In sales, as in architecture, form follows function.
Not long ago I read a blog posting about the art of the follow-up. I liked the general concept presented by the author, which was that there are skills we all can learn that will improve the effectiveness of our sales lead follow up. It was hard to argue with his premise.
However, I believe that author was putting the cart before the horse. While there are skills to be learned that, if regularly practiced, will improve the quality of your follow-up, there is one big caveat that trips up many, if not most, sellers. That catch is that before you can practice the art of the follow-up, you actually have to pick up the phone and call the prospect.
Too Many Sales Leads Are Never Followed Up
At an AA-ISP conference last fall, Ken Krogue, President of insidesales.com, reported that his company’s most recent research found that 73% of sales leads are never followed up. I’ve read other studies that show a lower, but still substantial, percentage of leads not being followed up. However, no matter which end of the statistical spectrum you subscribe to, the bottom line is that sales lead follow up suffers more from inattention than from being ineffective.
Just to be clear, a lead is not someone who merely fills out a form on your website and downloads a single piece of content. A lead is someone who asks to be contacted by you. They give their permission for Sales to reach out to them by submitting a Contact Me form on your website, or by sending an email to your sales department or by calling in to your company and asking to speak to someone in Sales. Or perhaps you’re using a lead scoring system to signal when a lead that you’ve been nurturing is ready to engage with Sales. In any event, the common denominator is that the potential prospect has invested their time in investigating your product or service. And they have reached a point in their buying process where they need to engage with Sales in order to gather the additional information they require to move their evaluation to a decision.
Prioritize Action Over Technique
When 73% of the potential prospects that proactively contact a seller don’t receive a response the central problem is not one of technique, but of attitude. Effective follow-up starts with the attitude that every lead needs to be followed up. A seller simply has to commit to take action. Quickly. Don’t worry initially about perfecting your technique. Put aside thoughts of technique until you take an action that would benefit from it.
In addition to committing yourself to follow up, you must also put in place a process that enables fast follow up. Research on sales lead follow up, such as the original insidesales.com/MIT Lead Response Management Study, unequivocally demonstrates that it is not enough to simply follow-up. The effectiveness of follow-up is also tied to responsiveness and how quickly follow-up occurs. One key finding of the MIT study is stunningly self-evident but its lessons continue to be blithely ignored by the vast majority of sellers. The study found that the faster a seller follows up with a lead the more likely they are to actually connect with the prospect. In short, any focus a prospect has placed in talking to you quickly begins to diminish once they have reached out to you.
Practice Equivalence In Your Follow Up
Use the word “equivalence” when you plan how your sales team should follow up leads. Ask yourself this question: if you were a potential prospect for the product or service that your company sells, and you submitted a sales inquiry, how would you expect your lead to be followed-up? Would you expect immediate follow-up? Would you be satisfied if there were less than a 25% chance that you’d even receive a follow up call? At a minimum, your sales lead follow-up process should provide a level of service that is equivalent to your own expectation for how a seller should follow up with you.
A while back I searching for pricing information on a particular SaaS application that I wanted to use for my business. The vendor offered up only two service options on their website: Professional (Individual) and Enterprise. Frustratingly, the company’s website contained no pricing information on either option and no way to purchase the product. I filled in a web form asking for pricing information. It took two weeks to get a response from the seller. Even at that what I got was an email response from a sales manager stating that if I wanted price information I first had to schedule a phone call with her to go over my requirements. Two weeks and all I got was a lousy email. In the meantime, I had purchased an alternative solution.
In sales, as in architecture, form follows function. The art of follow -up is less important than the act of follow-up. Commit yourself to just being in the game first and then work on mastering your craft.