Follow Up Until: the Art of Gentle Persistence

woman working in office 0006A few weeks ago we discussed a different strategy toward qualifying, pre-approach and approach in a business-to-business setting (“To Get Your Foot in the Door, Use a Wedge.“). Of course, whenever and however you make your initial contact (often by a pre-approach letter), there is the next step: the follow up.

In prospecting, one cold hard truth most of us learn early on is this: Upon receiving your letter, ninety-five percent of the time (Am I being too optimistic with this figure? You tell me…) the prospect will NOT call you—even if they have a genuine interest in speaking and/or meeting with you.

In other words, the ball is NOT in their court. It is still up to you to follow up.

Further, when you call and leave a message for each person (often getting some people on the phone is a real trick), chances are they still will NOT call you back. They seldom do. They have just too much on their plate.

Yet, eighty percent of the time sales professionals—even those with a strong value proposition—don’t get an appointment because they give up too quickly. After one, two or three messages, they give up and move on.

In most cases, that’s a big mistake. It’s also one that all of us, including myself, have made. But it’s one mistake that is easily corrected.

There are only certain things that you control, and that’s your activity: reaching out to people, making the dials, setting appointments (and keeping them), what you say and seeking referrals.

Track this activity. Record every phone dial, every email, every letter and conversation. Most customer relationship management programs (SalesForce, ACT!, Goldmine, etc.) will help you do this automatically. Follow up using what I call “gentle persistence.” Don’t call every day, but once or twice per week. Doing so tactfully will show you are serious about your conviction in the value you offer. You are doing your job, and gentle persistence shows that you are doing it well. That leaves an impression.

It also shows that you believe in what you offer—and that you believe in yourself.

How Long is “Until…”?
How about a Year or More?

Some of you may wonder…“So how long is ‘until?’” First, there are many experienced professionals who will say that there may be a time to simply move on–especially if you have other prospects that could be a better investment of your time. So, obviously it depends upon a lot of different factors. Generally speaking however, it is best to persist until you get an answer from a real decision maker.

One producer, Jody, once shared this story with me. She was working as a wholesaler for a carrier in the insurance industry. “I remember that there was one advisor with whom I really wanted to connect, but he wouldn’t talk to me or return my calls. But I just never gave up,” she recalled.

“It took me well over a year before I was able to secure a first meeting,” she continued. “It took persistence. Every other week, maybe. Three times per month. I’m not sure. But I stayed on his radar screen. Eventually, we connected when the time was right for him. Now he’s my biggest client.”

What does that tell you? Remember, there are so many things you CANNOT control in this world. Most notably, you cannot control the choices and actions of others.

But you can influence them through YOUR actions. Often times, those actions may feel tiresome. But you never know when that fifteenth voice message will be received by the right prospect at the right time.

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