In many ways, a follow up telephone call to a prospect is more challenging than a cold call. It’s here where the selling really gets rolling; where your value to the client manifests itself; and where substantive information is gathered. Here are eight proven tips to make the very most of the follow up call.
Tip #1: Get commitment for the follow up.
First, get commitment regarding the precise date and time of your follow up call. Don’t say, “I’ll call you next week” or “I’ll follow up Thursday after lunch.” Instead, say, “Clayton, I would like to recommend we set up Tuesday, the 16th, at say, 8:45 to review it in detail and determine the next steps if any. How does that sound?”
If the client will not commit to a specific date and time you are probably wasting your time. Politely bow out by saying, “Clayton I am a little reluctant to send out that proposal if we can’t agree to a follow up date and time. If now is not the time to review your current situation I understand completely, and what I would like to recommend is that I call you next quarter and determine how things stand then.”
Tip #2: Send a Thank You Note
After the call send a thank you note. If you have the time, send a handwritten thank you card because it makes a powerful impression. Handwrite the envelop and use a real stamp!
If you don’t have the luxury of time, send an e-mail. But whatever you do, don’t promote yourself your products or services. Make the thank you about the client and nothing else.
Tip #3: E-mail a “curious” reminder
The day before your follow up call, send an e-mail and remind your prospect of the follow up call. Create curiosity in your subject line: “Clayton, about our telephone appointment for August16th, and an article of interest.” There is a hint that maybe the date and time has changed and this usually compels the client to open and read your e-mail.
In the body of your e-mail, confirm the date and time of the appointment. Provide a very brief agenda and remind the client about the problem or the opportunity that you discussed earlier. This helps the client say, “Oh ya…that’s why I committed to the call. I better take it.”
Tip #4: Add value in a PS.
Notice in the subject line above there is a reference to an article. At the end of your e-mail add a P.S. that says something like. “Clayton, in the meantime, here’s an article I thought you might enjoy regarding…”
The article may be about your industry, the market, a product or better yet, something non-business related that you had discussed in your initial call (e.g., sports related such as a sporting event). This creates value. It’s that little extra ‘something’ that gets remembered.
Tip #5: Call on time
Call on time. Never, ever be late. Not even by a minute. The promptness and respect you show on a follow up call reflects on you, your company and your products.
Tip #6: Avoid opening statement blunders
Don’t dilute the quality of your follow up call with lame opening statement that begin with:
• “I was calling to follow up on the proposal."
• “I am calling to see if you had any questions."
• “I just wanted to make sure you got my e-mail.”
It is not that these opening statements are poor but rather they’re routine and common place. Make yours different. Start by stating your full name followed by your company name. Don’t assume they remember.
Next, because clients are busy and distracted it is important to remind them why they agreed to the call in the first place. Reference the problem, concern, benefit or opportunity that you discussed in the initial call.
“Cindy, this is Craig Dollan calling from ABC Training. Cindy, when we spoke last week you had two concerns. First, you indicated that you were concerned about having your current on line training program renewed automatically before you had a chance to review it in detail, and second, that there were several modules whose content was questionable.”
Finally, provide an agenda for the call. For example, you might tell Cindy that you’d like to review the modules that concerned her and then recommend that you take a closer look at the current contract.
Clients like clarity and focus. They want a vendor who is organized, doesn’t waste their time and moves the call forward. This gives them confidence.
Tip # 7: No Answer? Be persistent, be polite, and be professional but don’t be a pest
Some clients won’t be there when you call. Here’s what you do. First, leave a message so that she knows YOU called on time.
“Hi Kathy, it’s Seely Chase from XYZ calling for our 8:45 appointment. Sounds like you might be tied up for a few moments. I’ll call in 10 minutes if I haven’t heard from you. In the meantime, my number is ______”
Next, call in exactly10 minutes. If the prospect is still not there leave another message:
“Hi Kathy, it’s Seely Chase from XYZ following up on our 8:45 appointment. Looks like you’re still tied up. I’ll drop you an e-mail just in case you’re off site. Please give me a call when you’re free at ----- -----, otherwise I will call you later this morning or early this afternoon.”
Note the use of the e-mail. Send one at this point. The prospect might be on a call and the e-mail can act as a visual signal. Use the same wording in the e-mail as your voice mail. Then, give the prospect a chance to return the call or e-mail. Resist the urge to send additional calls or e-mails otherwise you run the risk of acting like a stalker. Wait about three to four hours, which gives them plenty of time to respond. If no reply, leave a message like this:
“Oh hi Kathy, it’s Seely Chase from XYZ. I called a couple of times today but as of yet we have not been able to connect. When we last spoke you where concerned about the contract expiry date and the content of some of the modules. I ‘m sure you don’t want that date to come and go. So, my number is _______.”
Notice how the rep reminds the client of the call but does not make her feel guilty or embarrassed by using the phrase “. . . but as of yet we have not been able to connect.”
If that doesn’t work make four more attempts using a combination of voice mail and e-mail to prompt a response. Space them about three business days apart so that means following up over a two week period. Use the same theme by reminding the client about the challenges or opportunities. If there’s no response by then, you probably won’t get one but at least you took a good stab at it.
Having solid follow up strategies and tactics will separate you from the dozens of other sales reps who calls the same prospects as you. This gives you a distinctive edge. Make the most of your follow up calls and watch your sales grow.
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