B2B Sales Strategy: Following Up or Fouling Up?
Just recently I was at a meeting of salespeople and one gentleman with a decades-long career claimed that he had made a physical sales call on a certain customer every month for four years before he started to get business from them. Really? From the vibes I was getting, I don’t think this guy was exaggerating. You have to wonder, did they just start buying from him because he wore them down to the point of crying uncle? You also have to wonder, is this what “following up” really means?
If you’ve been in sales for a while, you have heard the advice, “If you don’t follow up, you don’t get the business.” In principle, that’s true. But as I look over my records, you know what I found? Sales usually don’t close for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with my follow-up, my customer service level, my product, my pricing, my proposal, my marketing or anything like that.
It’s often a million reasons that have everything to do with the customer. They have gone into a completely new direction. They have lost funding. They have decided to back-burner the project. They have decided on a product or service I don’t even offer. It’s just tons of reasons that have nothing to do with me or my follow-up. Rarely is it a “We went with Competitor B because they were cheaper.”
While you keep chasing these people down and annoying them (that’s when following up becomes fouling up), you’re saying no to following new leads and inquiries that could close.
It is a real time management tool to decide at what point you are going to let these people loose. Depending on your particular sales cycle, if after the first couple follow-ups they haven’t closed on the sale, it might be time to move on or just to keep in touch with them, maybe a couple months from now.
What you have to remember is that YOUR sales deadline, no matter how important it is to your business’ marketing and sales goals, is not the customer’s deadline. He does not care about your sales goals and quotas. To believe otherwise is also to buy into the notion that you have magical sales and persuasive powers (insert I Dream of Jeanie-like head bob here) that can transform prospects into buyers. Once you have made your best effort presentation or offer AND asked for the order (something a lot of people are afraid to do), it is in now in the customer’s hands and agenda.
In a business to business sales environment, these scenarios become even more complex because your client may have several layers of approvals for each transaction. I’ve been noticing this even more lately as budgets get tighter.
What I hope you’ll take away from this discussion is that while you can continue to improve your presentations and offerings, buyers’ decisions are not always based on you. So quit beating yourself up and move on. Don’t keep chasing business that won’t close.
Have any business to business sales strategies that have worked for you when following up? Share them in comments.