How to make the perfect sales follow up

We all know that follow-up is a critical component in securing new business and that the easiest way to lose is a sale is to fail to follow up.  After all, potential clients and sales prospects will only stay on the line for so long.  Great follow-up is equally critical to maintaining current clients and obtaining repeat business. Expert salespeople are adept at follow-up and follow-through on every potential lead.  Here are some techniques to polish up your follow-through.

1. Maintain all information about the client or prospect

Use a sales tracking and customer relationship management tool.  That way when you need a name, phone number or other information about a client or prospect it will be easily accessible.  When you run into a client on the street, and you’ve only got your cell phone handy, you’ll be glad this information is right at your fingertips!

2. Document all follow-up actions

It may sound like common sense, but be sure to track every item and complete each action accurately, totally and within the agreed timeframe.  A client will feel more secure in making a purchase if you’re well organized.  Providing information that is inaccurate, incomplete or untimely won’t help your current or prospective client in their business, and definitely won’t help you in yours.  Make sure that you understand how the information requested will be used by the client.  Do they want to better understand the features of your product or service?  Do they need a quote that must be below a certain figure?  Don’t make assumptions or guesses—talk to the customer!  Make sure you’re providing exactly what they need.

3. Within a reasonably short time period, contact the client or prospect

Ask if they have any questions regarding the information provided.  Cover your bases and ask if they‘d like any additional information.  This might give you an in to clear up any potential misconceptions they have.  It’s also a key opportunity to find out if you’re still in the running!  Perhaps your client is stuck on a comparable feature on another product.  Maybe they received a lower price quote from a competitor and would welcome a second quote.  You can’t always predict which way they’re leaning, so don’t be afraid to let them take the lead once.

4. Don’t let the prospect get away if ‘no’ is the answer to the questions above.

Since you understand why the information was requested and how it will be used, offer to provide additional information or services the client will find valuable.  Does your contact need approval from others up or across the chain of command?  It might be beneficial to schedule an in-person meeting with technical representatives from your company – or a phone meeting with the higher-ups in your client’s company.  Maybe the key is a tête-à-tête with your market pricing specialist?  Do whatever you can to make it easy for your contact to sell your product internally at his or her business.

 5. Ask for the sale.

Once you’ve come this far, don’t skip the most important step! And if you’re able to solidify your relationship with a contract or order, don’t forget to say ‘thank you’.  It’s common to fire off another e-mail for this, but a card or personal note will make you more memorable every time.   And if your contact does say ‘no’, take the time to find out why.  Did you provide the information too late?  Was the quoted price too high?  Who is the competition – what are they doing for the prospect? Don’t let one lost sale discourage you.  This is a great opportunity to find out how to improve your follow-up techniques and your company’s business strategy.

Importantly, at each of the above steps track follow-ups required, record the prospect’s response in your CRM.  This information is critical in managing your relationship with a customer or prospect.  Even if you don’t make the sale, the  information can be valuable and provide a guide next time the prospect knocks.