One of the principal traits that we endorse and also try to pass on to sales teams is patience.
What most sales individuals do not realise is that reaching out to prospects on a repeat basis ticks them off but also makes a sales individual look desperate.
We are not saying don't 'follow up' with your prospects, we recommend doing it with a plan in mind. The well used 'follow up' is a carefully exercised process.
So what is the best way to make sure you are not wasting man hours ‘following up’ and are showing the right amount of patience?
Step 1: Qualify and know your time lines
Proper qualification is the first step in making sure you are chasing the right prospect. For larger deals, understanding the business trigger and deadlines is essential. To illustrate, lets assume a prospect comes to you to help improve his server bandwidth by buying a better server. The first step is understanding why he is looking for better bandwidth.
Next, understand the urgency behind the need and finally establish a time line. If your prospect is simply looking for options (that he may or may not implement), you might end up wasting your time in the first place.
Step 2: Agree upon a purchase/implementation time frame
It's good knowing that there is a genuine need. However, if your prospect fails to acknowledge that he is indeed looking to fix the issue (and has to do so in a fixed amount of time), your time lines are already a little off.
When it comes to big sales, we usually try and get prospects to acknowledge there is a problem and also the timelines they are working on.
Usual question is “So if this is the right product for your organization. What sort of implementation time lines are you looking at?”
If you already know what product they are using, try this question:
“So what time does your contract run till? Are you looking to switch post the contract ending?”
We have already talked about how your can use a mutual success plan to keep a sale on track.
Step 3: Deliver value and be patient
We recommend not to pushing a prospect to purchase post value delivery.
As a sales individual, it's tough to not ask prospects to purchase especially towards the end of the month. We understand this, but sending 2 additional emails will not close a deal early.
All a sales individual does by sending repeat 'follow ups' is either offer a discount to close early or worse just irritate the prospect.
The mutual success plan when done right, will ensure you have a conversation post POC and can discuss next steps.
What you can do if your patience is running thin
Putting theory to practice is easier said than done. There are times when you might still want to chase down your prospect or simply cannot wait for the next update. If you are not the patient kind, we recommend using the universal technique of asking for help instead of asking for an update.
For example: you could follow up by saying
“Hi, I was just looking for an updated on our last conversation. As discussed, your project time line is almost up and I wanted to know what is holding you back from moving forward?”
Well here is something better:
“Hi, I was just looking for your help on this. When we last spoke you mentioned your project deadline was the 1st of March. Has something changed? Any update would be helpful”
Remember, you don’t want to beg but instead ask for help.
As a sales individual you are the best person to judge when to use the first method or the second. In our experience asking for help usually gets a faster and more genuine response.
To conclude, if you are not sure when to followup. Ask yourself one question: Why am I following up now and not 4 days from now?
If you don't have a good reason to follow up, you might need to work harder on your success plans.