When dealing with prospective clients, the follow-up is just as important as the meeting.
You may walk around from a lunch with a client feeling good about the discussion, but you can never be quite sure what the other party is thinking. While you are trying to sell a product or service, they are trying to decide if what you have to offer is the best fit for them.
According to Follow-up Success, a website with advice from social media strategist Alan Underkofler, a staggering 48 percent of sales people never follow up with a prospective client. The same source also states that a sale is made on average between the fifth and twelfth contact. This doesn't mean that you should call or e-mail between five and twelve times to get them to budge. Each contact should be an exchange between you and the potential client, and each exchange should serve as more than just a reminder of your prior meeting.
Remember that a good follow-up is more than just a sales call. Here are a few tips on what it should include:
1. Don't be pushy. This is extremely important. Don't pressure the client into making a decision sooner than they would like to, because it will likely increase your chances of being turned down. Don't bombard them with reasons as to why your business is better than others, and don't tell them that they'd be making a mistake if they choose not to work with you. Being pushy and demanding also gives the impression of desperation. If you're desperate for clients, your potential client may start to wonder why.
2. Avoid being generic. The generic version of a follow-up includes saying it was nice to meet them and requesting that if they have any further questions, feel free to ask. Well, of course they are free to ask. They are potential clients interested in working with you and they are going to ask plenty of questions, whenever they like. In the follow-up mention takeaways you got from the meeting. Did a comment they made or question they asked inspire you to think of a different way to help them? Mention it.
3. Refresh their memory. In your follow-up e-mail, note the key points discussed in your meeting with him. Frances Cole Jones, author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your [Brilliant] Self in Any Situation, says, "Including the X, Y, Z points discussed refreshes his memory on the details, which makes it easier for him to call you back; he doesn't have to scrabble back through his recollections or refer to his notes."
4. Be instant. Don't decide to follow-up weeks later, when you're worried about why you haven't heard from them. The client might have forgotten about you, and if he hasn't, he'll certainly make note of your lateness. Waiting one day to follow-up is good, but certainly no longer than a week.
5. Send them a relevant article. This is not only a smart thing to do, but it's a nice gesture. Think about the meeting you had with them and be mindful of any personal tidbits they said. Did the client mention he was looking for a snowy vacation spot for his family? Send him an article you looked up on the top snow-capped cities to visit in America. It's thoughtful, and most people feel naturally inclined to respond with a "Thank you." If nothing off-topic was discussed in the meeting, send him an interesting article relevant to his field of business.
6. Don't pitch in a follow-up. You already gave your pitch to the prospective client; no need to send them an e-mail describing your business and explaining what it can do for them. This will essentially look like a press release and your potential client's inbox probably has enough of those.
"I can assure you that dozens of other vendors are targeting your same customers on a daily basis," says Thomas Freese, author of Sell Yourself First: The Most Critical Element in Every Sales Effort. "You don't want to seem like a cold caller on an e-mail any more than you would on the telephone."
7. Understand the possibilities. There is always the possibility that the potential client won't get back to you or will tell you he is not interested in working with you. Abide by the age-old saying, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." Never depend on the business your potential client will bring in before the deal is official, because you will be stuck if it falls through.
"The first thing you need to do is to drop the temptation to take it personally. It's business, after all," says Jones.
How long do you usually wait to follow up with a client? Let us know in the comments box below.
Photo credit: Thinkstock