People often question me on the best way of making follow-up calls when chasing quotes or proposals. I have a simple take on this, and I’m going to approach it in two ways. First, I want to let you know that every follow-up situation is avoidable if you follow the sales process correctly. Second, in the event that you find yourself in a situation that requires follow-up, I want to give you some tips to get back in the driver’s seat.
The sales process is all about control, and the aim of the game is to be in control throughout the whole process, leading your prospect from their inquiry through to a decision, steering them through the maze. We often make the common mistake of trying to fast-track the process, eschewing tried and true practices. It’s easy to believe that our potential customers are looking to make the purchase based solely on price, so upon receiving an inquiry, we jump straight to quotation as quickly as possible and then look to have a discussion on price.
The truth is that people actually buy on value. Before ever buying a product or service, they will typically buy into a person first.
Knowing that people buy for people, the starting point in avoiding difficult follow-up scenarios is building a face-to-face relationship. During this meeting, you will build rapport and ask questions to equip yourself with the information you need to make a recommendation to your potential customer. It is at this point that people often make simple mistakes.
The goal is to put yourself in a position where you can deliver your recommendations in person and not by snail mail or email. With this goal in mind, you should arrange a second meeting to discuss your findings before leaving the first meeting. This keeps you in control. The easiest way to do this is to give your customer a choice of two potential dates for your return visit. They will either pick one or suggest an alternative.
Upon returning with your recommendations, understand that you need to start near the beginning again. Re-confirm your customer’s requirements and then walk them through your recommendations, explaining exactly how you can help them. Then, close in person, on the day of. Leave with the decision and avoid the need for a follow-up.
Avoiding chasing decisions is definitely the goal, and I promise that the time you invest in controlling this process at the beginning will reward you immensely in improved conversion rates and less time chasing decisions.
However, sometimes you still find yourself faced with outstanding opportunities that you’d like to turn into confirmed orders, so here are some simple tips.
- Don’t leave voicemail messages. Leaving a message prevents you from calling again.
- Open your call by checking on whether they already received your recommendations (not quote or proposal).
- Ask them what questions they have. Their answer here puts you back in control. Any questions can be answered to lead to a positive decision. No questions means they’ve already made their decision.
- If the first form of communication fails, try something different. Don’t harass them.
- If it’s worth it, pop back in to see them face-to-face.
- Take your offer away by making it time-dependent. Just like the fear of removing a child’s uneaten dinner with a threat of no dessert, limiting your offer can give your customer a sense of urgency and heighten their fear of missing out.
Finally, remember that the biggest reason that people don’t buy from you is that they’re still undecided. Everybody in indecision will decide at some point, so if your follow-up remains unproductive, don’t just stop. Continue to communicate by newsletter and find an opportunity to make contact again in the future because at some point in the future, their circumstances will change and they may just need your help.