"6 Months is Way Too Long" to Follow Up

May 30, 2009 by  Filed under: Sales 

What’s your personal worst? You know, the time it took you to finally close a sale. 2 weeks? 30 days? 6 months?

Maybe it was you. Maybe it was your client. But at some point, one of your sales drug on and on. Seemed like it would never close.

I had a prospect last year. Cold as ice. Found the company info online. Didn’t even know the buyers name. But I made my call and got right to her.

It was a cold lead in more than one way. This lady was short, terse and not wanting to deal with anyone. I put on my best schmooze voice and went to work. They were a whale, but a satisfied whale. She told me there was no way they’d buy from me.

So I called her again 3 weeks later. Then 3 weeks later. Then another month. And another. Our first contact was in March. October 10th, I got an email out of the blue with a $60,000 order. I figure for my time, I made about $1500 an hour on that one.

You probably wouldn’t have made that commission. Not because you’re incapable. You probably wouldn’t have stuck it out that long. Most don’t.

By the way, they continue to buy. And each progressive order requires less and less work. Which means greater and greater pay. And the lady is a lot more friendly now!

What’s your limit? Are you a quick sale McGraw? If you don’t make a sale right now, chances are you’ll never close. That’s crappy thinking. Sure there’s some truth to it. The truth is you’re guaranteed to not close later if you don’t follow-up. But what if you did follow-up? Could you close an additional percentage?

A lot of tests and studies show different percentages of “long tail” sales. So I won’t quote any. But learning from the studies, a percentage is ALWAYS made on sales after the initial effort. And if you want to instantly increase your income by 20% – 50%, simply double the length of time you intentionally follow-up. Heck if the prospect is worth it in Lifetime Value, you should never stop following up.

About 3 years ago, I signed up for an information pack from TempurPedic. I heard they are good marketers, and wanted to get on their mailing list. To this day I get at least a mailing a month from them. I still haven’t bought, but I was never really in the market. However, I’m starting to feel guilty about all the cool information they send. I may buy just to feel better!

Two lessons:

1. Have margin so you can afford to keep marketing and selling.

2. Never “break up.” Let the client sever the tie before you do.

They know what I’m worth and they keep following up. Of course, if they were only selling a $50 widget they probably wouldn’t keep marketing. So where’s the line? How can you tell if it’s worth it?

A simple formula:

* Figure out what the client is worth based on the first year of estimated sales. What? You only have a one-time sale type of product? Quit whining. That’s not true. There’s always a secondary product or service or sale. How much will YOU make on that client the first year.

* Be willing to spend that much to get the sale. If you’re a shallow-minded, short-term thinker you’ll hate that. But you’ll also never be rich. So you don’t make anything for the first year. But the second, third, tenth and twentieth year you are amazingly profitable. Nice.

* Keep selling until that value is hit. If your sales efforts don’t close the prospect by the time you’ve reached that number, feel okay with quitting. I know a few guys that will spend hours on the phone, multiple face-to-face meetings to try to close. And at the end of the bloody battle they stand over their new client exhausted. That’s pretty dumb too.

You also need a system. A lot of sales people stop following up because the prospect slips to the back of their mind. The excitement fades and you move on the the next target. Sometimes, it’s not fun or exciting to follow-up. It can be a little boring after awhile. Are you doing sales to have fun or become wealthy? Wealthy people always do repetitive, habitual tasks regardless of how they feel.

Here’s a tip: Want to stay excited about following up? Keep the value in front of you. Know what the client is worth. I knew what my whale was going to net me. And I know they’d keep buying. It wasn’t a drudgery to make those dozen or so phone calls. I was excited each dial because I knew that call was worth $50 regardless of what happened.

Final story. There’s a classic story that floats around some marketing circles of the “mail stalker.” Yes that’s M.A.I.L. Apparently the recipient of this savvy marketers direct mail pieces got fed up. He was offended and distraught that this “crazy man” kept send him handwritten letters, note cards, and other gimmicks mailings. He logged a complaint and requested a restraining order.

That’s when you know to stop. And only then. You should never be the one to break up with a prospect-unless the effort outweighs the value. Focus on building relationships, giving value, and solving problems and you’ll close tons of “long tail” sales. By the way, the marketer is outrageously successful with that campaign.

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