The Ideal Follow-up Strategy

Strive to Help Each Prospect

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Once I researched some software that promised to streamline my publishing business and integrate operations, as well as provide me with new tools. Given all this, I suspected it would be pricey. But why not dream a little? It wouldn’t hurt to get prices. I might even be surprised.

Using an online resource guide that compared the key factors of the major players’ offerings, I narrowed the list down to four promising contenders. I sent each one an email, asking the entry-level price and sharing my contact information.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I requested pricing for two reasons. First, if the cost was astronomical, I could opt out of further interaction and not waste any more of my time or theirs. I also hoped to begin a dialogue, allowing me to learn more about the product and company.

Minimal or No Follow-Up

Of the four, one responded right away, two the next day, and one never did. All three responses had a terse statement of price.

Only one asked a follow-up question. Another promised to send me a demo, but never did. For the third, I needed clarification on his poorly worded message, which garnered me another brusque email.

Although my first communication was via email, I gave my phone number and mailing address. Sadly, after that initial week, no one bothered to email, call, or mail. They never added me to their marketing databases for future communication.

Of the three prices, one was too high. The second price was also shocking, but acceptable if the software worked as promised. The third, although also high, wasn’t unrealistic.

If either of these latter two software packages lived up to their grand promises, I’d have bought them, likely within the month. But we’ll never know because no one bothered to follow up.

I’m perplexed. At the price of a decent used car, you’d think there would be enough motivation to pursue all leads.

Mindless Follow-Up

The opposite of no follow-up is pointless follow-up. It’s even more troublesome because each purposeless contact serves as an effective reminder to not buy from that company.

Take Joe for instance. He was a good-ole-boy salesman, with an order-taker mentality. He stumbled onto my name and called for an appointment.

Though I said I wanted to interact over the telephone and through email, he pressed for an in-person meeting. Since I had some interest in what he was peddling—and based on his assurances of top-notch customer service and competitive pricing—I eventually agreed to meet.

During our appointment, it became clear that his company wasn’t a good match for me. If Joe’s demeanor was common, customer service would also be lacking.

He confirmed my conclusion of a mismatch with a quote at twenty-five percent higher than competitive prices. I told him so and concluded by saying I’d call him if I wanted to pursue things further.

Sadly, Joe didn’t hear me, but my name and number were now in his contact list. Mechanically, he periodically called, not for any real purpose, but just to talk.

He never supplied more information, shared company news, or tried to move the sales process forward. His spiel was always along the lines of, “Hi, this is Joe. I’m just checkin’ in to see how you’re doin’.”

At first, I was cordial and would conclude each call with, “I’ll call you if I need something.” Over time I became less affable, eventually saying, “Joe, please don’t call me anymore. I will call you if I need something.” Although necessary, I felt horrible for being so blunt.

My dismay was short-lived, because two weeks later, he called again. I cut him off, and said, as politely as I could, “Joe, I don’t wish to be rude, but I asked you not to call me anymore. Please don’t call again.”

This may have been the first time he actually listened. “D-d-did I do something to offend you?” he stammered. I explained my perspective. Incredibly, he called again a few weeks later, spewing his tired old rhetoric.

That was the last I heard from him. Either he finally got the message, or he was rightly fired.

Follow Up Until They Decide

You may think me a malcontent, first complaining about a lack of follow-through and then being critical over too much. However, there’s a middle ground that salespeople should aim for.

Quite simply, follow up until you hear a yes or a no. And never assume the lead isn’t a good lead or presume the prospect will say “no”; wait until they actually say it.

If they’re not ready to make a yes or no decision, you should continue doing your job until they decide.

However, even when a prospect says “no,” they may not mean “never.” Ask if they might want to revisit the situation in the future. If so, make sure you contact them at that time but not before.

Use Care in How Often You Follow Up

Many salespeople ask, “When shall I check back with you?” This seems a wise tactic, but the uninterested, passive-aggressive prospect will simply opt for a time as far in the future as possible, without the need to say no.

All that does is string the salesperson along and waste time. Better is to ask what other information the prospect needs from you or what the next step is in their decision-making process.

Have a Reason for Each Contact

Don’t call just to chat. Contact them only when you have a purpose or sales-related goal, such as to supply more information, share about new products or services, or offer a special promotion.

When you follow this middle ground, your interactions will have more value and your communication will be better received. Then you’ll be more likely to make a sale and less apt to read about your failure in a book.

Marketing Tactics Success Tip

Listen to your prospects, have a purpose with each interaction, and follow up until they decide.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Sticky Series books, including Sticky Customer ServiceSticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Leadership and Management featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.