Many salespeople have perfected their opening pitch and can nail their first conversation with a prospect. But, what happens when that awesome pitch doesn’t close on the first outreach?
When it comes time to follow up, how can you re-engage in a way that is just as catchy and compelling as your initial outreach? Many of us fall back on the “just checking in” adage, but there is no real call to action or urgency behind that line and it can lull prospects into a state of complacency.
We know that those follow-up calls are just as important as the first call (if not more so). That’s why developing an effective sales follow-up strategy is likely to pay serious dividends in your ability to close deals.
So, I checked in with sales trainer Greg Woodward, who recently shared his gatekeeper script with us, to see how he spices up those follow-up calls.
Here’s a transcript of our interview:
Sarah Partin Martinez: A lot of sales people get stuck on how to keep follow-up calls fresh. I think the assumption is that fixing this issue is as simple as crafting a more creative script for those follow-up calls. But, you’ve mentioned in the past that laying the groundwork for a good follow-up call starts with call number one. Can you elaborate on that strategy?
Greg Woodward: Controlling the sales process requires planning and we want to have a clear goal in mind for each part of it. At the end of each touch point with a prospect, try to get the next step clearly defined and on the calendar. This way you’ll have more planned calls than follow-up calls. If you lack clarity about what the next step is, then you can assume your prospect does too – and that’s how conversations go quiet.
So, the first part of the strategy is about making it a habit to always set a next step on the calendar (even if it’s just a placeholder). We want to avoid ‘chasing’ at all cost because it changes the dynamic between you and the prospect. Getting the next call on the calendar is an effective way to keep the prospect coming back to you (even if they need to reschedule).
The second part is to create a blueprint of your sales process and what the sequence of steps looks like. Making progress towards a result is what drives momentum in anything, and that’s the truth for the salesperson and the prospect in this case. So at each touch point, start off by showing them where they are in the sequence, the progress that’s been made and what the timeline and next steps are leading up to the result they want to achieve with buying from you. Putting the prospect a few steps into a sequence like this gives the conversation momentum and the more progress that’s achieved, the more emotionally invested your prospect will become.
Sarah Partin Martinez: The intentional planning from call one makes a ton of sense. But, how would you handle a prospect’s objection to setting a follow-up call or a meeting date?
Greg Woodward: It’s really more about making a habit of aligning on a next step at each touch point and asking the prospect in a way that doesn’t create resistance. Make it a courtesy by making it about them. For example, get the next meeting on the calendar by framing it as a way to be respectful of their time, and let the prospect know that if we need to change this, it’s totally fine and that you are flexible. This reduces resistance to getting a hard date set. It doesn’t need to work 100% of the time so, if a prospect objects, I wouldn’t push too hard. Instead, just follow up with them like you would otherwise.
Sarah Partin Martinez: So, we know the planning starts with the first call. Now, during that next touchpoint, how do you keep their enthusiasm piqued?
Greg Woodward: When your prospect reaches a peak point of enthusiasm and there’s still multiple steps ahead of you, it’s often best to stop selling. This way you can preserve a few arrows in the quiver for the next step (where you may need to replenish their enthusiasm).
If you have a multi-step sales process, then each touch point needs to have a specific goal. What I suggest doing is writing down what the goals are and then designing your approach in a way that gives the prospect a new why or reason at each touch point.
Sarah Partin Martinez: You often mention the power of visualization in speaking with a prospect, and leading them to visualize the outcome of purchasing your product. Can you explain that theory in greater detail and how it may manifest in these follow up calls?
Greg Woodward: Being asked to purchase something versus being asked to imagine the outcome of a purchase are two different things. One creates resistance and the other one doesn’t. When we convey value to our prospect, there’s a natural guard that goes up because their subconscious mind knows we’re trying to influence them.
For that reason, it’s effective to convey our value in story form. So instead of explaining what your company can do for them, cite examples of what it did for a company like them. Taking the prospect out of the picture like this removes resistance and makes it easier for them to visualize the benefits for themselves.
Follow-up call strategy summary
There you have it — ridding yourself of the “just checking in” verbage starts with call 1. Don’t forget to keep some sales arrows in your quiver during that first touch point so that each subsequent call only continues to build momentum. Furthermore, a great tactic is to keep concrete dates on the calendar by framing this as being courteous of the prospect’s busy schedule. This way, you can stay in control of the sales cycle and seamlessly guide your prospects across the finish line!
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