The most underrated sales skill

The most underrated sales skill

People who disregard a tested follow-up process will skip vital steps and go for the customer’s jugular every time.

Sure they may get a quick win here and there, but more often than not a tested and measurable follow-up approach is more effective. Even more sinister is not to follow-up at all!

My dad is an enthusiastic recreational fisherman and taught me everything I know about fishing. As a young buck, one of my first lessons was to always keep the line tight. Don’t give the fish any slack line to throw the hook. In sales, the same applies to communication. Don’t give a genuine customer a reason to cold, particularly after you’ve done all the initial grunt work.

Keep the lines of communication tight, apply positive tension and ensure you are following-up methodically and leading your customer at every stage of your engagement process.

Here are some telling metrics from our BOOM! Analytics division on successful follow-up, whether it be via phone, email or face or a combination. While you should keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule, these stats are insightful:

  • 1% of sales are made on the first follow-up contact.
  • 2% of sales are made on the second follow-up contact.
  • 5% of sales are made on the third follow-up contact.
  • 12% of sales are made on the fourth follow-up contact.
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth follow-up + contact.

Most salespeople surrender after the second or third attempt. You can see from the list above how that approach limits their results. But also make sure you don’t make contact for the sake of making contact – that’s called harassment. One of the most effective methods to help you understand how many follow-up contacts you should make is to measure your data. This data should reveal some magic numbers, both in the front end and back end of your sales process.

Don’t fail to follow up

Following up a customer is among the most underrated and under-utilised skills in business. Following up is nothing more than communication: it’s positive tension that demonstrates professionalism and that you genuinely care about and value your customer.

Following up isn’t calling or emailing periodically and asking for a decision, nor is it simply calling to say hi, without any new critical information to create leverage. Following-up means developing a consistent method to lead your customer through each stage of your process. In this process, over time, you will get to understand the magic numbers that are working for you that will provide you with a guide to measure how many times you should be following up and at what frequency. In short, do more of what works.

When your follow-up process starts to exceed your magic number, for example, your magic number is five and you are now at the tenth follow-up call and your communication is now defined as negative or no tension, you should change your approach drastically.

Ideally, your follow-up method should be stated in your initial conversations with the customer, particularly when you’re talking about time frames for delivery of information required throughout your process. This sets the tone for positive tension and safeguards you both from feeling uncomfortable when you initiate follow-up and ensures that expectations for ongoing communication are aligned.

There is a fine line between persistence and harassment! So set a verbal agenda by letting the customer know the motive behind your follow-up process and how it benefits them. Equally, asking for permission to follow-up can also provide your customer with a sense of ease and buy-in, so they feel you are not ambushing them at inopportune times.

Following up effectively isn’t hard, but it does require an understanding of your magic numbers, positive tension, discipline and time—all best utilised in a structured approach.

When you take following up seriously, serious results will follow.

Trent Leyshan is the founder of BOOM! Sales and the author of OUTLAW & The Naked Salesman.

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