So, you followed our tips for the perfect cold-calling approach. You nailed your sales call, dispelling your prospect’s early misgivings, and they sounded enthusiastic about taking things forward. As a sales rep, getting to this point alone can feel like a victory — and it is.
It’s also where the hard work begins.
Moving a customer relationship from confirmed interest to deal closed can be a challenge. It’s a road paved with rejection, with 92% of all salespeople giving up on a lead after four rejections, while 44% give up after only one. All of this in spite of the fact that our research shows that an average sales cycle for closed-won deals is 96 days. That’s a lot of follow-up sales calls!
The key to getting through that time is not just a question of perseverance and motivation — it’s also about knowing how to manage your follow-up sales calls and other aspects of follow-up in general. It can be a hard-to-gauge, even dispiriting period if you’re not prepared for it, but we’ve created this short guide to help you make the right moves and stay motivated during follow-up.
Factor Follow-Ups into Your Sales Call Plan
Easing the path of your subsequent follow-up should be something you consider when you’re crafting your first sales call plan.
If you’ve identified that your prospect shares genuine interest to progress to the next stage, don’t hurry off the call to toast your win. Instead, establish expectations for next steps as a part of the structure of your call. Consider it the most important part of your call. Our research here at Chorus.ai found that high-level reps responsible for closed-won deals created about five next steps during discovery. These might include the following:
- Scheduling a follow-up meeting
- Scheduling an email response
- Making arrangements for document sharing
- Scheduling a product demo
- Arranging introductions to other team members for multi-threading
On the other hand, our research shows that reps responsible for closed-lost deals established an average of two next steps. Ensure that you allocate enough time at the end of the call to get these next steps established.
The Forms of Follow-Up
As the list above suggests, a follow-up can take many forms, can take more time or less, and can take place across more than one different medium. These factors depend on the prospect, where you are in the current process, and a whole host of other factors. Establish the terms by which your prospect would prefer that you follow-up. Would they prefer:
- A demo they can peruse on their own clock?
- Another voice-call?
- A face-to-face meeting or video chat, possibly with a demo walk-through attached as part of the agenda?
Getting this info is usually as easy as asking your prospect which mode of communication they’d prefer. You can potentially save yourself considerable effort down the road and avoid unnecessary additional contact through the media that your prospect is unlikely to use or favor.
Whatever your approach, send a short initial follow-up note to your prospect after the call to thank them for their time and reiterate when and how you plan to get in touch with them again to discuss next steps.
Making sure that these follow-up notes get sent can be easier said than done. It’s a task that can easily get lost among bigger, competing priorities — but you can secure it by using the right CRM (customer relationship management) solution.
For example, when using Chorus.ai, you can easily find your next steps anytime you're on a call recording by clicking on the Next Steps theme on your Call Review tab. You might have another call to go to straight after; having a solution that integrates with your CRM makes these next steps easier.
Stay Persistent with Follow-Up Calls
Even in the days of mass automated emailing, the sales call is still the best technique for advancing a sales process. It should be the cornerstone of your approach to follow-ups. The best approach to follow-up calls is to marry a well-thought-out sales call strategy, much like you would in any other sales call, with sheer persistence.
There’s a reason why “calls” is pluralized in the subtitle: even if you’ve been following best practices from the start, 80% of all closed sales require five follow-up sales calls, on average, in order to close.
Remember, decision-makers are the most targeted people at the company you’re prospecting; just because they don’t have time to advance things now is no reason to presume they won’t have the time or the interest to do so in the future. Don’t be discouraged!
It is conventional wisdom now that the best time to make sales calls is during the last hour of a prospect’s working day (4 p.m.-5 p.m.), on a Wednesday, with Tuesday and Thursday also being workable days. However, when you’re in the follow-up stage and looking to qualify a lead, the Lead Prospect Management Study also suggests that the early hours of business (8 a.m.-9 a.m.) are effective times.
More broadly speaking, track trigger points in your prospect’s buyer journey — they will tell you what your prospect is thinking and whether now might be the best time to approach them again. Did they subscribe to your mailing list or newsletter? Did they just share your latest blog post? Did they just RSVP to your product event? Then it’s time to make contact again.
As with any other sales call, have a strategy before you reach out. Calls and emails that have no purpose other than to “touch base” and remind a prospect of your existence will accomplish little other than annoying your lead. Kick off your call by mentioning something that was said at the end of the prior call or bringing up a detail that’s key to next steps.
Come prepared. Refresh yourself about the fundamentals of the company in question. Have your sales battle cards together each time before you pick up the phone, and remember that leveraging social proof of your product or business’s success is key when closing deals.
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Talking the Talk
Tailor your language to warm up your call. As this ordinarily requires a lot of real-time call logging/note-taking, having a conversation intelligence program like Chorus that you can use and integrate with your CRM can make all the difference when you’re trying to hit the right spots.
- Make good use of the familiarity you began building on your initial calls. Begin your call slightly before the hour, and ease in with some small talk. If you have a mutual point of connection with your prospect — an old company or a colleague in common — remember to mention it.
- Make room for prospects to ask questions, but not too many. Our research suggests that the ideal number is four well-chosen questions. Asking six or more questions increases the likelihood of a closed-lost outcome on your deal and is a sign that your research during the discovery phase was not sufficient.
- However, don’t be afraid of monologuing. Reps are trained to be interactive, but closed-won deals often see reps talking uninterrupted for up to two minutes at a time. This is known as value-based selling, and is based around your ability when telling your prospect an amazing (and relevant) customer story.
Our research suggests that reps who come to calls armed with more with customer stories, solution capabilities, recent launches, use cases, etc. have a higher customer success rate during follow-up, and even more so if you’re restating some of the same ones you used during your prior sales call.
Repetition, particularly when it’s a success story, is a powerful technique in winning new business.
That's because these kinds of touches form engaging moments in a call, and our research suggests that calls resulting in closed-won deals reliably contain 50% more engaging moments than the average.
Using E-mails, Social Media, and More to Follow Up
Between follow-up calls, reps can factor other approaches and channels into their follow-up strategies. Emails are the next best tool for follow-up.
The email can seem like a double-edged sword for sales reps — they’re incredibly easy to send off in huge volumes, but crafting the perfect follow-up email can be tough and requires careful consideration and tailoring. You need to identify where your prospect currently sits and tailor your approach; as before, going with a “just looking to catch-up with you” hook won’t cut it.
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The Right Subject Line
The first rule of the follow-up email is to prioritize your top line; going with the wrong (or right) subject line can change the complexion of a sales process. Where you currently sit in your prospect’s buyer journey will dictate the most appropriate approach.
For example, if your last sales call was a week ago, and you’re looking to follow up in a general manner, use a subject line that gently reaffirms the prospect’s idea of what success might look like with your company. Here are some examples:
- “Don’t miss out on these [ways to meet the prospect’s objective].”
- “There’s still a chance to [meet the prospect’s objective].”
- “[Prospect’s Name], let’s talk about [business goal].”
If, on the other hand, you’re nudging a potential customer after a period of silence, or after a few calls or emails they’ve missed, use a subject line that implies the benefits of resuming talks on a potential deal. The previous examples can work in this context as well, but more specialized subject lines include:
- “Are you still looking to [business goal]?”
- “Are you still thinking about [prospect’s objective]?”
Keep follow-up emails simple
The main body of your email should be to the point and matched to where your prospect is in the sales process. If you’ve just had a great meeting and you’re reconfirming your next steps, ensure that you make good mention of how well the previous meeting went. If you’re sending an email after a trigger event, focus on what about the trigger (blog post, use of a demo, etc.) might have appealed to your prospect.
How sensitive you are to your buyer’s position in the sales cycle will dictate what an “ideal” follow-up email will look like. Assess the situation, be deliberate in showing that you’ve identified the prospect’s thinking, and be clear when articulating what can happen next if your prospect wants to take things forward.
Part of your approach with follow-up emails includes your tech stack. To prevent any embarrassing double-sends or other complications, ensure that your team is using a high-quality CRM that helps them organize and keep on top of their follow-up campaigns.
More Channels of Approach
To augment your efforts on the phone and in the inbox, there are a few other media for follow-up that you can use.
Social media is one. Many younger sales reps today are adept at selling through social media, and making yourself available through social media can be effective. It has an informality absent from a regular sales call and a directness absent from emailing that can prove effective. Moreover, you can capitalize on buyer impulse by targeting a prospect through social media and maybe even edge your deal forward while they’re surfing LinkedIn at their desk.
Voicemail! It might seem old-fashioned, but leaving a voicemail is still an effective way of moving things along in a sales cycle, especially if combined with a well-deployed email (“I just left you a voicemail concerning [recent trigger event] . . . ”).
Among the various remote methods of communication, sometimes you just can’t beat a little in-person repartee and a chat over a cup of coffee, so embrace in-person events as part of your follow-up strategy where possible. Familiarity is a key driver of success in sales cycles — if you and a prospect are likely to be at the same conference or networking event, take advantage!
Arrange a time to meet up after a seminar, grab a drink with your prospect, and build your familiarity. People enjoy working with people they like — it’s a pillar of job satisfaction. If you can make your prospect like you, you’re already well on your way to your goal.
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Always Be Following Up
The follow-up to a successful sales call can seem like the most uncertain part of the entire sales process — and it’s true that sometimes, regardless of perseverance or the soundness of your strategy, even what once looked like the most promising lead won’t work out.
However, by embracing the unpredictable nature of the follow-up period and the knock-backs that inevitably come with it, you can maximize your chances of success. It’s as much a question of perspiration as inspiration.