Following Up: When You Have Leads But You're Just Not Calling

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<center>Following Up: When You Have Leads But You're Just Not Calling</center>

C. J.
Hayden
Excerpt from
her book,
Get Clients Now!
Published 10/25/99


Doing a good job at follow-up is a piece of cake. You just capture every lead or potential referral partner you run across, then place a call or send them something, or both. If you don't make a sale right away, you put them on the calendar for the next follow-up and do the same thing again. Pretty straightforward, isn't it? So why is follow-up such a problem? Here are the four most common reasons:

1. Prioritization
With an activity that you must initiate, it's easy to let other tasks come first: responding to incoming calls and mail, getting the invoices out, going to networking events and, oh yes, doing the client work you get paid for. If you don't set aside reserved time for follow-up, it will never happen.

2. Disorganization
Business cards and scraps of paper lying on your desk do not constitute a contact management system. Without accurate records of the people you have contacted -- when, and what your last conversation was about -- effective follow-up is impossible.

3. Resistance
Do you find yourself saying, "Why do I have to do this? I'm good at what I do. Why aren't the prospects calling me?" You are sabotaging yourself with this line of thinking. Business owners much more established than you are do follow-up every day. It's one of the ways they got established. Regular follow-up does not make people think you don't have enough business; it makes them see you as a professional.

4. Fear
"If I follow up that lead, I might be rejected," reasons the voice in your head. "So I'll avoid the pain by not making the call in the first place." Or conversely, you may be thinking, "If I place the call, I might get the business. And then I'll have to do the work, and people will have all these expectations of me." The reality is that if you don't place the calls, you're going to fail even more dramatically than in these two imaginary scenarios.

Direct Contact And Follow-Up, And Networking And Referral Building
In the follow-up stage of marketing, you use only two strategies: direct contact and follow-up, and networking and referral building. It's important to notice that the activities involved in pursuing these strategies are identical:

Calling and mailing
Follow-up meetings
Follow-up mailings
Electronic follow-up
Calling and mailing

When you contact someone for the first time, whether it is a potential customer or a possible referral partner, the most effective approach is to call, mail and call. In other words, call before you mail, and call again after you mail. Your first call is to find out if you are talking to the right person and, if you reach him or her, gauging the interest level in what you have to offer. If you find someone both interested and qualified (for example, able to pay), you may be able to arrange a presentation or a networking meeting on your first call.

Never assume that someone you call is going to call you back. Usually they won't. Busy people simply don't have the time to return unsolicited phone calls or, in fact, any call that isn't their top priority that day. If you are of the opinion that not returning a phone call is rude, get over it. Even people you are in the final stages of negotiating a contract with will often not return calls for days or weeks. If you are willing to accept this as a normal business practice, your marketing life will be much less stressful.

When sending mail to someone you have not yet spoken to, keep it simple. Until you know whether the person is interested, don't send more than a personal letter with a brochure or fact sheet enclosed. On the other hand, if an initial conversation prompted interest but not an appointment for a meeting or discussion, you may wish to send more information in the hope of convincing him to meet with you. If you use a marketing kit, this is typically when you would send it.

You might have a model letter for each different service you offer, one for each target market or one for prospects and another for referral partners. Unless you are using a letter to completely replace a brochure, one page is all you need. Here is an example:


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rebecca DuBois
Human Resources Director
Lone Star Telecom
555 Amarillo Street
Houston, TX 77057

Dear Rebecca:

Is your human resources system meeting your needs? Can your current system handle all your specialized requirements? If you think it might be time to upgrade or replace your HR system, Winston HR Solutions can help. We specialize in assisting clients with the most complex HR systems applications: compensation, health and welfare plans, retirement plans and payroll interfaces. Our services include needs analysis, system installation, data conversion and software customization.

Our staff of experienced consultants can help you:

Avoid expensive mistakes in software selection and implementation
Increase system response time and accuracy
Satisfy the newest government regulations
Improve capability and efficiency without replacing your current system
With the rapid growth that Lone Star Telecom is experiencing, you need a system that can respond to increased hiring, policy changes and new incentive plans quickly and efficiently. Winston HR Solutions can make sure you have that system. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Sincerely,

Christopher J. Winston
Senior Consultant


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A week to 10 days after sending your information, place a follow-up call. Never assume that if your prospects were interested, they would call. Think about how many days or weeks a low-priority task can languish on your own to-do list. When you get a prospect on the phone, try again for a presentation. If it doesn't happen this time either, ask if you can follow up at some later date, and determine what an appropriate interval would be: next month, next quarter or even next year. Then make the entry in your contact management system and move on to the next prospect.

Whether you reach your contacts or not, never make them wrong for not returning your calls. Rather than saying (no doubt somewhat peevishly), "I haven't heard from you," let them know you are eager to speak with them and wanted to try again while you were in your office. As a general rule, leaving three voice-mail messages over a 10-day period of time is sufficient. If you get no response, wait a month and try again.

If you have called, left messages and still can't get through to the person you want, send an e-mail. Many people will quickly respond to e-mail because it is easy. If you can interest them in what you have to offer (without revealing all the details), they may be willing to set up a phone appointment with you to find out more. If you don't have the person's e-mail address, try doing the same thing by fax.

Whether you should ever stop calling depends on the value of the potential sale. A $1,000 sale might be worth only two or three calls to you, but a $10,000 sale would certainly pay for many more. Every salesperson has a story about a customer who finally said yes after the 17th phone call; so if it seems worth it, don't quit.

Follow-up meetings
Your first in-person meeting with a prospect is typically some sort of presentation. Even if it is primarily a fact-finding meeting, you will be spending some time talking about your services and qualifications. If a second meeting is necessary, it might be a formal presentation to a larger group, an informal meeting when you present a proposal you have prepared or a discussion about the details of the proposed work. After this, you may find yourself following up mostly by phone, e-mail, letter or fax.

The same is also true for referral partners. After an initial meeting (which could even be by phone), you might not see them again in person. When following up over a long period of time, try to find ways to meet with your contacts or prospects face to face again to keep the relationships alive. Take them to lunch, meet for coffee or a drink, stop by their offices (if this would be acceptable) or seek them out at networking events.

Follow-up mailings
Whenever you meet someone at a networking event who is not an immediate prospect, an easy and inexpensive way to follow up immediately is to send a nice-to-meet-you note. Depending on the nature of the contact, you might include an interesting article or even your brochure. Then add the person to your contact management system for later follow-up.

As you work to fill the pipeline, you will constantly be collecting names and addresses for your personal mailing list. If you enter the ones you want to keep into your contact management system as you collect them, eventually you will have a substantial list. When your list reaches about 300 names, it's probably time to start thinking about some kind of mailer to send on a regular basis. We are talking here about follow-up mail to people you already know, not direct mail sent to strangers on a prospect list you bought or compiled.

As a rule, sending a general mailing four times per year is sufficient to keep your name visible to your prospects and referral partners. With hot prospects or frequent referrers, you will probably want to be in contact more often. In addition to phone calls or meetings, you might send these people personal notes, along with articles of interest, amusing cartoons or invitations to upcoming events.

For your general mailing, you could opt for a simple piece like a postcard or mailer, or put the effort into publishing your own newsletter. Postcards, self-mailers and other small pieces typically take the form of reminders or seasonal announcements with an attention-getting tag line and graphic.

Keep the amount of text to a minimum. A mailer is not intended to do the job of a brochure. What you want is for the recipients to call you with their questions, not get all the information they need from your mailer.

Electronic follow-up
Having an e-mail newsletter is becoming more and more popular. Because it doesn't have to be printed and typically involves no design work, the time and expense to produce one are minimal compared to a print version. If a significant portion of your mailing list has e-mail addresses, you may want to consider this option.

Be aware, however, that online culture has conventions that are different from conventions for mail. Unsolicited e-mail annoys many recipients and may get you a nasty message -- and bad feelings -- in response. When you send out your e-mail newsletter for the first time, label it "Complimentary issue," and ask people to respond if they don't want to receive another. If someone asks to be removed from the distribution list, be sure to honor the request.

Another Word About Fear
The thought of making follow-up calls may be even more paralyzing than cold calling. After all, this is someone you already believe needs your services. Maybe you've already talked or sent your literature. You've invested something or made a personal connection, so now if you hear no, the rejection really feels personal.

What you have to remember is that rejection is not about you. This is a business transaction. Your prospect is deciding whether to spend her own or the company's money. The number of factors that go into a decision like this are innumerable.

Barry Bettman, business and personal coach at Get Results Now, says, "FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Our fear is an emotional expression of non-empowering beliefs, which are falsely evidenced by stories from our past. These beliefs appear real because we keep reinforcing them within ourselves. What are the emotions that come up for you when you try to market yourself? Self-doubt? Fear of rejection? Lack of confidence? What are the non-empowering beliefs you hold that feed these emotions?

"An example might be, 'If I try to sell myself, I will be rejected.' Question this belief. Try asking yourself what you would need to believe instead in order to sell your services successfully. For example: 'If I try to sell myself, some people will buy from me.' Looking at other possible beliefs you could hold will begin to break down the non-empowering ones."

The real trick to vanquishing fear of follow-up is to have so many prospects in the pipeline that any one becomes much less important.



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Dan Flynn
Timberland Power Wash www.powerwash.net
Houston, Texas.
 

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