The Difference between Showing Up and Following Up

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is just showing up.” That may be true in show business but it takes more than showing-up to succeed in sales. Salespeople achieve better results after they learn how to professionally follow-up. Common “show up” behavior includes asking questions like, “Have you made a decision yet?” or “Do you have any questions?” These weak questions often lead to a conversation killing “No”. Effective sales follow-up keeps the sales process moving forward. It is a combination of the right timing and techniques.

Timing refers to the frequency of interactions. Average salespeople often let too much time go by after presenting their proposal. They don’t want to be viewed as pushy so they agree to wait when the prospect asks for time to think it over. The likelihood of closing the sale drops with each passing day as competitors and other priorities become more important. In most cases, follow-up should be more frequent based on factors including the prospect’s urgency, the length of the sales cycle, the amount of the potential sale, the geographic accessibility, and the competitive landscape. As an example, salespeople for a solar energy company increased their close ratio after increasing their follow-up visits from every two-three weeks to once a week. This was for a typical two-month sales cycle on a residential solar system with an average cost of $45,000.00.

When salespeople hear the more frequent follow-up recommendation, they often think, “What will I do on all those extra visits? I don’t want to become a pest.” That is where professional technique comes into play. Two important elements of technique are using the proper communication channel and providing real value. An actual visit is the most effective type of communication channel for three reasons. First, it offers the richest feedback because it involves all of the senses. A salesperson can have two-way dialog in real-time and read facial expressions and body language to gather maximum feedback. Second, face-to-face is the best way to build trust and rapport, both critical elements to sales success. Third, observant salespeople can often glean additional information while onsite by meeting new people involved in the decision or becoming engaged in conversations that would not have occurred over the phone or via email. “Don’t underestimate the value of lobby conversations with the receptionist.” a sales manager once told me. Communication channels in order of descending effectiveness include Web conferences, phone calls, emails, and letters/faxes. An actual visit may not always be possible, but before a salesperson burdens their prospect with one more email message, he should stop and realize that it is easy for anyone, including competitors, to send an email. It is also easy for the prospect to ignore it.

Bringing value to every interaction results in your prospect welcoming the visit or phone call. There are two types of value – Business Value and Personal Interests. Business Value is information that will help your prospect in their business. Examples include industry case studies, news affecting their business, or even a referral for them. A salesperson for a telecommunications company brought her information technology prospects articles about new computer backup strategies even though she did not sell backup. It reinforced her position as a trusted advisor. Personal interest can be more challenging because a salesperson first needs to uncover what their prospect enjoys outside of work. A simple “What did you do for fun this weekend?” usually does the job. A salesperson for a winery supplies client strengthened his relationship after learning about a prospect’s interest in hummingbirds. He brought her an article on the best way to attract hummingbirds to a garden. Dale Carnegie, one of the founders of modern sales training said, “You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you. “

So, if you are looking to make it in show biz, then just keep showing-up. If you want to take your sales to the next level, start practicing professional follow-up timing and techniques.

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