We regularly get calls from potential clients asking whether we can coach them in How To Improve Sales. So here’s some ideas on How To Improve Sales With Better Follow-up:
Today’s snippet is all about the number one key to sales success. It may come as no surprise to some of you watching that the key is follow-up. Now, this is something which is grossly, grossly underappreciated by almost all small businesses — I’m talking about 90+% of small businesses in our economy — in that, if you want to succeed at sales, you need to get really, really good at following up with your leads and potential customers.
So, let’s talk about ‘How To Improve Sales With Better Follow-up’. Now, you may have heard that the sales process is a bit like a funnel, which kind of goes like this. So at the very top, you’ve got lead generation, and this is where people are sort of vaguely interested, potentially target market going into the top of your funnel. A little further down they become prospects. In other words, they’ve expressed an interest in what it is that you have or what it is that you are offering.
And then at the bottom point, they actually become customers. It’s at that point where you’ve made a sale, and everything else was leading up to that. One of the biggest frustrations when running a small business is seeing people who are really good at what they do fail at that middle bit. They’re particularly good at filling up the hopper. When they get a sale, they’re all excited. But that middle bit, which is the nurturing and follow-up that leads prospect to the point where they become a customer.
Now, I’m not saying that every single lead is going to become a customer. It simply doesn’t work that way. But what I’m going to say here and now is that you, and almost all of us, can improve our sales success by being far more efficient and effective with follow-ups.
So here’s an interesting statistic I read a number of years ago that suggested that four out of five people who inquired about a product or service ended up buying that service at some point in the future. But many of these people don’t buy on their first instance of taking a look. It takes them a while to make that decision, especially on bigger ticket items.
We sell websites and we know what that’s like. People don’t tend to make an instant decision on buying a website. So it’s up to us to make sure that our potential client is taken through a process whereby we’re developing the relationship, and over time, convincing them that we’re the right people to buy from. And to be honest, a large percentage of our leads actually do become clients. I’m not saying we’ve got this particularly spot on, but the key is that we know that a nurturing proposal and follow-up process is absolutely key.
Just think about it. If you have five leads, four out of those five leads are going to buy what it is you have to offer at some point. Wouldn’t it be more attractive for you to be in the frame, to be at top of mind when it comes to making that buying decision for that 80% of potential customers?
But what tends to happen is this: A company will send over a quote, or proposal, and then just leave it with the client. Of course, their new prospect, like the rest of us, is busy and will likely put the decision on the back-burner in favour of more imminent stuff. If they’re like a lot of my friends, oh, there’s a funny cat video, and they’re off onto something else. We are all busy people.
So it’s up to you, as the business owner to keep that nurturing and follow-up process going for as long as it takes for your potential client to make a decision. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to make a decision in your favour, but it’s much better off to know yes or no than to just not know at all and keep them in your mind as a potential source of income when it’s just not going to happen.
It’s interesting. I heard it said a couple of years ago that people stay on our leads list for as long as it takes them to buy, die, or tell us to get lost. And that’s a good way of thinking about it because if you don’t take your potential customers from the I’m vaguely interested to I’ve made a buying decision, then you’ve missed out as a business owner. And, arguably, you’ve missed out on a huge number of potential sales. Most small businesses fail to follow up sufficiently to know, let alone be in the picture, when a client has made a buying decision. So don’t let people off the hook.
So what are the things that you should be doing? Well, of course, when you send over somebody a price for something or propose something, you don’t just leave it with them. You always, always, always promise to get in touch at a specified time. And I’d say don’t leave it too long.
When we send over a proposal for a website, we give it a couple of days. We want to hear initial thoughts if we’ve not already heard from them. Oftentimes, people say, “Well, I haven’t had a chance to look at it. Give me a few more days.” “Great, fine. I’ll give you a call, say, on Tuesday next week.” But in the intervening time, I will send them an email and say, “Look, if there’s any questions you have, please feel free to come and talk to me or reply to my email. By the way, here’s some of what our existing clients have said about what we do. If you want to take a look at our portfolio, it’s over there on our website,” etc.
We get in touch, and we keep that momentum going. We don’t pester people. We’re not on the phone to them every single day like some aggressive sales companies I’ve known. But we do maintain the momentum from when we send over a price to that customer for as long as it takes them to tell us yes or no. Even when they tell us no, they go onto our email list, and we still keep in touch with them because, just by keeping in touch, you can develop sales longer term.
My encouragement is for you to develop a follow-up process. Trust me. Four out of five people who express an interest in your product or service will buy it at some point. So don’t let anyone off the hook. You are really doing your own business, your own turnover and profitability a huge disfavour if you let this slide. Like I said, it’s better to know yes or no that they want your product or service than to just keep them sliding, let them go, let them drift indefinitely because, if it’s a no, you can move on. If it’s a yes, great, we’ve got a sale. Let’s make these people feel good about doing business with us.
So here’s my advice on How To Improve Sales With Better Follow-up.: First examine how many leads you get. And this becomes a scientific approach. Then examine the process in between the time when they become leads at the top of the funnel to the time when they become a customer at the bottom of the funnel. What are those steps that you are taking in between to take people from potential customer to actual customer or not? The better you get at this middle bit, I promise you, the easier it will be for you to make sales. Always look for ways to improve that communication process with your leads.
So here’s a few suggestions of how you can follow-up and nurture the prospect:
- Follow up on the phone.
- Follow up on an email.
- Encourage people to get involved in your social media.
- Answer any questions.
- Point people to a FAQ page on your website, if you have one, just to keep people engaged.
- Send some testimonials from what customers have already said about you.
- Send leads to a portfolio if that’s important to your business so they might get some ideas about some of the great stuff that you can do.
But the point is, just don’t let anybody off the hook. When somebody inquires, keep in touch. When somebody says, “Yes, send me a price,” keep them on the list, keep prodding them until they tell you, “No, we’ve already bought it somewhere else,” or “Yes, actually, let’s talk about making it happen.”
So I really hope that’s become useful. I cannot over-stress the importance of follow-ups. Most people get it wrong, but most people who are successful in sales know that the follow-up is absolutely key. And the follow-up, I promise you, will be 80% of your sales success. Your marketing gets people into the top of the funnel. Your sales processes will take people down to client or customer.
Go out there and do it. Remember, this information is no use unless you put it into some kind of effect.