Strategies for Effective Follow-Up (1)

The Foundry is a new section in Outrepreneurs, where expert contributors share ideas, strategies, tips and roadmaps on how entrepreneurs, founders and their teams may effectively run their businesses for better results.

Here, in the first part of his Strategies for Effective Follow-Up, Bunmi Jembola, an entrepreneur himself, a seasoned sales consultant and venture strategist, provides various practical steps to effectively follow up on sales leads. 

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As a salesperson or business owner, how many leads have you opened and never closed? For the average salesman, the closure rate is probably less than 10%.

Let me show you a simple, yet super-dope strategy for following leads to a desirable close. Follow me.

Selling is pretty much like “toasting” your babe. She’d never walk down the aisle with you at first encounter. David Cummings showed in 2012 that about 71% of buyers buy, because of relational factors such as trust, likeness and demonstrated knowledge, while just a paltry 29% buy because the product is great. Let’s be honest, the first-time buyer doesn’t even know jack about your product. That’s the reason they take some time before they decide to buy.

To be sure, strong relationships in business and life are formed over time and across multiple interactions. Yet, so many people invest tons of time and energy into going out to events, meeting new people, making impressive social media posts and then doing practically no follow-up at all to build the relationship from there.

Wrong!

If you half the leads you generate today and spread some of the time spent on lead generation to following up, your closure rates can go up immediately by as much as 200%. Yeah, it’s true!

By simply keeping to the following rules for follow-up, you will close 200% more deals.

The first contract I got this year was from a leading Nigerian realtor. These were the exact words of the Managing Director, when he handed me the cheque: “I like your persistence”. In all honesty, he couldn’t tell if I could deliver value.

Follow-up is ALWAYS a winner.

Here’s my strategy for following up:

1. The Healthy Mind-Set

The right mindset is necessary for an effective follow-up strategy    

For your follow-up system to be effective, you need to work out a few things in advance.

The first is to get your mindset right for follow-up.

When most people think of follow-up, they think of chasing opportunities or trying to catch up with potential clients, after a meeting, to see if they’re ready to buy. Well, that’s not bad, but it doesn’t work.

The kernel of effective follow-up includes two approaches: value addition and continuous demonstration of expertise. As you follow-up, these must be your two objectives. Without fail, these two approaches will land you that amazing deal.

Each interaction should add value to the customer, as well as reinforce your own expertise. The period between first contact and eventual sale is critical for decision making. You must make certain that you are well positioned enough for the customer to call you when he is ready to buy.

If the only time you follow up with clients and prospects is to chase after them, nag them, or try to get something from them, then pretty soon they will come to dread your calls and emails. They will screen you out of their minds and try to avoid you like a plague. So, rather than always following up only to ask if a potential client is ready to progress with a buying decision, or nagging and running the risk of annoying them, we must follow up in ways that they find useful. That way, they actually look forward to hearing from you. They open your emails and take your calls. Now, that’s VALUE!

2.Ask the Customer

Ask customers how best to follow up on them  

I often get asked, “What is the best means for follow-up?” Well, only one person can respond to that question: the customer. Take the moment of your first encounter to ask three important questions: (a.) “How would you want me to follow-up?”, (b.) “What is your timeline for response?” In the second instance, you could say something like “I will usually revert with a response to an email request within 24 hours. What is the timeline for you?” To the first question, the usual answer is “email” and ( c.) You should ask also about their interests.

The most important part of your follow-up is sending stuff the prospect finds relevant and useful. If someone cares so much about football for instance and you send them very useful stuff about pet care, they won’t appreciate it a lot. It is very important therefore that you ask early in your engagement with prospective customers about their interests (business and non-business interests). If someone is really a passionate Man-U fan, a controversial news item about an upcoming game can get them to call you. Purpose achieved!

3. Qualify Your Leads

Develop a 6th Sense to deselect leads with low potentials

You don’t want to waste a lot of time following up on prospects that have no prospect. Leads qualification should come to you, rather intuitively. Over time, you should develop that sixth sense that has the capacity to deselect low-potential leads. You could be right 50% or, maybe 60% of the time. The problem with that is the interference by our emotions or feelings. For instance, you could disqualify a prospect, because he spoke rudely and therefore conclude “he doesn’t like me and so he won’t buy”. Meanwhile, that guy was just having a bad day and might just turn out to be a great customer at the end of the day. Someone might be shabbily dressed and then you conclude, “this is not the kind of guy who can afford the Bahamas holiday package I sell”. However, I knew a number of customers in my days as a commercial banker, who had hundreds of millions in deposits, but frequently dressed poorly. You should develop at least 5 rational and fact-based criteria for qualifying a lead as viable. Do not let (mis)perception affect your judgement.

Another thing you want to know is if you are talking to the right person. At a time, I was prospecting a leading Health Management Organization (HMO) and talking to their Managing Director, with the (erroneous) belief it would make my job easier. I was shocked to find out the critical decision making was actually made by a much junior manager. The MD was almost always certain to act on the recommendation of the junior manager!. Crestfallen, I ate my humble pie and had to re-route the deal through that junior manager. Even when you know the senior guys up there, it is usually better to go through the right guy. It is your job to find out who is.

4.Categorization

Determine who is who and categorize them

My recommendation is to group the people you meet into different categories or levels of follow-up. Obviously, there are some really high potential clients you will want to follow up with, frequently, to make sure you are at the top of their minds and, then, other less-likely prospects that you probably only want to keep in touch with, infrequently, just to keep the relationship alive on the off-chance something might come up. You can categorize them into three groups of A, B and C.

The A group should consist of hot-deal persons, who are likely to buy in about 1 month or 2.  The B could be a group of prospects who would rather buy a little later, say in some 3 to 6 months, but you are certain about their capacity to buy and their need for your solution. Then, the C group should be those who may not be buying in the foreseeable future, but nonetheless have some prospect.

5. Following Up with Email

Follow up with the right email message

When asked, most customers say they want to be followed-up with email. Now, let us see for a moment, how an effective follow-up email should look like….

Take the following emails for example:

Dear Olu,

Just wanted to check in to see if there are specific things I could help with. Also, kindly do not  forget the review of that draft agreement has not been delivered as promised. I would be glad to know if you are still interested in moving forward with the deal we discussed.

Thank you

Best,
Bunmi

Sounds like a great email right? No, it’s not! Here are four things that are wrong with this follow-up email.

  • It is too generic and without personalization. It looks so much like an all-purpose email copy and adds no personal touch other than the mention of the receiver’s name. You need to go a step further. Say something that shows this email is specifically for him.
  • It says nothing about previous interactions. It is wise to re-emphasize your previous interaction.
  • It is obviously self-centered. The only aim is to sell.
  • The phrase “as promised” suggests that the prospect did not keep to a promise. Now, that’s true, but it is also true he doesn’t owe you. It is important to avoid anything that can create resentment.

Here’s the type I would send:

 READ the concluding part here,

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Bunmi Jembola3 Posts

Bunmi Jembola is a Sales & Marketing Consultant. He made over N12 Billion in sales value in one decade, working for three employers. He has over one decade of sales experience across four industries (FMCG, Consulting, Banking and Technology). Bunmi trains and coaches sales and marketing officers and entrepreneurs on how to generate consistent high-value clients. He is CEO of Venture Starter Nigeria and Africa Startup Festival.He can be contacted at [email protected]

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