The Effective Follow-Up Technique in a ‘Social’ World

Getting through to C-level decision-makers demands effective follow-up techniques, and today’s best performing sellers have them. Reps who follow up — and do it well — hit quota. Those who exceed it? Yup. They have a superior follow-up technique when prospecting.

Today's best performing sellers have the most effective follow-up technique. Getting through to C-level decision-makers demands an effective follow-up technique, and today’s best performing sellers have them. Reps who follow up — and do it well — hit quota. Those who exceed it? Yup. They have a superior follow-up technique when prospecting.

Ten years ago it took roughly four attempts to reach a prospective customer. Today it takes eight. We’ve read the research. The jury is out.

To hit targets you must:

  • follow up often (seven to 10 times)
  • communicate effectively to clients
  • use email, voice mail, LinkedIn … all available tools

Otherwise you’re wasting time.

What Motivates Your Follow-Up Technique?

At the core of the best follow-up technique lies a philosophy: You either serve or push. What is your motivation? Is your strategy driven by a desire to solve customers’ problems?

Or are you driven by pressure to place a solution?

Do you believe your product is desperately needed? Or are you just pulling a paycheck?

Nothing wrong with expecting a paycheck. But have you considered how needing sales negatively influences how you communicate with customers … about their problem?

If you manage a team, have you considered how reps tasked to set lots of meetings may reinforce or diminish communications skills?

What Separates Persistence From Pestering When Following Up With Prospects?

When following up with targets, what’s the difference between persistence and pestering? How often should we follow up, with which tool (email, voice mail, etc.) and what cadence? These are all common questions. But what if they don’t serve our goal?

As sales trainer Josh Braun says about cold outreach, “What you need is an approach that doesn’t feel forced, unnatural or uncomfortable. An approach that doesn’t assume what you have is what someone else wants.”

Worrying about pestering clients vanishes the moment you shift from placing solutions to solving problems. You allow yourself to empathize with prospects.

This drives how you communicate with them. From word choice to conversational cadence.

Spark Your Prospect’s Curiosity

Forget about intruding or how many times to follow up and when. Forget about BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timing) frameworks. Update your mindset and tactics: Provoke curiosity.

Help customers become curious. Focus on the words you’re using when following up.

Use words to help buyers develop their own, personal reason to speak with you. Even if they’re not (yet) sure it’s worthwhile. (because they aren’t … this is cold prospecting after all!)

Instead, provoke customers in a way that doesn’t make them vulnerable to a pitch.

Quick example: Sellers tend to believe offering the right data, in the right way, to the right buyer will cause customers to engage in discussion … from cold. We tend to believe we have the important data (that clients need).

“Now let me tell you about it and explain to you why you need it.” That’s our mentality.

This is why email follow-up sequences often include research: Proof customers need to consider change.

Flashing research doesn’t start discussions. Ok, it works with customers who are willing-and-able to buy now. (Ninety-five percent of your market won’t bite!)

Sharing research doesn’t engage because customers are not open to being persuaded.

Yes, cold email follow-ups can work. But only if messages include words that:

  • prove your email is not sent randomly (is researched, targeted);
  • are biased to the customers’ decision-making process, not a sales process;
  • provoke immediate reactions based on curiosity; and
  • avoid making customers vulnerable.

This is why communications arising from a “BANT mentality” are less effective. BANT’s nature is inherently biased to sales process.

Buying process drives buying! Shift the focus from qualification to provocation.

Customers run from words that scream, “I’m out to qualify you!” Or “I’m out to influence your thinking with this research (so you’ll engage in a buying discussion).”

Clients have become conditioned to recognize these failing techniques.

Persuasion and Vulnerability

Trying to establish credibility can sabotage. Persuasion is the devil. The moment your messaging sounds persuasive customers flee. Especially if you sell complex solutions.

Are your cold emailing and follow-up techniques making customers feel vulnerable?

Consider two universal truths offered by Tom Snyder of Funnel Clarity:

  • Prospects value more what they ask for than what’s freely offered.
  • Customers value more what they conclude for themselves than what they’re told.

Your follow-up must honor these truths. It’s become fundamental human behavior… to tune-out information being pushed at us. No matter how useful it is!

As sellers we must help customers persuade themselves to become curious in speaking with us.

Not based on our ability to sell; instead, on our ability to solve problems.

Helping buyers understand if (and when) they want to buy on their own terms — is non-negotiable.

As a starting point ask yourself: How will my follow-up email sequence help buyers feel an urge to ask for a discussion? What will provoke curiosity?

Also, please consider: Where do your communications come from? How do you choose words in voice mails and emails?

Do they come from a need to serve? Or are they biased to placing a solution?

Good luck!

 

A Popular (yet Ineffective) LinkedIn Tactic

Considering investing in LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Beware: Automation is not helping social sellers start conversations. Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise. This isn’t my opinion. I speak from experience — and that of my customers.

LinkedIn logoConsidering investing in LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Beware: Automation is not helping social sellers start conversations.

Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise.

This isn’t my opinion. I speak from experience — and that of my customers.

I don’t like to speak in absolutes. Nothing is certain in our world. But automating the gathering of lead data and sending messages to prospects wastes time, damages reputation and what’s worst is buyers see through it — instantly.

It’s spammy.

Also, LinkedIn is cracking down and suing service providers. It took a while but Microsoft has had enough.

Short-cuts rarely work in life. Buckle-down and do the work. And yes, I know you need to scale. Me too. Tech tools like LinkedIn help us scale time. But LinkedIn automation is ineffective.

Lately, it can also hurt you.

Automating Outreach and Scraping Contact Data

We need targets to call on: Companies, decision-makers and contact data. LinkedIn is a database. But gathering contact data is time-consuming. Plus, getting these contacts to connect with us (open the door to communication) takes time and effort.

Wouldn’t it be great to automate the data collection, connections and messaging? We could mass email messages to prospects — without much effort. We’ll reply to the responses, manage the leads.

Enter LinkedIn automation tools.

But beware of reality:

  1. Automated profile viewers and contact data scrapers are being sued by LinkedIn/Microsoft;
  2. Non-personalized (spammy) or “personalized” (fake personalization) messages aren’t helping sellers start conversations with buyers;
  3. Decision-makers are actually hiding from overzealous sellers and accepting fewer connection requests.

How Automation Software Works

You look up a group of contacts using a LinkedIn search. Boom. Software automatically:

  • Grabs those search results
  • Views each contact’s profile
  • Scrapes the screen (cuts-and-pastes name, company, title, etc. into a spreadsheet)

Software will also:

  • View profiles
  • Invite people with keywords or titles to connect
  • Automatically send them welcome messages when they accept
  • Automatically endorse them
  • Automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a birthday, work anniversary or change jobs
  • Automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections

Sounds great. But let’s pretend you are Microsoft (LinkedIn’s new owner).

You just paid $26 billion for this data. How do you feel about people scraping it? How do you feel about automating all of these non-personalized functions (which are all trying to look personalized and social)?

That’s why LinkedIn is suing these service providers.

Automation tools are popular. But these are often “companies” that have no public contact data themselves! Companies that, in fact, aren’t companies … and have (for years now) operated in clear violation of LinkedIn’s Terms & Conditions.

LinkedIn prospecting expert, Bruce Johnston, is blunt:

“It is instructive that I went through my list and less than half of the companies I added 12 to 15 months ago still exist.”