The fortune is in the follow up
Working with clients is tricky at times. Especially when you’re trying to sell them on something. You need your client engaged and communicating, but they don't always see it that way.
How else can you move forward with ideas and projects?
I don't know about you, but for me, sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to get even the simplest of answers.
In an ideal world, everyone would get everything they needed in a single interaction.
That’s not how it works.
Whatever the situation, there’s constant backwards and forwards between stakeholders. We follow up with clients for to close a sale, to ask a question, to get a decision, to share information or reminders.
So, think of follow-up as an extended series of conversations and not a single event. Build on the trust you've already established and serve your client by thinking:
“What does my client need from me?”
Before you follow up, do this
You remember you need to follow up, so you push out a quick email chasing a reply. It's completely random and out of the blue.
And not likely to get the response you're after.
So before you go chasing your client, make sure you're prepared.
What questions and objections remain?
How will I refine my solution or message?
How will I follow up to maintain contact and exert influence?
And what will you say?
Reemphasize the value.
Share insights and ideas.
Continue to educate.
Here are a few more tips for effective follow up:
Know your client. Ask deeper questions to uncover needs. Check out my article 45 Best Questions to Ask Your Client to Get to Know Them.
Speed counts. Follow up shortens the decision cycle so don’t wait! The longer you leave it, the more likely your client will forget. Or lose interest. Or suffer from analysis paralysis. Or ... well, you get the idea - they'll move on!
Make it easy. Simplify. Help your client to make decisions or to engage.
Set goals. Who do you want to connect with, what are you going to say, how long do you need?
Have a plan. Each follow up is not an isolated event, but a connected series of conversations. Plan each interaction from the start and pace yourself so you don’t look desperate or come across as pushy.
Set follow-up during the initial contact. During your first email or meeting, establish the follow up deadlines and process. Be intentional, and schedule your follow up.
Make follow up a habit. Commit dedicated time for follow up and review outstanding items daily. How can you move the conversation along or remove barriers? Outlook has follow up and Gmail has Nudges and Snooze so that emails
Be direct. Ask for what you want and be clear about next steps, decisions needed, outcomes etc.
Summarize. Recap your main points and any decisions or discussions. Especially if you’ve already had a ton of email exchanges. The original requests could get lost.
Do you avoid follow up?
You might have some mental barriers that prevent you from following up. It might be you're:
- Shy or lack of confidence.
- Don't want to feel obligated.
- Feels salesy
- Feels like begging.
- Don't like to ask for help.
- Don't want to feel like a pest.
- Intimated by the person you're asking.
- Feel out of your depth, comfort zone or expertise.
- Fear of the telephone.
Don't worry, you're not alone. It happens to ALL of us.
Just remember: your client needs you to follow up. Not to be a pain in the ass, but to help them make decisions and reduce overwhelm.
You have your client’s best interests at heart, right?
So whatever your reservations about following up, keep a positive mindset and remember it’s because you care, that you’re chasing them.
And practice makes perfect!
When to give up
At some point in the follow up conversation, you may hit a wall of silence. Before you let go make sure you can look yourself in the mirror and say:
- I gave it my best effort
- I tried different forms of communication to get in touch (not just email!)
- I have a good relationship with my client (i.e. the lack of response is not a symptom of a wider relationship issue).
Forms of communication (from most to least effective)
Don’t rely on email alone. Use the communication channels your client prefers, and if you’re not getting an answer, mix it up. Some forms of communication are more suited for certain types of follow up.
Face-to-face / Voice-to-voice
- Share important news
- Develop relationships
- Situations that require a response
- Asking for a sale
- Introducing yourself
- Demos or explainers
- Share features (tell a story about the dream future)
- Stand out
- Sending detailed information
- Sending videos (a short message can be very effective)
- Confirm appointments
- Short thank you notes
- Short videos
Favourite book on follow up
+ Follow Up and Close the Sale: Make Easy (and Effective) Follow-Up Your Winning Habit. The only book I've found dedicated to the topic of sales follow up. It's divided into three sections: mindset, strategy and execution.
It will help you break through any fear you have of follow up, learn how to personalize engagement so that it adds value and stay in touch without being annoying.
It's very practical with lots of tips and guides on how to approach follow up in a way that doesn't suck up a lot of time. I especially liked the sections that show what to do and what not to do.
Follow-up shortens the buying cycle. That’s important because the longer people stay in the purchase process without buying, the further removed they become from that initial emotional impulse.
In other news
+ How to Write Emails Your Clients Will Actually Read. Episode 6 of The KAM Club podcast in which we talk about how to stand out in your client's inbox and write emails that get a reply!
+ FollowUpThen. A simple and free tool that can be used with any email system to boost productivity. No software to install either. You can clear out your inbox by sending your email to a flexible email address like reminding you when someone doesn't reply in 3 days, or automatically following up if they don't reply.
+ Boomerang. A useful tool for Gmail to help schedule emails and send reminders. It has a great feature to take messages out of your inbox until you actually need them. You can also set reminders to follow up if you don't hear from someone, so messages don't slip through the cracks.
You can get started for free, and the personal plan is only $60 a year, which is well worth it if you live in Gmail.
+ The KAM Club. Learn more about the world's most amazing community of key account managers. And get access to tools, templates, guides and training, like The Key Account Manager's Guide to Sales Pipelines.
Have your say on the future of key account management
DemandFarm, are publishing a report on the Future of Key Account Management. The report will cover how organizations can achieve Key Account Excellence in this decade.
They reaching out to sales, and key account management leaders to help us know their predictions about Key Account Management and be a part of this study here.
DemandFarm will gladly share the Future of KAM report with everyone. As a token of their appreciation for dedicating the respondent's valuable time, DemandFarm will donate $10 for every individual response to the Malala Fund to support Malala Yousafzai's fight for girls' education.
About DemandFarm: Traditional CRMs aren’t designed for account management. DemandFarm makes account planning effortless, scalable, collaborative and data driven by digitizing key account management best practices so you can be more effective.
Quote of the week
"The answers will be given to those who are bold enough to ask.” ― Amit Kalantri
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