Minus actually closing the deal, is there anything better than those first few moments after a killer pitch? You found a perfect-fit prospect, ran a solid discovery call, and customized the presentation to meet their exact needs.
The post-presentation rush is almost unmatched. How could they possibly walk away after that? But then … silence. You’re checking your email every two minutes, you’re leaving a voicemail every hour on the hour, and you’re trying to explain to your manager why they haven’t closed. It’s the cold shoulder after a blissful first date.
Everyone in sales has felt this pain at some time or another. It’s tough. So here’s a list of nine deadly follow up mistakes to avoid after a pitch. Think of this as your wingman, guiding you away from doing or saying something you’ll regret and losing a chance to win that account for good.
1) Refusing to Break Up with a Prospect
When a potential client is not a good fit for your company, you know the second you hang up the phone or leave a meeting room. Honestly, you probably knew it before you put your pitch presentation together. Chances are they know it too -- which is probably why they haven’t followed up.
Don’t try to make the sale just to boost your numbers. The reality is that these clients -- the not-so-perfect-fits -- will require the most support from your customer service team. They’re also accounts that will churn or cancel quickly. Your quarterly numbers may not be tied to customer retention, but padding your goals with prospects that won’t be good long-term customers is like building your company on top of a foundation made of sand. You can do better.
Know when it’s right to politely follow up with your lead and let them know your company can’t meet their needs right now. It’s also a good idea to provide them with a few recommendations of other vendors that might be a better fit.
2) Sending a Generic Follow-Up
For the love of the sales gods, don’t do it. You’ve likely just spent a significant amount of time talking to your lead. So is there anything more insulting or alienating than for them to receive a canned email from you with an <insert name here> you forgot to fill in?
Have a template you follow, but take a minute to flesh out details about their company, personal tidbits from your previous conversations, and next steps that are unique to them. Take a similar approach in the subject line of your email. Instead of “Just following up,” try something along the lines of “Ready to blow away those Q4 manufacturing goals we discussed?”
Not only does this type of subject line remind your prospect about the benefits of choosing your company, it also stands out in an inbox that’s probably packed with “Just following up” emails.
3) Being Too Pushy
At the end of your pitch (or ideally even your discovery call), you should have a nearly complete understanding of your prospect’s challenges, how your product or service can help, and what the pros and cons are for them to choose your company.
Because you know all of this, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thrusting hard-and-fast deadlines on them, or sending “just checking in” emails that sound vaguely threatening: “This is my third attempt to reach you … ”
Just remember that giving your prospect the space they need, when they need it, can be much more effective than hounding them for a close. Persistence is different than pushiness. At the end of your presentation, summarize what you’ve discussed, agree on a timeline for next steps (and define what those next steps are), and ask them for their preferred follow-up channels.
Would they like you to call in a few days? Email tomorrow? Give them two weeks to consider? Agree on these details at the end of your pitch, and you’ll have more success holding your prospect to a precise deadline -- after all, it’s a timeline they themselves agreed to.
Veteran sales exec Jim Domanski is a strong believer in timely follow up. He says, “Perhaps the single biggest mistake reps make is not establishing a specific date and time for the follow up call at the end of their initial call. Vague commitments from the prospects (‘call me next week’) or the sales rep (‘I’ll send the proposal and follow up in a couple of days’) result in missed calls, voicemail messages, and ultimately a longer sales cycle.”
Lesson: Don’t botch the close because you didn’t set a date for next steps.
4) Not Listening
You’ve made your pitch, but you haven’t made the sale, so don’t stop listening to your prospect. Keep the dialogue open and be willing to shift your strategy if your prospect’s goals or challenges change or new ones emerge during the post-presentation conversation.
If you stop listening to them and start only listening for “we’re ready to sign the contract,” you may miss subtle yet important cues that your prospect is wavering. Ask them how they’re feeling about your product or service on a scale of 1-10 and really listen to what they have to say. Failing to do this in the last few minutes of a meeting could lose you the opportunity to address an objection or more clearly connect your product to the prospect’s goals or challenges.
5) Refusing to Take “No” for an Answer
When all's said and done, you’ve got to know when to fold ‘em. You’ll find articles out there touting the benefits of calling a client every day for a year to finally close a deal. While that may work in a few rare cases, most likely, you’re just going to annoy your prospect and end up as a cautionary tale to their colleagues at the next company happy hour.
Be persistent, but also be honest with yourself when you know they’re just not going to get back to you right now. Research suggests that for 80% of all non-routine sales deals, it takes four follow-ups after the initial conversation to get a “yes.” Be diligent in your follow-up, but stick to a benchmark that works for you, like calling five times and then deciding it’s best to shelve this prospect for now.
It might lead to a poor numbers this month, but if you step away from a prospect gone cold at the right time, you may just salvage the opportunity to revisit and revive them at a later date.
6) Forgetting About Non-Traditional Channels
Not having any luck with email or phone follow-up? Try sending your prospect a quick message on LinkedIn or, when appropriate, by texting or messaging apps. You’ve probably already connected with them on at least one of these channels and they can be a great, low-hassle way to get back on your prospect’s radar.
Not having luck with one channel? Try another. And never underestimate the power of a handwritten note.
Again, keep your subject lines or introductory sentences short and personalized so that you’re not just another “hope you had a great weekend” in their inbox. Recap the next steps you discussed previously and ask if there are any questions you can answer.
Here’s what that might look like:
Hope that softball game went well last weekend! I really enjoyed our discussion about the recruiting challenges ABC Consulting is facing and how our software might be able to help you increase your talent pool.
Sara, you mentioned that you’d review our proposal by end of day Tuesday (yesterday). Have you had a chance to take a look? Are there any questions I can answer?
7) Leaving Your Pitch Open-Ended
On a similar note, make sure you’re not leaving your pitches open-ended. If you close your presentation without firm next steps, you risk losing the momentum and sense of urgency you’ve worked hard to build throughout the sales process.
Once you’ve recapped your conversation and confirmed their preferred follow-up channel, lay out your proposed next steps and ask your prospect if those steps align with their expectations and timeline. Some examples of next steps might be running the terms past Legal or Procurement, requesting extra budget if necessary, and of course, signing the contract.
Having next steps allows for transparency on both sides and keeps you from guessing at what to do next.
8) Not Continuing to Give
You and your marketing team have probably been sharing relevant content with your prospect throughout the buying process. Don’t stop just because you’ve completed your pitch. Make part of your follow-up process continuing to send them articles, case studies, or industry information curated to their specific needs.
This is also a good time to conduct a gut check of where your prospect is in their buyer’s journey. Consider whether you can alleviate any concerns they had at the end your presentation with something from your content library. This is where case studies or ROI reports come in especially handy.
Don’t have the content they need? Send something from a reputable source on the internet or work with your marketing team to create a resource that fits the bill.
9) Taking it Personally
You know it already, but not every prospect is going to end as closed-won. When you inevitably have a closed-lost deal, review what you did right and what you might do differently next time. As sales expert Mark Hunter says, “It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right.”
When a prospect doesn’t choose your company, it’s not about you. Learn from it. Grow from it. Turn it into part of the reason you earn the business on your next deal. And keep in mind that won or lost, a close is always a good thing -- with a clear resolution, you can move onto the next opportunity.
Make your sales process incrementally better by focusing on the details, like how you follow up post-pitch, and you might be surprised at how those small improvements add up to better numbers month over month.
Originally published Jul 12, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated July 12 2017