I get this question a lot. “When is it time to give up on a deal?” “How long should I follow up for?” “How much follow-up is too much?”
My experience is that reps either give up way too easily, or they go completely in the other direction and never give up…they’ll follow up forever, hoping the prospect comes to their senses and decides to buy. I believe in what I call “polite persistence” or following up until it’s time to stop.
One of the challenges I see, is that reps don’t know when a prospect is saying, “No,” because the prospect often uses other words or ways to let us know they’ve chosen to not do business with us at this time. Not returning phone calls? Not returning emails? These probably mean the prospect has decided not to become your customer, at least for now, but it can also mean the prospect is busy and simply doesn’t believe they have the time to return your call or email. (It’s a BS excuse…everyone has the time to return a call or email, but prospects think they don’t have the time) Polite persistence can pay off.
Polite persistence is exactly what it sounds like…politely following up with a prospect to get a Yes or No answer. They keys are:
1) Be polite, and add value
2) Be persistent, and invest the right amount of time on your follow-up
Leaving voice mails or sending emails that sound like this are a waste: “Hi Sue, it’s Jeff Goldberg from E Center Training. I’m just calling to follow up on that proposal. Give me a call and let me know if you’re still interested.”
Better to add some value to your prospect on the call or email when you’re “checking in.” The value can be personal or professional. For example, I recently met a prospect who told me he was a “star stalker.” He loves running into people from movies and TV. A follow up with him could be:
“Hey Dave, I was meeting with a prospect in SoHo this morning and noticed Denzel Washington walking down the street. Walked over and thanked him for all the great entertainment over the years. Made me think of you! Had any good star sightings recently?
By the way, I’ve given a lot of thought to the proposal we discussed a few weeks ago and came up with a different idea. Give me a call so we can discuss.”
Not only does this message show the prospect that I paid attention when we met (and he told me about his enjoyment of meeting stars) but also that he’s on my mind. Additionally, I’ve let him know I’m still thinking about his situation and have a new idea, hopefully getting him curious about the new idea and re-engaging with me.
A perfect example of polite persistence is a prospect of mine. I was referred to them about 8 months ago. We had a great initial meeting. Lots of rapport, lots of great information being passed back and forth about what they need and what I do, which seemed like a good match. I followed up via phone and email with the contact several times over the next two weeks. No response. I waited a week then tried again. No response. Waited two more weeks. No response. Each successive outreach on my part had more time between it and the last one as time moved on. Why would I call someone several times a week after not getting a response for months. It doesn’t make sense. The further past the last meeting or phone call you go, the longer the time between attempted follow-up.
The prospect reached out to me about two weeks ago to let me know they appreciated my persistence, but are strongly leaning in another vendor’s direction. The prospect said they don’t want to waste my time, but because of my persistence they’d be willing to speak with me again if I wanted to, as long as I understood that the deal was most likely going to go to the other vendor. I told them I understood and approximately 8 months after initial contact we had a phone call. I was able to find out why they were “strongly leaning” toward the other vendor and was able to clear up some misunderstandings the prospect had. They asked if I was available to be in Colorado on a specific date, which I was. We agreed I’d send a revised proposal, but the prospect instructed me to send “The light version, as we’re almost definitely going with the other vendor and I don’t want you to waste your time.” I appreciated their honesty and sent a proposal, along with a note letting them know I appreciated their straightforwardness and even though they’ve pretty much made their decision, I’d welcome the chance to work with them at any time.
Yesterday the prospect reached out to ask if I could meet for lunch, which we did. The deal isn’t mine, yet, and it could still go the other way, but if I hadn’t followed up, politely and persistently, there would have been little-to-no shot.
Will this deal close? If it does, it’s because of my polite persistence.