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Follow-Up Strategy to Speed Up the Sales Cycle

Recent research indicates that B2B sales cycles have lengthened.  In the meetings industry, hotel, CVB and other hospitality industry suppliers are telling us that they have to “chase” clients more than they used for that signature on the contract.

In our post last week we promised to share a strategy we have implemented in our own lead generation process as well as client projects.

This approach was taught to us by our “sales coach of record,” Colleen Francis of Engage Selling Solutions.  We use this when we have discussed a business opportunity with the person and have tried to follow-up on at least 4-5 occasions, with no success.

First message: “Hi Sue, it’s Doreen from Greenfield Services.  Sorry I missed you.  I’ll call you again on Wednesday, at 10:15.”
  • Choose the date and time before you leave the message so that you are sure to be available.  I recommend choosing a time that is a little unusual – e.g. 10:15 instead of 10 a.m.  It stands out more.
  • Protect the time in your calendar right away.
  • At the appointed date & time, make your call!  This is a crucial, trust-building step! If you don’t get the person (and assuming you have dialled 0, tried with the assistant, etc.), leave another message:
Second message: “Hello Sue!  It’s Doreen calling from Greenfield Services.  I promised to call you today.  Sorry we didn’t connect.  I will call you again on Friday at 2:45.”
  • Remember to keep your tone light, never accusatory (guilt is a good thing only if the prospect feels guilty because you’re so nice, not because you sound like their mother).
  • Always apologize for missing them – it’s your fault not theirs (this helps with the guilt factor!)
  • Pick a different time frame for each message and let at least 2-3 days go by between calls. To help me keep track, I enter a note in my CRM each time I call, with the date & time I said I will call again.
  • I’ve tested this dozens of times in the last three months and I get a return call 2/3 times before my third attempt.  But if you don’t hear from your contact, try one more time.  Again, set yourself a reminder, and call at the chosen time:
Third message: “Hey, Sue.  It’s Doreen from Greenfield.  I’d promised to call you today and heard you were out of the office.  It sounds like I’m really lousy at guessing when it’s a good time to reach you!  Because I don’t want to be a “sales pest” I will send you a quick email, and perhaps you can let me know how you wish to proceed regarding our proposal?  Looking forward to it!
  • If you feel comfortable using humour (as I am), go ahead.  The point is to be yourself.
  • The above gets a couple of important points across: first, it shows that you have held your end of the bargain.  You are a trustworthy salesperson, and you deserve respect.  Secondly, it shows that you empathize.  Stuff comes up all the time and you’ll earn brownie points with the potential buyer when you tell them you understand.  It also lets the prospect off the hook if he/she has chosen another option or the business is not happening.
  • Realizing that sometimes people hate to deliver bad news, I follow up with an email:
Follow-up email: “Hi Sue.  I hope you had a great long weekend.  I’m sorry we haven’t been successful in connecting last week to discuss the proposal I forwarded on May 14.  I'm imagining that perhaps this no longer fits into your plans, or that other priorities have come up. Either is OK.  Can you just let me know whether it still makes sense for us to hold space for you for next month?  I really appreciate it.”

Recently when I sent the above to a repeat client who’d “gone silent,” I received a “thanks for understanding” email.  He was very apologetic for not getting back to me sooner and he promised to phone me with an update.  He called when he said he would, and now all is well again.  It was a relief for both of us!

In closing, keep in mind that you will also speed up your sales cycle if you have more business opportunities in your funnel.  Find time to prospect more often and you won't have to wait by the phone for that prospect to call you back.

Let us know about your strategies to speed up the sales cycle or whether you have any questions & comments!