If you’re in B2B sales, you know that it’s complex, chaotic at times, and absolutely thrilling.
With prolonged sales cycles, the buyer journey is becoming less of a sprint from start to finish and more of an ultra-marathon through difficult terrain. It can be grueling if you don’t have your wits about you. That is — if you don’t have a winning follow-up formula in place. Don’t worry, we’re going to cover all that and more today.
First off, remember that it takes an average of six touches before someone trusts you enough to buy from you. In other words, it’s unlikely that you’ll close the deal during the cold call or the first sales meeting. But if you stick with it, trust the process, and implement the “four-P follow-up protocol” below, you’ll be right there in the mix with the best sales people in the world.
Let’s get right into it.
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How to Follow-up in B2B Sales
In sales, you have to be…
You have to be FAST in sales! Especially if you have a prospect on the hook. If there’s any interest at all, you must fan the flames of desire and curiosity by keeping in close contact with your leads. If there’s interest on the cold call, set it up for later that same day or the following day. Never wait a full week or more — by that time they’ll have forgotten about you and there’s slim chance they’ll even show up to the sales appointment.
If it’s a follow-up sales meeting because other stakeholders have to attend, schedule that within 72 hours from the first call — again, the sooner the better. If it’s a proposal you’re sending out, get it in your prospect’s hands within 24 hours. If a prospect emails you with a question, reply to that email within the hour. You see the pattern here? Time is of the essence when following up in sales. Trust me, if you aren’t FAST, someone else will be. Be prompt, swift, fast — whatever you want to call it — and you’re already ahead of the pack.
It’s time to break down walls.
Your follow-ups are the perfect time to include tailored messaging. Whether it’s an email, a phone call, or a meeting over coffee, you should always begin the meeting with a personal connection. Remember — it’s a follow-up! That means you’ve gathered some intel from the first meeting on your prospect’s personal life (you did ask if they had kids or if they enjoy a fine cigar, right?).
A couple of things to unpack here. First, I say “intel”, but really this is just basic information that people share when they trust someone. So having this more personal information is a great litmus test to know if your prospect trusts you and that you have a solid rapport. Let’s say they do trust you, and you did learn about their interests. Well, the beginning of the follow-up meeting is the perfect time to get a little personal. Ask them if they’ve tried the Arturo Fuente Hemingway cigar. Better yet, send them a box to really (really) sweeten the deal. The bottom line is that you must be personal by tailoring your messaging to their interests. Sales is about THEM, not YOU.
This one might seem obvious, but I see too many salespeople throw in the towel by the third or fourth follow-up. Remember, it takes SIX conversations before the average deal closes. If you give up after calling three, four, or five times — when most people give up — then you’ve wasted all that time and energy for nothing.
You might recall the great entrepreneur Napoleon Hill’s famous story about digging for gold. The story goes that a gold-miner had been digging for months, and he gave up when gold was only three feet further in the mine. If he’d only kept digging for three more feet he’d have struck riches. The moral of the story is to never stop digging. Never give up. So what if it takes six follow-ups or sixteen? Your life’s work and your character are on the line here. Be persistent, and keep digging.
When the follow-up process seems like it’s leading nowhere, you have to take a deep breath and muster up some patience. As I mentioned before, the B2B sales cycle can be complex and chaotic, with loads of moving parts. So you just have to buckle up for the ride and steer the sale when and where you can.
I’ve found one of the best ways to stay patient is to keep multiple irons in the fire at all times. You won’t be biting your nails about Mr. Prospect when you have 10 Mr. Prospect’s in the pipeline that you’re following up with. When you only have one of anything, you’ll have a scarcity mentality and become a sweaty-palm salesperson. But when you’re overflowing with deals in the pipeline, you’ll have an abundance mentality. You must operate from an abundance mentality to succeed in sales.
Other Follow-up Tips
I’d be remiss not to mention these two final points. Consider them a one-two punch that will make ALL the difference in your sales success.
Bring VALUE to the Table
During every follow-up, bring something to the table that your prospect can sink their teeth into. And no, I don’t mean a cigar here. I mean something of true intellectual value for their growth. You’re the expert here, so offer strategic guidance where it makes sense. Also, things like statistics, case studies, industry news, and other helpful resources are always welcome. The more you help them (which is what sales is all about), the closer you get to ink on paper.
Contact Prospects on Multiple Channels
Your prospect might not be an email person. He or she might not be a phone person (unlikely). And they might not be a LinkedIn or social media person (you’ll know from the radio silence that follows your last touch). That’s why I recommend a multi-channel follow-up approach. Reach out to them on various channels and platforms, because you can’t predict their native channel, and you want to be top-of-mind at all times.
With the right follow-up mindset in place, paired with the ‘four-P follow-up protocol’ that I’ve highlighted above, you can take your sales numbers to the next level and beyond. Just remember to be prompt, personal, persistent, and patient. And don’t forget to add value during every touch and reach out on multiple channels over the sales cycle. Follow these strategies and tactics and you’ll find yourself closing more deals than ever before.
Until next time…