Tag Archives: Following up

A Magic Two-sentence Email that Gets Stalled Sales Back on Track

by Chris Lytle www.max-atm.com

Here’s an interesting tip to help you get a stalled prospect back in sales motion:

When a customer didn’t call me back, I sent this e-mail:

“Cliff, I still have you on my ‘waiting for’ list of people I’m expecting to hear from. Am I still on your radar? Chris”

His response:

“You are good. Let’s talk this morning if you are available. I’m out of town but can be reached on my cell phone.”

Result: Before I could call him, he called me from the road and we scheduled our next meeting. My two-sentence e-mail worked (I believe) because I really do have a “waiting for” list and keep track of people who owe me a call, an e-mail, or a contract – and because the “radar” question lets the customer opt in or out without pressure.

The author of “The Accidental Sales Manager,” Chris Lytle, CSP, time releases immediately applicable sales advice via the MAX-ATM Automatic Training Machine website. Check it out at www.max-atm.com

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7 “Positive” Reasons Why Your Voice Mail Messages Are Not Being Returned

Do you get discouraged when your voice mail messages are not returned?

Most reps do and they beat themselves up about it.  They convince themselves that the prospects doesn’t care; or that they asked for a quote or proposal because they wanted to get rid of the telephone rep; or that they’ve gone with a competitor who had a better price etc.

It gets so easy to convince yourself that your calls are not being returned for negative reasons that it becomes nearly impossible to pick up the phone and make another attempt.  It gets far easier to quit rather than persist.  But what if all those negative things aren’t happening?  What if your prospect is positive about you and your company/products?  What if something has happened?

Here are just 7 “positive” reasons why your calls might not have been returned and why you should continue to follow up.

1. Your Messages Were Not Received

What if your message wasn’t received because there was some technical error? What if your client has lost his access code and can’t retrieve your message?  What if there was a problem with the voice mail system?  If you think that the message was not received you’ll be more inclined to make another attempt or two.

2. Your Prospect Simply Forgets

You know what? People forget.  Things come up. Minor or major emergencies crop up. Your call drops down the list. Maybe your prospect had every good intention and simply forgot. They’re human after all.

3. Your Message Was Confusing /Convoluted

To me there is nothing worse than a long rambling message.  Most prospects won’t listen to your entire saga of a message and consequently will miss or ignore your request for a call back.  Did you make your message ‘listener friendly?”  If not, call again.

4. You Delivered Your Phone Number so Fast the Prospect Didn’t Catch it

Early last week I had a message from an individual who might be interested in my training services or who might be trying to sell me something.  The message was vague but intriguing and I couldn’t really tell.   The only trouble is I cannot figure out the phone number.  She recited it so fast, so slick and so garbled that I cannot get all the digits despite listening to it several times.  I can’t call her and I haven’t received a follow up call.  She’s probably convinced herself that I’m not interested.  Too bad, because I am.

5. You or Your Prospect Inverted Your Phone Number

I think I am slightly dyslexic.  More times than I would like to admit I have inverted a number or two or three.  Maybe you inverted a number.  Or more likely, maybe your prospect inverted a number when they jot it down.  They called you back and discovered they had the wrong number.  Things like this happen.  So, call and leave another message.

6. Your Prospect  Expects You to Persist

Some prospects don’t make return calls for umpteen reasons. They expect you to do it. If you want their business you need to earn it the old fashion way: with a little effort.  Apply the effort a few more times. Impress them with your keen follow up.

7. Your Prospect is Swamped

Most prospects aren’t sitting back and doing nothing.  They’re busy.  The have a lot on their plate. They haven’t forgotten you they simply have more pressing issues.  They have prioritized their day. Nothing personal, simply business.  So that means you might have to push the envelope a little more and little harder.

Summary

There you have it: 7 ‘positive’ reasons why your prospect hasn’t called you back.  There is nothing nefarious behind their failure to call back but rather legitimate and benign reasons.  If you think that way, you’ll be more inclined to pursue the prospect. So pick up the phone and try again.

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Do Me a Favor and Rate this E-Mail Follow Up Message

Do you ever have clients and prospects who don’t call you back after you’ve spoken or sent a proposal or quote?

You know what I mean: you’ve spent time on the phone discussing their needs, an opportunity is evident, the client seems keen enough, you’ve sent a proposal or quote and suddenly, things go silent despite your follow up calls and messages.

But here’s a nifty little e-mail message that seems to be getting a response.

The Message

Subject: Mike, can you do me a favor?

Hi Mike,

I have a quick favor to ask.

I am following up on the proposal I sent you regarding __________ (your product or service) and how it can  ________ (briefly describe the benefits the client will derive). I’ve left a couple of voice mail messages and e-mails but as of yet we haven’t been able to connect.

Can you do me a favor leave me a voice mail message or send me an e-mail on where you are at in the decision making process?

If things still look good, great.  If not, no problem.  In either case, it would help me with my planning and follow up (not to mention getting my boss off my back).

I appreciate the gesture and look forward to your e-mail (or leave me a message at xxx-xxx-xxxx).

Kind regards,

Why it Works

This message works for a number of reasons.  First, the subject line is intriguing.  It uses the prospect’s first name which tends to catch the eye and draw the reader into the message.  And next, it creates interest because it asks for a favor.  A favor is an unusual request. It is somewhat personal and that makes it compelling.  You can bet the recipient will read further.

Second, the opening line reinforces the ‘personal’ request.  Note the use of the word ‘quick’ which tells the reader that the favor won’t take long.

Third, the e-mail provides a quick summary of the situation by reminding the prospect about your product or service AND the benefits the client might derive.  This is important because it reminds the prospect why they originally requested the information from you.  In other words, it can help remind them of the need.

Fourth, the message lays on a little guilt by saying that you left a ‘couple’ (which really means more than two) voice and e-mail messages.  The rebuke is very soft and cushioned by the phrase, “…but as of yet we haven’t been able to connect.”  These words gracefully imply that perhaps the prospect has tried contacting you but you weren’t available.  They’ll feel less guilty but it makes it a little easier for them to respond.

Fifth, the ‘favor’ is clearly defined: an e-mail or phone call regarding the status of the sale.  The e-mail makes a ‘negative’ response easier to give if that’s the case (“no problem”), and it also suggests that the rep is getting some heat from the boss because the prospect hasn’t responded.  Again, the clever and subtle use of guilt.

The e-mail concludes on a positive tone.

Summary

This message will get you a good response rate.  It has a reasonable and polite tone and because it asks for a simple favor, it is hard NOT to respond.

Give it a try and see for yourself.

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How Many Times Should You Make a Follow Up Call?

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.

Too Short

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!

One.

On single, solitary attempt.

Too Long

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.

Two points:

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.

4

Quatre.

IV.

Quatro.

You make four follow up calls.

Why?

  • 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

That’s why.

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.

Summary

There are far too many short strings out there.  Manage your string and watch your sales grow.

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An E-Mail That Gets a Response

Ever had a client or prospect never get back to you?

(SPECIAL NOTE: This article was written by Mr. Inside Sales, Mike Brooks.  This is a heck of a good article.  Visit Mike’s site at www.mrinsidesales.com for superb articles and products )

If you’re in sales, then I know it’s happened to you (or is happening with several of your clients or prospects right now).

If you have ever find yourself in a place where you’ve qualified a prospect, sent information to them on your product or service, and then find that they just won’t return your calls or emails, then I’ve got a guaranteed email that will get you a response.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go”

(Note: this email technique was one I learned last summer when I spoke at the L.A. Chapter of the AA-ISP. One of the participants shared it with us and I’ve been passing it along ever since!)

Subject of your email: “Should I stay or Should I go?”

“_________ While I’ve tried to reach you, I haven’t heard back from you and that tells me one of three things:

1) You’ve already chosen another company for this and if that’s the case please let me know so can I stop bothering you,

2) You’re still interested but haven’t had the time to get back to me yet

3) You’ve fallen and can’t get up and in that case please let me know and I’ll call 911 for you…

Please let me know which one it is because I’m starting to worry…

Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing back from you.”

Is that great or what?? This works on so many levels including using a “Clash” song everyone can relate to in the subject line, to giving them options and an out in case they’ve decided not to work with you.

And, of course, you give people a reason to smile and that always relieves the pressure from the sales situation.

Use it this week and see for yourself how it works to get your prospects to get back with you and how it gets you deals. And then email me yourself with your results – I’d love to hear them

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The Top 10 Ways to Stay In Touch With Your Clients Without Being a Pest

Do you ever get that vague and uneasy feeling that you’re being an annoying pest by calling your clients too often?

There is no question that in these tough economic times it’s important to stay front and center but incessant telephone calling is not the answer.  It is important to balance the nature of your contacts by doing two things.

First, mix your media. Use e-mail, direct mail, fax and dimensional mailers to get through the clutter that bombards your client’s desk. Use them to create a sense of value and worth with each and every day.

Second, mix your messages. Don’t always call or send business related materials.  While special offers, sales and other company literature can create value at a business level make sure you don’t forget the personal side of the equation.  Remember that people buy from people they know, like and trust.  Work on these components too. In effect, you want your client to welcome the contact, not avoid it.

Here are the top 10 ways you can do just that:

1. Send a Thank You Note

Every now and then take the time to send a thank you card to your clients and let them know you don’t take their business for granted. Give it character by using generic cards that are more personal rather than a thank you card plastered with your company logo. Hand write your message AND hand write the envelop. Use a real stamp. Your effort won’t go unnoticed!

2. E-mail a Newsletter or Link

You can unobtrusively ‘touch’ your clients with your company newsletter but make certain that the newsletter has more than just company propaganda and special offers. The idea is to create value that goes beyond a transactional relationship. If you don’t have a newsletter, scan the web and look for sites or links that might be of interest to the client either on a business or personal level.  (For example, if the client loves to cook, maybe you send a link to a cooking site).

3. Send/E-mail/Fax a VAA (value added article)

Scan industry magazines and tear out articles that might be pertinent to the client. Attach a Post-it Note that says something like, “Kev, I thought of you when I saw the article on distribution management. Enjoy!” Your client will be impressed that you took the time and effort. Or, if you know the client well, scan magazines that might be relevant to a hobby or passion. Show him that you listened, remembered and took the time to do something extra.

4. Fax a Contest

Laura Tribble is a tele-sales rep who faxes her clients Trivial Pursuit-like contests typically related to the holidays. For example, near the Fourth of July she faxes 20 or so questions focused on Independence Day.  Laura offers a little prize (like a couple of bags of chocolates or candies) to the top five winners. Doing business with Laura is fun and customers look forward to her next contest. The proof? She often gets a 40-50% response rate. Who do you think is remembered when it is time to order?

5. Arrange for an Office Treat

For your top clients, arrange a Pizza Lunch or something similar. Call your client, tell them you’d like to ‘buy them lunch’ (even though you might be a thousand miles away) to say thanks for their business. Arrange a date and time, determine their favorite pizza place, call in the order with your credit card.  Follow up shortly after the event and listen to them sing your praises. Or have a “Lunch and Learn” Session. Arrange for the pizza and then call in and use a speaker phone to provide tips and ‘how to’ information on your products or services.

6. Send a Dimensional Mailer

Some clients deserve a little something extra and memorable. Send them a book, or seasoning salt, or anything that has height, weight, scope and dimension. It might be related to work or to the season or specifically to the client. Don’t be extravagant. The point is to have clients open up a package like it was their birthday. They will be wowed by your thoughtfulness,  Yes, it can get a little pricey but your top clients WILL remember the gesture and the equity in you as a vendor will soar. (P.S., Resist the urge to send promotional products with your company logo. They’re ‘okay’ but they don’t leave much of an impression. Send something different that reflects you or your client).

7. Send a Postcard or a Greeting Card by Mail

Every now and then send a greeting card to your client. It might be holiday or sports related, or maybe an inspirational quote.  Cards are different because create curiosity: ‘Hey, who sent ME a card?’ They get opened and remembered. They even pin them up at their desks.  Check the internet for companies that allow you to send cards via the web that look and feel like they were hand written. They even include real stamps.

8. Make a Non-Sales Phone Call

Every now and then call your client and talk about anything but business. If you have something in common – e.g., the two of you are Florida Gator Fans or you both watch “Dancing with the Stars”- use it as a pre-text to call. Again, do NOT discuss business. Keep the call short. Have some fun or lament about a bad call, and then leave it at that. The idea is to show the client t that he relationship is more than the sum of their transactions. (P.S., Leave a fun voice mail message relating your common interest if you can’t reach the client. E-mails work too.)

9. E-mail a Greeting Card

You can also e-mail a greeting card that has ‘look’ and the feel of a handwritten card. There are a few internet based companies that makes the whole effort fast and easy by providing a huge on-line selection of cards that you can customize and send out as quickly as you can click. Check them out.

10.  Use a Combination of 4

It is important that you use at least four of these techniques in combination and never get dependent on a single tactic. Using four or more of these contacts ensures that your effort gets through all the “crap” that is vying for your client’s attention. In addition, stick with the program. One or two touches are simply not enough. Staying in touch, building value and creating a relationship is a journey, not a destination. For your top clients, never let more than 3-4 weeks go by without some sort of friendly touch over and above your regular business calls.  Your “B” clients should be touched about every 6-8 weeks over above business calls.

Summary

Staying in touch without being a pest requires time and effort but the rewards are considerable.  Your efforts will typically translate into more loyal customers and bigger sales. Take the time and effort to add this strategy to your regular calls.

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Are you Guilty? The Top 7 Mistakes B2B Tele-Sales Reps Make

Using the telephone to prospect and sell is tough enough without making matters worse.  Here is a little of the Top 7 mistakes the most B2B tele-sales reps typically make.  Are you guilty?

1. Not Having a Clearly Defined Call Objective

When calling there are two objectives: the prime objective and secondary objectives. The prime objective is the #1 thing you want to accomplish on this particular call. And no, the primary objective is not always to get the sale. The sale maybe three calls down the line. Primary objectives could be such things as determining if budget is available, identify ALL the key decision makers, spending time getting to know the client on a personal level, learning more about the company.  Primary objectives are what you MUST accomplish. Finish this phrase: at the end of this call I want to ________.

Secondary objectives are things you would like to accomplish. If you don’t achieve them, no problem; perhaps some other time. Secondary objectives are ‘nice to haves’ but not necessary to have.

Knowing your objectives provides you with focus and concentration. They dictate your opening, questioning, presenting, objections handling and advancing at the sale. They make you work smarter, faster and more successful.

2. Winging it – Not Having a Plan

Winging it refers to picking up the phone and hoping you have achieve your primary objective (if you have one).  Planning a call means knowing having a decent opening statement that engages the client, having questions prepared, listing key points you want to make, noting an objections you might encounter and having a close or an advance. It takes less than thirty seconds.

3. Poor Opening Statement

Most opening statements are lame and typically, uninspiring. A good opening statement features a benefit that intrigues the prospect (or the existing customer) to tune in and listen a little longer. A good opener differentiates your call and increases your chances of achieving your call objectives.

4. Surrendering to Objections

Whether they come at the beginning of a call or at the end of a call, objections are part of tele-sales and should not come as a surprise. Yet many reps respond as though they have never heard someone say, “I’m busy right now,” or “E-mail me something” or “Call me next week” and simply surrender to the comment. Don’t quit so easily. Learn how to respond to the classic objections by using questioning to determine if the objection is legitimate or false.

5. Failing to Ruthlessly Qualify

Some reps are so dang glad they’ve reached a live person who is willing to talk to them that they immediately jump to the pitch or the offer. They babble like brooks and hope that something they’ve flung out there will stick. Smart reps use questions to determine key information and whether it is worth their time and effort to pursue. Ruthlessly qualify and determine such critcal information such as is there a legitimate need, who are the decision makers, is budget available, when would a decision occur or whatever else you need to continue the sales cycle.

6. Failure to Get Firm Commitment

Some tele-sales reps make the mistake of failing to get commitment to the next step of the sales cycle.  For instance, the client agrees to reviewing a proposal and the reps says, “Great, I’ll call you next week.” That’s vague. Getting commitment means two things: getting the client to agree to some sort of actions (a webinar, a tele-seminar, review a proposal, examine a quote etc.) and agreeing to a date and time for the next step.  For instance, “Okay Mike, I’ll sign you up for tomorrow’s webinar and what I’d like to do is recommend we set up Thursday morning to review your thoughts and determine the next steps if any. How does 9:15 look on your calendar for then?”

7. Not Being Persistent in Following Up

About 87% of tele-sales reps give up after one attempt at cold calling or follow up. About 97% give up after the second attempt. To avoid this mistake, you need to go beyond one or two follow ups. Think three, four or five follow ups spaces about three days apart. Use voice mail and e-mail. Be polite but be persistent.

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5 Ways to Overcome The Dreaded “Let Me Think About it Objection”

What would telephone selling be like without a daily dose of “Let me think about it?”

Probably much easier and much less frustrating. But since the objection is not going to go away any time soon perhaps now is a good time to look at some ways to tackle it.

Is it Real?

When a prospect says “let me think about it”, is he telling the truth? Some prospects toss out this classic objection because they simply want to get rid of you. They say it, not because they mean it, but because it is a polite method of getting you off the line. The trouble is, if you are not savvy to this brush off, you can waste a lot of time and energy following up with e-mails and phone calls.

On the other hand, some prospects really DO need time to think about it. Some need time to ponder their options while others like to simply digest the information to ensure that they do not make a snap decision. The challenge here is that if you are a cynical sales rep who has heard the objection time and time again, you may not take the prospect seriously and fail to follow up and hence, lose the opportunity.

So how do you tackle this devilish objection? Here are four approaches.

#1: Say Nothing

Here’s how it works: when they tell you they want to think about it, say nothing.

That’s all there is to it. Just wait patiently.

Silence over the telephone creates a vacuum and most prospects get uncomfortable with the silence. After two or three seconds, most feel the compelling need to fill the void with words. You will be absolutely amazed at how well this technique works as long as you can discipline yourself to hold your tongue for a few seconds.

Typically, the client will elaborate on the “let me think about it” objection and this often uncovers the real objection. For example, they might explain that they have to speak to their boss or their partner. Suddenly you discover another player in the game. They may reveal that they are looking at other proposals and now you know you are in a competitive situation. Or they may simply not be interested at all. In any event, you have more information upon which to base your next step.

#2: I am Not Sure I Understand

This is a powerful response to the objection. When the client explains that she would like to ‘think about it’ pause for a second or so and then slowly say, “I am not sure I understand.” The trick here is delivery. Be subtle and use the tone of your voice to show surprised confusion, not belligerence. Do not utter a word. Let silence do its work. When the prospects hear the confusion in your tone they almost automatically feel the compelling need to ‘come to your rescue’ and elaborate further on their hesitancy.

#3: Give Them the Time and Get a Commitment

Another approach is to grant them the time but put a time limit on their pondering. For example,

Prospect: “Well, let me think about it.”

Rep: “I understand completely, Ms. Thomas. A decision like this needs some time. And what I would like to recommend is that I give you a call next week to get your thoughts and to determine the next steps. How does Wednesday at 8:45 look on your calendar?”

If the prospect accepts the recommendation the objection is probably legitimate. The client needs time for whatever reason. You know this because she has agreed to a specific time and date. It shows commitment. Again, the key is to not only get a follow up date but also a specific time.

This approach is very non-threatening and is perfect for prospects who legitimately want more time. They will appreciate your courtesy and understanding. This is why you deliberately empathize with the prospect by saying you “understand.” These types of prospects do not like being cajoled or pressured. If you push too hard, they will say no to your offer because they do not like you and your ‘aggressive’ approach. Your offer could be extremely valuable and well priced but these prospects value trust and relationship more.

If the prospect balks at your first suggestion, try another date and time and see if they positively respond. If they balk again, ask when would be a good time and date. If they cannot make a commitment chances are they are brushing you off and your time is probably better spent elsewhere.

#4: Probe for Legitimacy

Here are some techniques to determine the legitimacy of the objection. Begin by empathizing with the prospect and then gently ask a question to get the prospect to clarify. For example,

Prospect: “Let me think about it.”

Rep: “I understand completely. If I were sitting where you are now I’d probably want to think about it too. If I may, one quick question:”
“what concerns so you still have?
Or
“what’ is causing you to hesitate?”
Or
“what is your number concern about not proceeding further?”
Or
“what will your final decision will be based upon?”

This type of probing gets the prospect to open up and to help you determine if the objection is real or otherwise.

#5 The Level With Me Response

One of the best ways to deal with this objection is to ask the prospect to be completely candid with you. Here is how it works:

Prospect: “I’d like to think about it.”

Rep, “Fair enough. But John, we’ve spent a bit of time reviewing your situation and there seems to be a good fit. Please level with me, “What’s holding you back?”

The technique has a few things going for it. Note the use of the prospects name. It is used deliberately to create a bond of familiarity. It also gets the prospect to listen more closely. Next, the rep points out that a “bit of time” was used up and the implication is that the rep is at least owed an explanation. In addition, the rep uses a colloquial expression – level with me- which in effect, is saying to the prospect ‘hey, no games here, let’s be honest with one another.’ Finally, there is the use of good old fashioned politeness when the rep uses the word ‘please.’ It is a wonderful approach.

Summary

Don’t let your prospect off the hook when you hear this objection. Try one of these five techniques and see how they work for you.

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