Gerry Layo – the CEO of Sales Coach International and a dynamic, popular, and sought after speaker – believes that enthusiastic, customer-centric, and active listening is “…a lost art” for anyone who has to sell to survive.
There’s more to the dwindling art of making a sale though. In a research paper titled “The Sales Lead Black Hole: On Sales Follow-up of Marketing” submitted by Gaurav Sabnis, Rajdeep Grewal, et all, of Pennsylvania State University, they termed “Sales Black Hole” as the gaping void between sales leads generated and actual sales deals closed.
Over 70% of leads are not pursued while B2B firms spend at least 65% of their marketing budgets on marketing online and offline (including trade shows, cold calling, telemarketing, database purchases, and seminars).
Follow up is all about dogged determination with a positive intent (commercial or not). If it’s commercial, follow-up is also a secret to a steady inflow of sales spread over time. Traditionally, follow-up was based on manual effort; today, there are smarter ways to follow up that work to supplement your sales efforts. As a sales executive, marketing professional, or a small business owner, following up with prospects holds the key to consistent sales leading to sustained business.
How, then, do you follow-up smart? Is there a way to semi-automate or automate the whole (or a part of) the process? Here are some ways to do it:
Address every step before and after follow-ups
The sales process begins with identifying your target customer group, attracting leads, prospecting, pitching, follow-up, and closure. The work that goes into a successful sales closure, however, doesn’t just start and end with the sales process. In fact, work begins even before a lead is entered into your CRM. It begins even before a prospective customer is ready to buy.
Trust is the critical element that’s missing from the traditional sales process above. Since consumers “search”, “ask questions online”, and “interact on social media”, your job is to track these searches, questions, and conversations as they take place online.
Intercept and solve problems. Perhaps, you can engage in these conversations and give a sense of credibility to the conversation. Your social media, content marketing, and online marketing will “prepare” your prospects before you place the call, meet them for the first time, or send out the first transactional email.
It’s all about trust, and you have to work long and hard for it.
Plan ahead. Execute as you go
Lead generation is an exhaustive process involving lead collection, lead scoring, lead nurturing, and then conversations. As business grows and the number of leads increases, it gets difficult to manage the sales funnel, so to speak.
When you plan ahead and use some smart scheduling tools to send emails set to go out at a later point in time, you’d practically automate future follow-ups and still keep then customized for every prospect.
Here’s an example:
“You have a web design company. John, one day, visits your website, reads a few blog posts, and even leaves a comment on one of the posts. Of course, he leaves. He arrives on another day and checks out your services and requests a quote. After a few conversations – which is now a few emails old – John tells you that he wants to set-up a eCommerce store but he can think about it only 6 months from now, after he finalizes a few pending projects waiting on him already”
Six months from now is a long time away. Would you depend on a spreadsheet or a CRM to store this information? Even if you did, will you remember to follow up? With just a few prospects, you might.
What if there are hundreds of follow-ups?
Enter smart Inbox management tools: RightInbox, for instance, allows you to compose messages (Just as you would normally) but save them to go out in the future. In John’s case above, you’d write out a highly customized email (mentioning specifics such as John’s special requests and addressing his need for an eCommerce store as against a normal website). This email, however, gets out 6 months later.
A Follow-up for sales isn’t the same as an email campaign
John, in the example above, is just one customer. Your business could typically deal with unlimited number of leads, which you need to follow up with. Even with a full-fledged CRM in place, you’d still have to remember, track, and send out email campaigns.
CRM solutions work great if you have to “nurture” leads, launch email campaigns, and keep track of customer details. For highly customized follow-up emails, however, you’d need a solution like RightInbox because you are still sending out individualized, custom emails to follow-up with prospects.
Missing Follow up opportunities is leaving money on the table
Every missed follow-up opportunity is a loss equivalent to the ticket size of your sale. When dealing with hundreds of qualified leads and hundreds of follow-ups, it’s inevitable that you’d miss a couple of follow –up opportunities.
Thankfully, you don’t have to. This is the era of smart web-tools that right inside your Gmail account, for instance. RightInbox has a “reminder feature” that triggers a reminder for every event, keeps your inbox clean, and helps you to keep on top of every follow up opportunity. Using other features such as click racking and email tracking, you’d even know your email open rates; clicks on links, and other email data.
How are you managing your follow-up opportunities? Please share your ideas with us.
We’d love to hear from you.
 The Lost Art of Listening By Gerry Layo
 The Sales Lead Black Hole: On Sales Follow-up of Marketing by Gaurav Sabnis, Rajdeep Grewal, et all, of Pennsylvania State University