Consistency earns the respect of decision makers, a necessity for growing relationships that lead to sales.
On a flight to Dallas, I met a high level decision maker from a Fortune 500 company. I asked her what she liked and didn’t like about sales people to get her perspective from the other side of the desk. She talked for a while providing great feedback and then she fell asleep. When she woke up she shared one more insight and this is the one she was most passionate about. She said,
“It gets me when sellers pretend they care until they learn I don’t have an immediate need. Then they drop me like a hot potato. That’s really disrespectful. I may not have a need when they call but I may have a need 3 or 6 months later. For those sellers who don’t keep in touch, I delete their information and do not call them back, even when I have a need.”
Your prospect may not be ready to buy when you make the initial contact.
That’s ok! Staying in touch consistently over time is a critical part of building relationships with prospects. In fact, Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and The Four Decisions, discusses the importance of P2P (Person to Person). In an effort to stay in touch with prospects who are not quite ready, some companies have implemented automated “drip campaigns” and webinars for lead nurturing.
While this is certainly better than not staying in touch at all, it doesn’t replace human contact. What’s missing is the personal conversation that builds the relationship and moves the prospect from point A to point B in his/her thinking about your product or service. After all, what is the point of a lead nurturing campaign if it stops one step short of truly nurturing leads? I believe if you consistently focus on the health and depth of your relationships with people, the money will follow.
Someone I know spent $5,000 to attend an industry retreat; $2,500 on the attendance fee and $2,500 on travel expenses. While there she met a decision maker for a company who was 3 months away from beginning a project needing the services she had to offer. They exchanged cards. She returned to her office and called to follow up. The call was well received and they discussed timing for the project. At the appropriate time she followed up and was told that the project was on hold.
The following year, this same person spent another $5,000 to attend the same retreat. She ran into the same decision maker who said, “It’s great to see you! A few months back I looked all over for your card. The project finally came off hold and we did it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find your contact information and we hired another firm to do the work. We spent $3MM on the project. Sorry.” Ouch! A structured system of follow up will ensure that no opportunity will ever fall through the cracks. Stay in touch, stay top of mind. So when the prospect is ready to put the money on the table, you will be there to collect.
You may think following up is obvious. You may think this story is a fluke. But the reality is this occurs commonly enough that I had a hard time choosing which story like this to include in this column.
Keeping in touch consistently and effectively requires a decent tracking system so you will know when you last communicated, what needs were discussed, and what your approach will be on your next reach out. Your tracking system can be a CRM, but it can also be an Excel spreadsheet or a piece of paper. The best tracking system to use…is the one you use consistently.