Having the tough conversations

A recent study by HubSpot indicated that 80% of sales professionals give up after just one follow-up. On a related note, Sales Hacker reports that just 27% of salespeople make three or more attempts to reach a prospect. Finally, an Insidesales.com study revealed that the average salesperson only follows up with a prospect 1.8 times. Meanwhile, the average sale today requires at least six follow-ups. 

 This begs the question: When sales is the lifeblood of the organization, in general, and the livelihood of the salesperson, specifically, why do so many sales professionals simply throw their hands up and quit on an opportunity? The old adage, “the numbers don’t lie” really tells the story here. If the average salesperson follows up about twice, but the average sales requires three times that amount of follow up, why don’t sales pros make the extra effort?  

 Whether it’s a fear of rejection or a misguided notion that one follow up is enough, sales professionals have their reasons. Sometimes it comes down to simply not knowing what that follow up should look or sound like. One other reported reason? “I’m too busy with all these other things I’m trying to get done.” In our conversations with sales professionals, so many report that their main reason for shirking the follow up duty is an unwillingness to have the tough conversations. 


What are these tough conversations? 

There are two key “tough” conversations that can appear daunting when there is no process or methodology in place. The first is ascertaining whether or not the opportunity you’re pursuing is actually a good business fit. As a sales pro, you may be on a cold streak and are willing to just wait it out because “at least they haven’t said ‘no’ yet.” What you end up finding out is they’ve moved on and they have said “no” by taking their “yes” somewhere else. It’s your responsibility to ask and understand where you are in the sales cycle. 

 The second set of “tough” conversations happens when you realize that emails and all that other great stuff your content team has assembled just isn’t enough to move the needle (or the deal) forward. At this point, “Pick up the damn phone” has been replaced with, “I wonder why they haven’t responded to my email yet—It’s been two weeks.” Again, timing is essential to understanding where you are in the sales cycle, and concise, clear follow ups matter.  


Pick up the Damn Phone. 

 You can find out more in a two-minute call to a prospect than weeks of waiting on email responses. If you think you’re too busy with “all the other things I’m being asked to do,” picking up the phone and calling your prospect should be at the top of your list. It’s literally sales’ greatest time saver. It’s the greatest shortcut in what has become sales in the 21st century.  

 It bears repeating: Following up with your prospects is absolutely essential to closing deals. Most studies on the topic indicate that the more times you follow up on a sales opportunity, the higher the propensity you have of closing that business. There are a few reasons for this, but when you reference the statistics in the opening paragraph of this article, at the very least, you’re either above average, in the 27% of most diligent salespeople, or the top 20% of sales pros. You might simply be the only one calling. 


So, What’s the Point of This? 

 If you want to succeed in sales, you have to follow up with prospects more than once—more than twice—as many times as it takes. Fear of rejection is for lesser beings. You’re stronger than that. Remember that time you asked that one kid in your English class to the dance? You weren’t afraid then. Don’t be now. 

 Worried about what to say? Here are a few ideas to get you off that bus and onto the sales train:  

  • Personalize your follow-up messages. Don’t just send out a generic message to everyone. Take the time to personalize—and infuse your personality—into your messaging. 
  • Be persistent. Don’t give up after one or two follow-ups. Keep following up until you get a response. 
  • Offer value. Don’t just send out a sales pitch in your follow-up messages. Offer the prospect something of value, such as a white paper, case study, or other relevant content. My rule of thumb? Communication should educate, inform, or invite. If it doesn’t do one of these, it should be reconsidered. 
  • Patience, grasshopper. You won’t always take the pebble from the master’s hand on the first attempt. Build relationships and don’t be afraid to play the long game. You will close very few deals after one follow up. Be. Patient.  


Need some help with this? NVSI has built a business on understanding what tough conversations to have, how to prepare for them, and how to actually have them. Contact us today and let’s have a “not-so-tough” conversation about it. 

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