Following up on sales is not the easiest of tasks. Many a fledgling sales professional or emerging business has found themselves hesitating at the keyboard and the phone pad. With friends and family members, it's so easy to jump into the conversation with 'checking in' talking points. You want to see where they are and whether they really are coming to your block party. Generally, the people who know you won't see such straight-to-the-point interruptions as rude or pesky.
Unfortunately, that same strategy rarely goes over well with clients and sales prospects. If you ever find yourself starting an email with "I just wanted to check in and..." or "Just checking in..."; Stop. Step away from the computer.
The Despised Check-In Email: Why it's used and why it shouldn't be
This style email or phone call is something almost exclusively used by sales representatives who are seeking to get in touch with prospects with whom they have not booked or scheduled a phone call, email, or personal visit. It may get sent anytime during the process as a type of lead management to re-engage with a promising lead or sales prospect.
The problem with this as a follow-up strategy is that it is inherently selfish and almost always comes across as inherently selfish. It focuses on what the sales or selling business wants (to interrupt and broadcast their message) and fails at contributing value or solving needs for the prospect.
Great sales professionals and business leaders are adept at getting their sales prospects and clients to believe that they care about them, their challenges, their goals, and their daily business life. With the 'check-in email or call', it changes the conversation from being about the client to being about the selling business. Not a good tactic as it tags the seller with a scarlet 'pesky salesperson' letter. As such, many prospects will delete these style of emails and phone calls without hesitation.
Choose Alternative Lead Management & Follow-up Techniques
The key in following up with leads is to provide them with value. In every interaction. Here are a few ways for both independent sales professionals and emerging businesses can enhance their follow-up strategies:
- Prepare for the follow-up from the onset. At the end of your first communication (phone call, website form, face-to-face meeting, etc.) with a prospect or client, ask them for the best method and time frame for contacting them with a follow-up. This is critical as it both lets the contact know you will be following up and lets them choose their preferred method and time to do so. Be sure to insert this information in a lead management system like CRM. Set a deadline and track it as you would any appointment. This prevents clients from seeing future conversation as spam interruptions.
- Open with a direct and personal line. Stay away from open-ending, blaise email openers like "I wanted to email and see whether you had any questions" or "Just emailing to see if you have come to a decision on our products or services". These non-value statements most generally go straight to the trash folder. Instead, with follow-up emails use subject lines that are direct and personal. For example, "Hi X - Attached is the ABC service info you requested Tuesday". Such a personalized subject will immediately garner opening due to its mentioning the exact service requested and the date at which they had a conversation with you.
- Keep it brief and close with extra. Follow up emails are not the place to wax poetic about your company's services or extensive product comparisons. Instead, try and keep the follow-up email brief with just a few sentences related to moving them forward in the buyer's journey. Add value and encourage discourse by either ending or starting with insights related specifically to their business. For example, maybe attaching an article about a new industry process related to their niche or a LinkedIn group you think they might be interested in joining to improve their own standard. The point here is to find something related to their business to transition the follow-up email from being selfish to sharing. Make sure to keep a note of what info you send in your CRM lead management software for future conversations.
- If you must cold call, use Google Alerts as your guide. If it has been awhile since your first or second communication or you find yourself needing to do some cold calling/emailing on forgotten leads in your lead management box, then one of the best ways of tailoring those follow-ups is by using Google Alerts as your guide. Google Alerts is a powerful tool that can be set up so that you get an email every time your prospect's name, company name, competition, or their industry niche keywords are mentioned on the internet. This allows you to see any interesting or newsworthy events that can be mentioned during follow-up conversations to show prospects that you are interested in their business.
In Summary: Turn Selfish 'Check-ins' into Valued Follow-ups
The running idea here is to keep things personal. Avoid approaching prospects with calls or emails that are blatant interruptions. The prospect will see through this and it will not work. Instead, prepare from the onset by closing the first communication (in which contact information was gathered) with questions regarding their preferred contact method. Whether it is handwritten letters or afternoon e-mails, always take note and add it to your lead management software. Then, use that preferred contact method to follow-up but do so with the goal of 50% sharing valuable information not related to your selling business and 50% prompting the lead further down the sales funnel. A lead management tool like CRM is the best way to monitor prospects and ensure both appropriate follow-up times and methods are utilized and to store talking points to add value to future conversations.
For more information on lead management and how to use a CRM software platform to enhance follow-up strategies, contact us today.