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Just “Follow Up” Already!

January 20, 2012

Recently I was chatting with a friend of mine from University that had the opportunity to work for a digital marketing firm in Vancouver. Always a marketing major he poked fun at my apparent inability to understand the gravity of search function optimization and the potential implication of click-through rates driving sales to a company. It was that question really got me thinking about some of our clients.

“How do we drive sales?”  It’s a question that every business asks in their quest for growth and revenue. While many companies look to differentiating products, revisiting marketing plans and analysis of the external marketplace for answers as to how to improve their sales numbers (and perhaps using companies that promise high click through rates), often times the easiest ways to drive sales require no changes to product line-up, marketing strategies or any system at all.  It simply requires a change of thinking and acting.

What do I mean? In the past we’ve been approached by clients to assist in projects for driving growth and expanding their business. As part of expansion projects the topic of driving sales often arises as a point of contention and many companies comment that they couldn’t possibly drive more sales without expanding their sales force and sacrificing potential profits. It’s usually around this point we ask a simple question:

“Do your existing sales staff follow-up with potential clients?”

Now this may seem like a ridiculous question, but it’s an area of focus often overlooked by many companies. For example, in a study performed by McGraw Hill, they found that out of the sales people surveyed:

  • 48% of sales people never followed up with a prospect;
  • 25% make a second contact and stop;
  • 12% make three contacts and stop; and
  • 10% make more than three contacts

So … What does this actually mean to you, and your business? In total, only 17% of sales are made in the first three contacts with a potential client. That means your sales force could be leaving up to 83% of sales on the table by not taking the time to follow-up on previous correspondence.

To further add to the gravity of the “follow-up”, the same study found that companies that increased their correspondence (with potential clients and return customers) during recessions saw a 275% growth over the preceding four years, while comparable companies that did not increase correspondence only  saw a minimal growth of only 19%.

In a similar study by Dr. James Oldroyd that focused on the dynamics of successful sales in the on-line marketplace, he found that regardless of whether the business relies on B2B or B2C sales, speed of follow-up matters.

He found that if a client has shown interest in your product or service, your chances of qualifying that lead decreases to almost zero if you don’t attempt to reach out to that client within 15 minutes of them showing interest.

Other findings of the study suggested that after 20 hours of not attempting to engage the client for the first time, not only have you lost the opportunity for that client but at that point if your sales staff is still trying to reach out, every attempt will actually decrease the likelihood of that client reaching out to you again.

Here are some other simple steps your sales force can take to improve their sales chances by following-up with potential clients:

  1. Always Call: While it can be very easy to get trapped in sending generic template e-mails, this automatically decreases engagement. Potential customers are more likely to purchase from a company who engages them in person rather than by e-mail.
  2. Be Genuine: If possible, don’t have your sales force follow a script when calling potential clients. A checklist of action items can ensure that the phone conversation covers the necessary ingredients for qualifying a lead but the ability to let a natural conversation happen builds immediate trust.
  3. Keep Good Notes: When dealing with multiple customers it can become difficult to keep everything organized.  It is important to know what you have covered, and what may still need to be covered by the end of your call.  By keeping detailed notes of all conversations, your sales staff will be able to have a more personal interaction with your customers.

Nothing earth shattering right? If anything these tips probably seem more like common sense, but the numbers show that companies just aren’t using these tips (perhaps it’s too simple for common sense?). While I certainly won’t claim that following-up will improve your businesses sales figures by 50%, the potential gain for a relatively simple concept is statistically large.

So to all those managers reading, if you’re not sure if reviewing follow-up policies within your organization is useful or not, I recommend a simple test. Simply engage your own company as a prospective client and see how they do. Consider these factors as you engage with your own organization:

  • Have you received a call or an e-mail?
  • Was the call personalized or scripted?
  • Was the e-mail personalized or scripted?
  • How long was the time frame before your organization first contacted you?
  • How many times did your organization attempt to contact you?

Depending upon how you answer these questions should suffice to answer whether your organization could benefit from some policy adjustments. So before you ask “how should we grow sales?” perhaps the first question to ask should be “how well do we engage potential customers?” If answered honestly, the results may surprise you.

So the next time you hear that you need to optimize your search functionality, consider common sense first. Before you try to attract new customers, why not pick up more of the ones who are already interested with a few simple policy changes?  And if that doesn’t work, I can recommend a great digital marketing firm in Vancouver.

– Mike G.

We help organizations thrive by building strong leadership teams & driving sustainable growth.

Category: Blog

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