The follow-up phase of the sales cycle is like having a goldfish for a pet, in that it's easy to forget about it, especially compared with the excitement of finding new sales leads. This is unfortunately, though, because you can outperform your competitors by following up with leads and encouraging them to choose your business.
Here are some of the best techniques I've come across for following-up in a warm, but not pushy, way:
Step 1 Create a Communication Plan
If someone gets in touch with you it means they are seeking something. By replying promptly, you'll catch them while they are still in decision-making mode, and you'll also show that you genuinely want their business.
In addition to a swift first response, it's important to stay in contact with new leads without smothering them. Ideally, you want them to feel as if they are controlling the pace of communication, with you there simply as a guide. Try sharing your expertise and knowledge with potential customers, such as by emailing them a link to your company's blog or your company's newsletter. If you have media that sheds light on your product--like a video of how you hand-carve fishing lures--share it with your sales leads. Most potential customers are hungry for information!
Step 2 Establish a Rapport
All relationships take work, as you know if you've ever married, dated, had children, or lived on planet earth. Without TLC, bonds can't develop. With a potential client, both phone calls and face-to-face meetings evoke warm and fuzzy feelings. This is important because most buying decisions stem from emotion, not logic.
Not only will meetings and phone calls help you cultivate a personal connection, they'll also give you a chance pick up on clues as to the customer's wants and needs (see "Be Thoughtful" below). In a nutshell: meaningful conversations propel prospects through the sales cycle.
That said, email can play a part in relationship-building. One smart thing to do is to share testimonials or recommendations from your happy customers to demonstrate that you're worth doing business with.
Step 3 Be Thoughtful
A good contact management system can help you keep detailed notes on each of your leads. By taking notes on interactions you've had with them, their hesitations and questions, and how they found out about your business, you'll come to understand what they are looking for--and why they are looking for it. This profound understanding will set you apart from other companies. Don't be afraid to ask questions; just make sure that you record the answers!
These notes will also help you add thoughtful touches into your communication plan, such as sending your leads coupons or cards on their birthdays.