A Follow Up Method That Works
In my one question industrial marketing survey that asks my subscribers what they consider to be their single biggest industrial marketing challenge a subscriber recently wrote, “How to pitch a sale and follow up without sounding desperate.”
As I am sure all of you know desperation is not a good selling or follow up technique. It’s also totally unnecessary. So I would like to answer my subscriber’s question and provide a brief overview of how I would solve this challenge.
Plan your next steps in advance
Before you have a sales meeting you need to establish what is acceptable as a minimum or ideal outcome. For example, the ideal outcome from your sales call may be that your prospect issues a purchase order and provides a deposit cheque. Perhaps the minimum outcome acceptable to you is that your prospect agrees to bring the senior VPs to the next meeting. In any case you need to have these next steps firmly in mind before every meeting you have with your prospects.
No pitching allowed
Although “pitching the sale” may well have been an expression used in the question, suffice it to say that pitching is a very bad idea. As I get more grey hair (getting more distinguished I say), I am coming to the realization that the process of selling has become over-intellectualized and must be very confusing to many sales professionals. So here’s the Andrew Shedden sales method that results in a high degree of success for all of my industrial marketing consulting and coaching clients.
1. Find out what the major problems and the major aspirations are from your prospect;
2. Explore the consequences of the problems and the benefits in reaching the aspirations;
3. Clearly explain how your products or services will help prospects avoid the specific problems and consequences they mentioned and gain their most-sought benefits by meeting the specific aspirations they mentioned.
Rinse and repeat and you are done.
The key point is that you must zero in on what matters to them (nothing else) and show them how you can help them get what they specifically want (nothing else) through purchasing from your company. You need to be collaborative.
Get a specific commitment for the next step
In Neil Rackham’s great book SPIN Selling (buy it as it is still totally relevant) he talks about the necessity to get advancement from every interaction in the sales process. This is one of those pieces of advice that although obvious, is often completely ignored by salespeople. By ignoring this advice salespeople are forced to follow up in ways that don’t serve their best interests.
If you get a firm commitment for the next step in your follow up at the conclusion of your meeting you appear to be poised and professional—and you are. If you do not get firm commitment and structure your follow up in advance you will spend your time chasing and hounding your prospects and will appear to be desperate.
Firm commitment for the next follow up step does not mean “I’ll call you next week and we can set up a time for our next meeting.” It means, “I will call you at 2 pm on the 22nd to schedule our next meeting.”
Alternately, firm commitment for the next follow up step does not mean “Can you please check with Joe and Frank about when we can meet and shoot me an email?” It means, “Mr. Prospect, I appreciate you are busy, as am I. As we have agreed the next step is for you, Joe, and Frank to be present at our next meeting. I would like to suggest we tentatively schedule it for the 30th at 9 am. If there is a conflict with your schedules I could also be available to meet at 2 pm on the 6th. I will call you at 2 pm on the 22nd to confirm the best dates.”
Although you may not feel comfortable asking for a specific commitment it’s important to not be afraid to advance the selling process. Over time it gets easier to do this. If your prospect balks it could be a need, timing, authority, or budget issue which is a qualification problem.
To conclude, plan your acceptable outcomes in advance, don’t pitch the sale but determine problems and aspirations, and always move the selling process forward by clearly articulating the next step with firm dates and times.
Hope this helps.