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As I wrote about in a previous article, 6 Ways to Win At Sales Calls, the ability to run great meetings is critical for success in sales. What comes after meetings that is just as important? The follow-up.

Follow-ups aren’t exactly fun, but when done well, they capitalize on the momentum generated from a good meeting and move your deal forward. Furthermore, sometimes prospects are hard to track down and you need to get creative in order to get them back to the table. Nail the art of the follow-up with the six best practices below.

1. Don’t Give Up!

One of the most important sales skills to develop is persistence.  How many times have you had what feels like a great meeting only to have your prospect “go dark” on you afterwards?  The reality is that people are busy and just because they don’t respond to your first email, that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in what you’re selling.

Make sure you’re on top of email threads that haven’t been responded to and politely respond asking for some action on their side.

2. Vary Your Communication Methods

Many sales reps make the mistake of relying on email alone to do follow-ups. This is a mistake. Not only are emails easy to ignore, you might be avoiding the prospect’s preferred method of communication. By using a variety of platforms to follow up—email, phone, handwritten notes, social, text, etc.—you have a far greater chance of getting your prospect’s attention via a  channel that works for them.

One simple way to get started if you’re not getting timely responses via email, is to call your prospect and leave them a voicemail referring to your email and expressing your enthusiasm to keep the conversation going.  Ask for a quick reply via email with their thoughts.

3. Don’t “Just Check In”

When was the last time you sent an email that looked like the below?

“Hey Joe,

Hope your day is going great. Just want to check in to see if you had a chance to review the materials I sent you.”

Anyone know what’s wrong with this email? Bueller? You guessed it: it doesn’t offer up any new selling points.

Every follow-up is an opportunity to reiterate your product’s business value. Remind your prospect how your product can help them, and provide further value by sending along any articles, case studies, testimonials, videos, etc. that are applicable to their situation.

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4. Get Personal

When sending along information and articles, tie everything back to your client’s business needs. Here’s a great example of how to do this from Jill Konrath, a bestselling author and thought leader in the sales space:

“Pat, I’ve been thinking more about how we can help you increase sales (reduce costs, speed up productivity). I thought you might be interested in what we did with XYZ organization when they were dealing with the same challenge. Do you have a few minutes for a quick conversation?”

When you customize emails to clients’ needs and ask action-oriented questions that require a response, you’ll keep the conversation moving forward and really up your chances of sealing that deal you’re after.

5. Be Organized

Having your act together always goes a long way, and it’s no exception when it come to follow-ups. Here are a few specific ways to make “above and beyond” your signature move:

  • Create a follow-up cadence. Example: Send a handwritten note the day of a call, follow up via email the following day, and call again on the day you think your handwritten note will arrive.
  • Schedule before hanging up. On calls, always try to calendar your next chat before you say sayonara. This will eliminate phone tag and increase your chances of connecting.
  • Take good notes and use them. When you have past details down pat, you show clients you’re paying attention. This is step numero uno in developing a good relationship.
  • Use follow-up templates. Create easy-to-personalize email templates for each of your different follow-up “types”. This will save huge amounts of time and help keep you on the ball.

6. Get Smart with Analytics

There are plenty of tools out that tell you when a client looks at your email and for how long. Use this information wisely, and you can contact prospects when it really counts. For example, if you notice a client opening and rereading emails you’ve sent, pick up the phone and dial them directly.  There’s no better time to catch them for a quick conversation to create momentum than when they’re already thinking about you and your product.

Your Sales Game’s New MVP

As salespeople it’s important to remember that our customers are busy and our product is rarely their number one priority.  Consequently, in order to make progress and get deals done it’s critical to have a thoughtful follow-up strategy that integrates the tips above.  The difference between winning and losing a deal very well could come down to your ability to follow up and keep your buyer engaged.

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