Four Mistakes You Make When Following Up

Your dream client went dark. You’ve emailed and tried to get them to reengage, but you’ve not been able to get a conversation or restart the sales conversation. As much as you want to believe it’s the client, it’s more likely your approach to following up.

Leading with Email

If you send an email to follow up when a client goes dark, you did not follow up. You didn’t even attempt to follow up. The most that you can take credit for as it pertains to following up is that you sent a communication using the weakest possible medium to a place where it can easily be missed, dismissed, ignored, or deleted. I challenge you to look at your inbox right now and count how overstuffed it is with notes you are going to ignore.

Anything you can say using an email, you can say better over the telephone, and even more effectively face-to-face. If your outcome is to help your client move their initiative forward and produce better results, you don’t need to follow-up, you need to gain a commitment to do what comes next. By choosing the medium that massively decreases your odds of obtaining that commitment (at least no time soon), you made it easy for your dream client to reject any request you might make without even speaking to you.

Even though you are frightened to make a phone call, a medium that allows for synchronous communication is better than one that is asynchronous, one in which you communicate and wait for days, weeks, months, or all of the infinite eternity for your prospective client to respond. Lead with a phone call, leave a voicemail, and follow up with an email promising to call again . . . and very soon.

Too Much Time Between Communications

You don’t want to be a pest. You don’t want to bother your contact, even though you have had three meetings with them, and though they agreed to a meeting and canceled it at the last minute. So, you send an email, and then you wait just over a week and a half to send another email.

The reason you wait so long is that you are afraid of your client. In doing so, you fear the wrong danger. You believe your highest risk is making them angry, causing them to choose someone else, and eliminating your opportunity. The greater danger is that you allow the chance to die of neglect, that you create a possibility for your competitor to position themselves as a partner. At the same time, you do nothing, or that you allow them to go longer without the better results they need.
The closer the communications, the more likely you are to get some response. The further apart, the less likely you are to get a response at all, let alone a positive one.

If you don’t want to be a pest, then don’t communicate like a pest, which brings us to the need to improve your communication in line with consultative sales.

Too Little Value in the Message

If you are calling to check in, touch base, or follow up, you are not communicating anything of value. Those words indicate that you are passive, reactive, and in a position that requires you to wait for your prospective client. It makes you sound like a beggar, like you are weak, or worse, desperate. There is no value in the message, whether you project that through a pathetic email, a disappointed-sounding voicemail, or over the phone if you are lucky enough to speak to your contact.

You are not calling to check in, touch base, or follow up. You are requesting to get things back on track, to schedule the meeting they canceled, to keep their initiative on track, and to make sure you are doing everything you need to be to ensure they get the better results you have both been working on during your prior meetings.

The critical part here is that your message conveys how you are going to help them with the better results, making any conversation you might have “other-oriented,” instead of “self-oriented.” Noting you can say should be about you, your deal, or what you want.

No Attempt to Compel Action

The worst messages say nothing about the real commitment you need to move your client’s initiative forward. Instead, they ask the person to reach out to them, something the person who has gone dark already isn’t doing.

Compelling action means asking specifically for what you need your dream client to do next, even if it is handing off that commitment to someone else on their team, permitting you to move forward with something that moves them forward, or pushing for a status update. Hence, you know what you could—and should—be doing for them. The soft, mushy “check-in call” does nothing to compel action and a next step, and it if did, you would have no further need to follow up.

If you want to improve your follow up in consultative B2B sales, you might start by gaining a substantial commitment before you end a meeting. Improving your ability to obtain that commitment requires the right medium, the right cadence of attempts, the value f your message, and your call to action. Control these, and you improve your ability to control the process and win big deals.

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