Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Following up with your contacts, prospects, and referral sources is crucial to successful marketing and sales, but it can also cause anxiety and confusion. Follow-up is one of the least favorite tasks on the to-do list of many self-employed professionals. You may find yourself delaying or avoiding it because:
  • It makes you nervous. When you follow up with people, they may not be interested or simply not respond, which can cause you to feel rejected or ineffective.
  • You're not sure how to go about it. What do you say to people when you call? Can you follow up effectively in ways other than calling? How do you follow up with contacts who aren't prospects?
  • It seems tedious. Follow-up doesn't feel as exciting, creative, or spontaneous as some of the other ways you could spend your sales and marketing time.
All these barriers to powerful follow-up can be overcome, but you need to use the right kind of follow-up at the right time. Here are five types of follow-up you probably need to include in your marketing action plan, and what each one entails.
  1. Closing a sale - This is the reason for follow-up we most often think of. It's probably also the kind that provokes the most avoiding and delaying, because the stakes seem highest. You should only be using this type of follow-up if you have already had a sales conversation with your prospect where you found out about his needs, described what you do, and decided there's a match between you.

    When following up to close a sale, be prepared with an appropriate closing question. For example: "Are you ready to get started?" "Is my proposal what you were looking for?" "Would you like to schedule an appointment?" Don't feel as if you need any other reason to call or email than to ask your prospect to hire you. Just contact him and ask.
  2. Having a sales conversation - This variety of follow-up can also score high on the anxiety scale, because it can expose you to rejection. Contacting a prospect to have a sales conversation can be much easier when you already know she is interested. Try to nurture a prospect's interest in your services before asking for her time. (See #3 below.) Or, to smooth your path, seek out introductions to prospects from your other contacts.

    Be ready to make a specific proposal when you call or email. For example: "Might we have a 15-minute phone conversation?" "May I stop by your office on Tuesday afternoon when I'm downtown?" "May we have coffee one morning next week?" If you're on the phone, don't launch into an immediate sales conversation unless your prospect agrees to it.
  3. Developing interest - In contrast to the first two types, this kind of follow-up can be non-threatening to both you and your contacts. You can sometimes develop someone's interest in your services by sending traditional marketing materials like a postcard, brochure, or media kit.

    But you'll probably have better luck with an educational approach. Send an article, blog post, photo, audio, video, ebook, sample newsletter, event invitation, or a link to any of these. Focus on content that shows off the benefits and results of working with you, rather than the details of the process. See my article 44 Ways to Follow Up with Your Prospects for a host of creative ideas.
  4. Staying in touch - Light touches, with a soft sell or none at all, serve to remind both prospects and potential referral sources of you and your work. It's a good idea to have a stay-in-touch strategy in place for all of your contacts. If they agree to opt in, subscribe them to an ezine or your blog posts. Without an opt-in, you can still make calls, send postal mail, or occasionally send personally addressed emails sharing some of the same educational content described in #3 above.
  5. Stimulating referrals - You never have to say, "please give me the phone numbers of your closest friends" to encourage referrals. Remember to include in your stay-in-touch strategy former clients and all relevant contacts. These people may never become prospects, but when reminded of you regularly, they will naturally refer you when they have the chance.
The next time you find yourself stalled or stymied by follow-up, remember these tips. When you're clear about why you are following up and what to say, you'll be able to take action with less stress.
Copyright © 2015, C.J. Hayden

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