Answer: how long is a piece of string?
A piece of string is as long as you cut it. Follow up calls are as long and as many as you make them. To be effective and successful in following up leads, you need to know when to cut the string. You need to know when to cut it short or when to cut it long.
Bottom line? Most sales reps cut their string far too short.
Far, far too short.
They give up far too easily.
I have seen several studies that indicate that any where from 68% to 87% of sales reps give up after their first attempt. I believe it. Let’s round it off a bit and split the difference and say 80% of sales reps quite after one follow up attempt. One!
On single, solitary attempt.
Opposite extreme: can there be such a thing as too many follow up calls? Can there be strings that are cut too long?
Ya, you betcha there can.
Let’s clear something up right here and now. There are those out there who talk about persistence and how it is the key to getting the sale. They advocate follow up until the prospect says no.
That’s a load of bull.
First of all, it can annoy…gravely annoy your prospect. Far from admiring your pigheaded persistence, you will anger them. You will NOT endear yourself to them. Trust me.
Second, and maybe this is more important, making a series of follow up calls is a waste of time. If I were a sales manager, it would scare the wits out of me if I found a sales rep making ten or twelve follow up calls to each of his prospects. I would seriously question their common sense.
Granted persistence to the degree I am talking about can pay off. But the number of times you convert the lead is simply not worth the “opportunity cost.” The opportunity cost refers to all the opportunities you forfeited while attempting to call a client who is clearly not interested.
The Magic Number for Follow Up Calls – The Rule of 4
So now we’ve put bookends on the issue and bracketed the string. So what’s the magic number?
I call it: The Rule of Four.
You make four follow up calls.
- Because as many as 90% of sales reps give up after one call.
- Because about 95-97% of sales reps give up after the second call.
- Because four is a manageable number.
- Because four is persistent without being a pain
- Because precious few (the “vital few”) make four calls
- Because it can pay off
4 X 3 Timing
Your follow up ‘string’ is all a matter of timing. It is not just making four calls, it is knowing how far to space those calls apart.
Here’s the formula.
You make four calls and space them 3 business days apart from each other. So if you call Thursday. If you haven’t heard from the prospect you make your next call on the following Tuesday and then again on the Friday. Use some sort of planning system – calendar, Outlook, Goldmine…whatever- to schedule the calls.
Why three days?
Because three days gives your prospect enough time to make a call back. Three days also displays persistence without being overly annoying. It’s a simple as that.
Exception to the Rule of 4
Are there exceptions?
Of course there are! If you have spoken with a prospect and it looks like a possible lead, you may want to persist in your follow up…make your string of contacts longer. But you can do so with other mediums to show persistence with some variance (see Volume 3 Issues 25 and 26). This lessens the annoyance factor. But remember to spread your contacts out. A daily call or two is the kiss of death.
There are far too many short strings out there. Manage your string and watch your sales grow.