Mix It Up on the Follow Up!

We all know the importance of the follow up call when working for that first appointment with a prospect. Indeed, in many cases, it is not unusual for more than a dozen or more “touches” to be required before an appointment might be set, let alone a sale made.

For some people (especially job seekers who are new to B-to-B prospecting), this can be daunting. When I teach my The Wedge, often the question will arise: “If the prospect doesn’t call back, how long till I give up?”

Typically, my answer is (in jest), “Do the words restraining order mean anything?”

The point of course is not that you should become a pest or a stalker, but that you should persist with tact and professionalism until you get closure. That is, until they engage you or inform you that their needs are otherwise met or they are not interested, you persist—one way or another.

For example, when it comes to marketing health insurance to independent professionals and small groups, consider these statistics from my own experience when I was working in that industry:

  • Optometry practice: engagement after 16 touches (sale not too long after).
  • Massage therapy practice: engagement after 12 touches (sale soon after as well).
  • Independent contractor: sale made after 26 touches.

In these and many other cases, I had two advantages:

  • I was not willing to go away until I had closure.
  • When applicable, the vast majority of my competition (and yours) gives up after only three attempts at most.

Which begs the question: just how might one persist? Candidly, when using a “wedge” to get your foot in the door, the primary tool most of us use is likely the phone.

But we all know how old that can get. This was a point made by Dave Demarchi at a talk I gave on The Wedge for a group of the American Marketing Association.

“After delivering a pre-approach package or letter, following up with a phone call is an important personal touch,” Demarchi points out. “So often we don’t persist in that because it feels so redundant and lacking in imagination. That’s why I like to mix it up a bit in how I persist in following up with people.”

One method to this end Demarchi recommends is by sending prospects relevant articles from the media. “I am always reading the business news and scanning the headlines, not just for myself but for my friends…and those people whom I want to be my friends. It’s always helpful to have a half-dozen articles bookmarked or printed out and ready to drop in the mail to a prospect. I enclose a small note that indicates that I came across this piece and that I thought they might have an interest in it.”

Sending article clippings or printouts is probably one of the best known, yet least used approaches in connecting with people and following up (i.e. we talk about it a lot but don’t do it much). Demarchi’s suggestion of keeping an inventory can make this easier and thus help you keep up that activity.

He also recommends another approach, which is to be mindful of groups that prospects are in or events they may attend. “There have been times when I have made it a point to be at the same event as a favored contact so I could either introduce myself or get introduced by someone else. It puts a face behind my name.”

“I also like social channels as well,” Demarchi adds. “For example, following a prospect on Twitter and sharing relevant tweets. I can post a discussion on a shared LinkedIn Group, and ‘like’ their company on Facebook. Each is a different touch point.”

Phone, voicemail, email, postal mail, information products, and social media…there are lots of methods of communicating and reaching out and following up. If you are looking for a way to “mix up” your follow up activity—indeed there are plenty of methods to do so in addition to the phone.

I have mixed it up more myself simply by sending out postcards and personalized note cards through the mail. Every means of outreach is a personal touch. And I like to be personal and sincere.

A client recently shared an interesting point: until you get that face-to-face engagement, all communication activity is marketing. Remember this and take the stress off your shoulders. And when you do engage, be sure to serve and deliver value, regardless of whether a sale is made. Leave the prospect better off than when you found them.

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