Here's a question I received from a reader:

“Art, I manage three guys that are on the phone every day and talking to the top executives at companies around the world. I am continuously working on my verbal communication as well as theirs.

"As you can imagine, we have to follow up with our contacts and I've found that it is common for these guys to say they are calling back to 'touch base.' What suggestions would you have to replace these words? I feel they may be losing their prospect's attention when the prospect realizes that they are just 'touching base.'”

Here's my recommendation. First of all, the reps aren't losing the prospect's attention. They likely never really had it.

I always say the success of the sales follow up contact is in direct relation to the success of the previous call. And during that first call, salespeople should always make sure to nail down what happens next before hanging up the phone. This involves getting a commitment that both the prospect will do something and you’ll do something as a result of the call.

When you've established clear next steps in the first conversation, you can follow up with:

“I’m calling to continue our conversation last week where we had discussed X and you were going to review the statistics I sent you. I’d like to go through those with you and I have some additional information I believe you’ll find beneficial.”

On your follow-up calls it's important to remember that your prospects are likely not doing pre-call planning like you are. Therefore, you can't assume they are in the same frame of mind as you when the time for your call rolls around.

Actually, you should assume they might not even remember you. Then make a point to briefly review where you left the previous conversation:

“The last time we spoke you had shown interest in ... ”

“I'm calling to continue our conversation from last week where we had discussed X, and you were going to ... ”

By following these simple follow-up rules, you'll never have to "touch base" with prospects.

Let's keep "touching base" on the baseball and softball fields, and not on our sales calls.

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Smart Calling Online and is republished here with permission.

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Originally published Aug 17, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017