13/01/2012

By Adrian Swinscoe, Director At RARE Business

When thinking about your customer acquisition strategies, do you have a specific strategy for following up with potential, new customers if they have said ‘No’ or ‘Not right now’ or ‘I’d like to think about it’? It always surprises me how few businesses have systems or approaches to following up with potential customers who were not quite ready to buy when you met them.

When you take into account the number of different personality types and buying styles that exist among individuals and the number of decision-making systems that exist within organisations, I am always surprised how little attention is paid to this area, particularly when a business has spent a considerable amount of time and effort opening up the relationship.

So, I was thinking...why isn’t follow up used by everyone?

Here are a number of possible reasons:

- There’s a fine line between being seen as pushy and nurturing a relationship. If you follow up too aggressively or too frequently then there is a danger that you will be regarded as being pushy. However, as mentioned above, different people make decisions in different ways so following up at an agreed time or to an agreed frequency is one way of proving that you do care about the potential customer and are willing to put the effort in.

- Your business is too focused on finding new leads and instant sales. If you’re just focused on finding new leads and instant sales then there is a huge opportunity to expend less effort and get much better results by following up on old leads.

- You forget. Forgetting to follow up if you have agreed to or not is inexcusable. It’s a bit like going on a date and then not calling afterwords even if only to say ‘thank you’. If forgetfulness is your challenge then you need to get organised and get a system (CRM, diary note or spreadsheet etc) to help you remember.

- They assume they know the mind of the potential client. Sometimes things happen that prevent you from following up when we are supposed to like illness or computer problems. This can mean that a follow up call is missed and there is a great danger that if missed then we can assume that we have missed our chance. However, that assumes that the potential client will not forgive the slight error if you call, explain and apologise. Assumptions about someone else’s mind can be dangerous.

- They didn’t call back so they don’t want to buy from us. Just because someone doesn’t call you back doesn’t mean they don’t like you. Usually our customers are busy people getting tens of calls and hundreds of emails per day so don’t assume that they don’t want to buy if they don’t call you back.

- That’s an old lead, they’re bound to have bought from someone else. Going through your old sales leads or customer enquiries can be a great way of building up a set of new client accounts. Remember, many things happen in business every day and there is no guarantee that that potential client has actually bought, may be ready to buy now or if they have bought may not have been happy the first time and are looking for a different supplier. In this sense, we make our own luck.

You can see from the above that there are many reasons why firms don’t follow up with potential customers but there is only one reason why your business should be following up and that is: Most firms don’t follow up and that’s why you should. It’s an easy to differentiate yourself from your competition by making the effort to follow-up with your prospects and customers. Don’t take it for granted that they will call you. Be proactive and contact them. Persistence pays.

One final point on follow up. In order to manage your list of follow ups that you need to make, always have a set of rules about how many times and you will follow up without hearing back from a potential client so that you do not spend a large amount of time chasing ghosts.

Do you have an example of a time when you followed up and
secured a new piece of business when you thought it was initially lost?


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