I’ve often heard salespeople say “I’ve been getting so many leads lately and I just can’t handle it” and I want to dispel this myth. No salesperson is “too busy” to respond to their leads!
As someone who works in sales, I have learned just how important a follow-up is and just how easy it can be to forget when you start handling a high volume of leads. Depending on what industry you are in and who in particular you need to follow up with, the amount of time in between touches will vary, but one thing will not: Every customer wants to feel important. As simple as this sounds, having tens, hundreds, or thousands of customers who want to feel the love can be challenging for even the best of us.
When I first started in my business development role, I did not really have a set way to keep all of my leads in order. I was dealing with a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, new email platform, and quite frankly, more than I had ever handled before. It took a few months for me to really settle in and find what worked best for me, but now that I have, I would like to share a few tips so you can avoid some pitfalls I found myself in early on.
1. Record Everything As Soon As Possible
One of the mistakes I made when I first got started was putting off my recording of new prospects. It was an easy habit to fall into as it seemed I was always in the middle of something when an email inquiry rolled in. I would reply to the email immediately and continue with my work, leaving the the email in my inbox to be filed later.
Rather than putting this off, I now get to a stopping point in what I am currently doing before even reading new inquiries. At this point, I will respond to and record the lead all at once. Immediately after sending my reply email, I set a follow up reminder in case the potential client does not respond in a certain amount of time. A good way to do this is with the Chrome extension, Boomerang.
A few weeks ago, my manager and I were having a conversation about some practices to keep our leads in line for follow ups, when she referred me to this time-saving (and life-saving) plugin. Along with a handful of other features, Boomerang allows you to set your email to come back to your inbox after a set period of time, if you have not received a reply. This saves you the trouble of either going into your calendar or CRM system to set this reminder, thus saving you tons of time when dealing with a high volume of clients.
After setting your reply email to Boomerang, you will then want to record all of the client information you have in a spreadsheet and/or CRM system. When you have a lot on your plate, recording new prospect information seems tedious, but it is not worth the risk of putting it off.
Initial contact records must be maintained in the same fashion ongoing. At the end of a client meeting or call, determine what your next steps are and make time on your calendar to both execute them and follow up with the potential client. For example, after an initial call, I will set a reminder to both create a proposal and to send the proposal. Also, my proposals are always sent with a three-day Boomerang.
2. Personalize Your Follow Up Without Spending Too Much Time
Continually touching base with a high volume of clients is not easy, even after you have your reminders set up. Many of your follow-up emails will end up being extremely generic because of the lack of time, and as a result, they are ineffective. Whenever I write a “Hey, are you still there?” kind of email, I try to include something that is specific to the client or solution they are interested in.
An easy way to do this is to find three articles a week that are relevant to your industry and use them as a starting point in your follow-up emails. Here is an example:
“Hi John, I came across this article about some of the basics of getting your firm found online and thought it might be helpful for you…”
Rather than saying, “I just wanted to get back in touch,” you are now bringing value to their day and letting them know that they are at the top of your mind. To find these relevant articles, you can subscribe to industry blogs and email newsletters or Google (v.) relevant topics and change your search results to “news.”
Another tactic I have employed lately to get back in touch with difficult-to-reach clients is including testimonials within my emails. Seeing that someone else had a great experience with your products or services can stir emotions that drive buying behavior. Make sure that the testimonials you use are coming from someone in a similar industry and/or market to be most effective.
3. Be Consistent and Insistent
One of the most frustrating challenges as a salesperson is not knowing where potential customers stand. You would almost rather know that they are not interested in what you are selling than have to hound them for months.
A challenge I faced in my first sales job was feeling like I was pestering clients by asking them where they were in their decision making process. Knowing how busy small business owners are, I felt like a bother. The first thing I learned here was that 90% of the time, small business owners were indeed too busy to review my proposal or reply to my email, but they appreciated my reminder.
Another good way to avoid feeling like nuisance is setting a time for your next point of contact in all of your communication. For example, if you have not heard from a client in a while who is normally responsive to email, add this to the end of your next email: “If I don’t hear back from you by next week, I will plan on giving you a call sometime on Tuesday.” This tactic may light a fire under them to get back to you or at the very least, sets the expectation that you will be calling.
In conclusion, you can never be timid in sales. To be successful and make all of your clients have that warm, fuzzy feeling about you, diligent follow up is a must. It will vary industry to industry and customer to customer. You just need to find that sweet spot when your customers need that nudge, and give it to them when and how they want it.