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follow through

To Build Your Pipeline, Follow Through on Your Follow-Up

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At a recent business networking meeting, a colleague introduced Jess to the CEO of a company that has been on her prospect wish list. Jess and the CEO had a brief conversation about the company. As they exchanged business cards, Jess asked the CEO if he would be interested in continuing their talk, and suggested that she would contact him in the coming week.

That was two weeks ago. The CEO’s business card is still sitting on Jess’s desk, and all she can think about is how big a sale this could be. Seeing her next interaction with the CEO as an all-or-nothing proposition is preventing her from following through with her follow-up.

Jess isn’t alone. According to data from the National Sales Executive Association, an estimated 48 percent of salespeople never follow up with a prospect.

Here’s how to ensure that you’re one of the 52 percent that does.

Know Why You’re Following Up

Jess procrastinated because she wasn’t clear about her objectives or prepared to have a meaningful conversation.

Determine your intended outcomes before you follow up. Questions to consider include:

  • What do you intend to accomplish? Are you following up to set up a meeting, or something else?
  • Are you suggesting a timeframe (next week, over the next three business days) for your next interaction?
  • What do you know about your prospect and the company?
  • Why is a meeting beneficial, from the prospect’s point of view?

Develop Your Talking Points

One of the least effective ways to start a follow-up interaction is, “I just wanted to touch base…” It takes multiple touch points to connect with a prospect and develop a relationship that produces a sale.

Make your initial follow-up count by identifying your talking points before you call or email. Here’s a brief guide that Jess could use:

  • I enjoyed meeting you at (event) and appreciate (colleague) introducing us.
  • I’d be interested in hearing more about your company and your perspectives on (function or activity).
  • Do you have your calendar available so that we can find a time that we’re both open for coffee or a brief conversation?

Remember Your Successes

Before you follow up, make a list of your top five sales or business successes. Replay how you felt and thought during each success.

For example, several years ago I closed a major sale to a global beverage manufacturer over the phone. I never met the executive who made the buy decision in person, and that sale is one of my career peaks. Make your own success list to review before you follow through.

“Change can begin with a single phone call,” notes film and pop culture commentator Elvis Mitchell. The same is true of your sales pipeline. It takes only a few small, intentional actions to turn a business card into an opportunity.