The most effective people I know have more commitments, requests, follow up tasks, to-dos and activities scheduled than they can ever hope to accomplish in a day. We all do. If this wasn’t true, there would be no need for us humans to have invented the concept of prioritizing.
This simple truth is also why follow up is so critical in the sales process.
As the CEO of a relatively small firm, I easily receive over 100 emails per day. The same is true for anyone on my team that has any kind of purchasing power for our company.
So why would a seasoned salesperson think I am going to prioritize their follow up email?
The Follow Up Dilemma
Our brains are designed to filter out over 99% of what we see and hear from our conscious mind. If you don’t think that’s true, ask yourself how you can walk through a busy airport without remembering a single face or what shoes anyone was wearing. We literally have a physical filter called the reticular activating system (RAS) in our brains to thank for this strategic blindness.
At the same time, we also know the adage that “you have to hear something seven times to hear it for the first time.” The great paradox of sales communication is that people need repetition to retain an idea but simultaneously filter out things that are familiar.
So how can we sales professionals stay top of mind and influence action?
(Almost) Never Follow Up By Email
This might surprise you: I don’t send follow up emails to prospective clients. I do follow up—respectfully, consistently and confidently—but I do it by phone.
I still send several emails to my open prospects, but not to repeatedly ask them if anything has changed since the last email. By reserving my email ammunition for things important to the recipient, I avoid getting filtered out by the RAS or, even worse, the junk mail filter.
Like what exactly, you ask?
Remember our airport analogy? Well, think about how you instantly snap to attention when they announce a final boarding call for your plane and you’re 1,000 yards from the gate. That’s because our RAS is designed to prioritize certain types of information, including things that are relevant to a mission we are on (like catching that flight to Toronto) and things that challenge our understanding of the world (like the title of this article).
What is Valuable to Your Prospect?
In the sales community, we love our maxims; and one of my favorites is “features tell, benefits sell.” But what fewer salespeople understand is that “ideas inspire action.” What we truly value in life are things that create a better world for us—be it by taking away pain or moving us towards pleasure. Whether you realize it or not, that’s what you do for your clients.
Take a step back from your product or service and ask yourself what kind of world is your prospect trying to create.
- Are they dreaming of a neighborhood where they can raise a happy and productive family?
- Would they love to be able to travel more without the hassle of the airport?
- Do they crave the feeling of financial peace?
- Does the idea of finding a repeatable and predictable sales process charge them up?
- Would finding the perfect manager for their Mexico data center calm their customer fires?
What are the ideas that will change the way they think about those problems and give them hope that there is a solution on the horizon? That is what is valuable to your prospect.
If I know a business owner is struggling to grow sales, I might send them a video explaining that dividing responsibility for lead generation and lead conversion functions will allow them to understand where their bottleneck is. In the future, I might even send this article to some of them.
A sales rep at a home builder who is “following up” with someone who showed interest when dropping into their sales center might send an article explaining the strong school district that her product is located in this week and a video highlighting the energy efficient construction practices the builder uses next week. In between, she would call and welcome them back for a visit with the entire family.
I want to challenge you to use email to send info and inspire, not to follow up.
Making Sure Your Follow Up Leads to Sales
Setting aside the critical components of rapport and qualification, the act of selling can be broken down to answering three questions for a prospect in a way that resonates with them:
- Why change? We have to convince them that something is wrong with the status quo.
- Why now? Inertia is a sales killer. We have to get people out of the default mode of delaying, deferring and doing nothing.
- Why you? Unless a prospect believes you have something scarce or unique, they will price shop or stay loyal to their current providers.
The order of those questions is deliberate and key to initiating action. Use them to shape the information you send via follow up emails.
What you are really doing is repetitiously demonstrating value in various ways that will be received by the RAS. This is how you overcome the follow up paradox!
Delivering Remarkable Follow Up Every Time
Effective sales teams take the time to set up templates and automate as much of the follow-up and standard communication as possible. Ineffective salespeople reinvent the wheel with each new prospect and are never able to learn what scripts and emails are most effective. They’re “wingin’ it.”
In today’s noisy and competitive world, building a relationship as a trusted source of information can propel any salesperson above their competition, sometimes without the prospect even consciously understanding why.
With some proper planning and setup, this follow-up can be automated or executed with the click of a button. We need to make following through as easy as possible, and that means using templates and systems built into the place where we spend our workday—the CRM.
When great follow up is easy, sales are made.
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This article was inspired by Jeremy’s ebook, “Seven Habits of Scalable Sales Teams: How the most effective sales teams are using their CRM better than you.” If you are interested in more content like this, download it free here.
Jeremy is the CEO of Juicy Results, the Internet marketing agency for sale organizations. He is also the author of The Bootstrapper’s Guide to SEO and hosts a podcast on scaling the sales and marketing process called the New Customer Machine. He lives in Boca Raton, FL.