The Art of Effective Follow-Up

Today we have a guest post from Tim Wackel. Tim is one of today’s most popular sales speakers because he makes information entertaining, memorable and easy to understand. He combines more than 25 years of successful sales leadership with specific client research to deliver high-impact programs that go beyond today’s best practices. Tim is also the founder and president of The Wackel Group, a training and consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations find, win and keep customers for life. Read more at

A few months ago, I decided it was time to move forward with a significant home-improvement project. I began calling several companies who had done similar work in the neighborhood, and they were all eager to send a representative to my home to review the project.

All of the representatives I met with were friendly and had the expertise and experience I was looking for, and their companies had impressive resumes of similar projects they had successfully completed. I was very clear on how fast I wanted the work performed, and everyone agreed that my expectations were within reason. I was going to have a hard time deciding on which vendor to choose – or so I thought.

In fact, after all that – driving out to my house, scoping the project and gathering my expectations – several of the reps never called me again.

There aren’t many people on earth who have lots of extra time on their hands, so it beats me why these reps would spend over an hour with me and then not follow up. Was my project too small? Did something more profitable fall into their pipeline? I guess I’ll never know. A quick phone call or email explaining the situation would have gone a long way toward gracefully bowing out and saving their brand reputation.

The other companies I met with sent competitive proposals in a timely fashion and then immediately went into hard-close mode. Asking for my business came easily for these reps, but asking for my thoughts and feedback wasn’t as easy. I started to feel rushed by them, so I soon eliminated those reps from further consideration.

My experience begged the question: What is the secret to effective follow-ups? And how can you ensure that you don’t push too hard, too little or not at all? Here are four simple but valuable ideas to help you gauge your success and improve your performance.

Don’t put it off.

Remember that your prospects are also prospects of your competition. When it comes to follow-up, do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you will do it. Everyone gets busy, but that’s no excuse to let prospects fall through the cracks. There are contact management programs to help you remember. Don’t like what your company uses? Buy your own! It will be the best investment you make this year. The discipline of keeping your commitments costs pennies, but the regret of having them slip can cost thousands.

Ask great questions.

Most sales people believe that listening is the most important sales skill. It’s important, but it isn’t number one. Asking great questions is – it’s the key to moving opportunities forward.

Ask prospects things like:

“What did you like the best about my proposal?”

“What was missing?”

“What, if anything, was off target and needs to be re-worked?”

“In an ideal world, what would this look like as we move forward?”

Follow-up is your opportunity to learn and reposition. Don’t blow it by forgetting to ask thought-provoking questions. Your goal is to help your prospect make an excellent buying decision, and asking questions will let your prospects know you are engaged and interested in their input.

Be persistent, not pesky.

Be sure that you have a productive reason for every contact. Not many people are interested in having their sales rep “check in” to see if they’ve made a buying decision, but they won’t mind you adding value to their decision-making process. Share relevant, new research or have one of your best customers join you in a call to discuss their experience working with you.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and fun in your approach. Your prospects already receive too many voicemails and emails that are dull, impersonal and confusing, so try reaching out via video conferencing instead. It’s more personal when you speak to your prospects face to face. They will value the fresh approach, and you’ll start being remembered for the right reasons!

Check out 7 Vital Tips for Video Meeting Sales Success for more ideas.

Just say no.

If, for whatever reason, you decide not to pursue an opportunity, contact the prospect right away and let them know. Introduce them to someone else in your organization or refer them to a competitor. Prospects appreciate the truth just as much as you do, so don’t just disappear. Learning the art of a graceful exit will save your reputation and personal brand.

Your ability to effectively follow-up is crucial to your long-term success. Most reps are great at the first few contacts, but very few know how to truly nurture an opportunity. Improving your follow-up abilities builds clients, adds to your accomplishments and strengthens your personal brand. Are you mastering these skills? If not, you should be.

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What’s your experience with the art of effective follow-up? Leave your comments, suggestions and stories in the comments below.