your messages. Don’t only call, or only send emails. Mix and match by sending emails then calls ,then letters, then maybe movies.

Be creative and it will stand out.

~ Johnny Bravo

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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