Following up on sales call is about taking opportunities to explore emerging customer needs, surface nascent concerns, and address all stakeholders. Follow-up is what maintains, or even increases the momentum of the sale. Those who recognize the need for a sharper follow-up strategy have a unique opportunity to develop an advantage in the sales pursuit that requires nothing more than some extra attentiveness and conscientiousness.
Here we look at the three common mistakes sales professionals make when following up and what they can do to overcome each. The result is a follow-up strategy that leads to meaningful customer engagement.
Not Adding Value for the Customer
Often follow-up messaging is presented as a question. The sales professional is likely to ask what else they can provide, or what other questions the customer might have. This approach, while well-meaning, lacks a proactive style. As a result, too much responsibility is placed on the customer. These kinds of questions focus only on the customer’s existing inquiries. It is more effective to draft follow-up messaging that surfaces new needs, and hesitations so that the sales professional can address factors threatening the sale.
This kind of engagement advances the sale because it encourages the stakeholders to think more holistically about the solution. Customers are continuing to build new strategies and growth plans during the considerable economic change of today. In this setting, they are more likely than ever to dismiss follow-up messaging that asks them to provide directional cues that will lead to a sale.
Avoiding this common misstep means recognizing that effective follow-up aims to do more than merely reconfirm, restate, and reiterate a message. Meaningful follow-up seeks to take the customer further in the buyer’s journey. To do so sales professionals must bring new insight into the discussion. They must articulate new connections between the core challenges in the customer’s world and the solution capabilities. Or they must highlight the risk of not moving forward. This approach is important not only when working with the initial contact, but also when talking to a higher-level stakeholder. Sales professionals today have a wealth of information via sales and marketing automation tools and CRM systems. This company-specific information can be used to build ideas that resonate with the customer.
This approach also enables the sales professional to demonstrate their evolving knowledge of the customer’s business. That is, they can prepare their follow-up messaging with additional research which reveals new details or current events about the customer’s business. When the follow-up message cites these specific details it becomes clear that the sales professional’s insight into the business is not entirely reliant on information offered by the customer.
In a drive to accelerate the sales dialogue, it is tempting to immediately distribute marketing content to the customer. The problem with this approach is that it risks losing the stakeholder in material that is often broad and lacking a connection to the buyer’s specific scenario.
This outcome is increasingly common for three reasons:
- Many sales professionals today are equipped with sophisticated, fast CRM systems which make it easy to confuse the speed of content distribution with relevance.
- The customer’s needs and the solution capabilities are increasingly nuanced leading to a context in which existing materials are less effective at speaking to the details of the deal.
- Existing content goes out of date faster than ever because businesses and even the global economy continue to find new footing amid a disjointed pandemic recovery.
Despite these factors, sales professionals still need ways to deliver cogent insights as part of their follow-up strategy. The solution is to make the existing marketing content a segment of the follow-up strategy rather than the sum of the strategy.
Sales professionals must preface the material they send with messaging that clearly identifies why the content is relevant and how the takeaways within can be applied to the customer’s business. Additionally, sales professionals should consider sharing external research, and industry news that is not always a product of their organization. Offering these independent resources demonstrates the sales professional’s authentic interest in helping the customer because the content does not conclude with a sales pitch.
Finally, sales professionals should consider using brief case studies to bolster the credibility of their offering. These real-world narratives are effective at moving the solution from the world of the abstract to one of measurable outcomes. The result is a dialogue that co-creates a compelling future state with the customer. Developing this vision means identifying the customer’s ideal outcome, how they would measure success, other solutions they are considering, and the most important factor for success.
Forgetting About Stakeholders
Stakeholder groups have experienced many iterations of change in recent months. As the economy slowed budget approvals and purchasing authority often centralized among a few people residing at the upper segments of the hierarchy chain. As a result, spending decisions made prior to a weakening economic cycle become tenuous and sales professionals found themselves trying to maintain relationships and pursuits that were once certain.
Today, this picture is changing yet again. More businesses have solidified their new plans and are moving out from under the burden of a restricted economy. This shift has implications during the follow-up process because sales professionals must track the changing sphere of influence in the buying organization a second (or tenth) time. That is, they must ensure that their follow-up messaging is tailored not only to the specifics of the business but also to the particular needs of each individual. A follow-up message that is effective to one stakeholder is not necessarily effective to another.
It is important to remember that the global pandemic is not the only reason that stakeholder groups might be more fractious today. The C-suite has changed considerably in recent years. Research from EY shows that 82% of CEOs report adding a new C-level position within the last several years. Some of the most common titles among these new positions are Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Experience Officer, and Chief Data Officer. This diversity illustrates the simple point that the kind of follow-up messaging that is salient and resonant to a Chief Data Officer is unlikely to be as meaningful to a Chief Growth Officer.
Sales professionals should consider drafting different follow-up messaging for different personas involved in the buying decision. This approach requires more time but yields greater results because each follow-up speaks to individualized needs.
Customized follow-up means ensuring that the messaging does three things:
- It must speak to the particular pain the stakeholder is experiencing.
- It should identify the differentiators that are relevant to the individual.
- It needs to connect to their long-term needs.
Customer needs and communication preferences have changed dramatically. In the drive to adapt, it has become easy to let sales call follow-up strategies become an afterthought. Restoring the power of effective follow-up means crafting a message that advances the sale, committing to targeted messaging, and ensuring all stakeholders are addressed. These three components require nothing more than some additional focus and structure.