Following Up, on Phone or in Person, Can Be a Key to Successful Sales

Share |

Are you following up? According to one study, more than 70% of sales leads are lost simply because the sellers don't make contact quickly enough after an initial contact.

A study of more than 600 companies found that the odds of a lead entering the sales process were 21 times greater if the business made contact within five minutes of generating the lead versus contact in 30 minutes.  Another study, this one by the Harvard Business Review, found that the average response time by businesses to a generated lead is 42 hours—and that's just for responses that occurred within 30 days.

But sometimes, following up at any time can be worthwhile. I recall Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications, telling us last year that having his editors call cancelled members—"What can we do better?"—converted 3% of those expirees.

Sales will be a big topic at SIPA Annual 2018 with a dedicated track. Among the highlights will be these two sessions: Managing a Sales Team, led by Rick Longenecker, president, Chief Sales Leader; and The Sales Doctor Is in with Ryan Dohrn, founder/CEO, Brain Swell Media.

Michelle Godwin, head of enterprise sales for London-based Infopro Digital, manages a large sales team and told me last year that their increase in sales could be traced not to follow-ups per se but to more face-to-face meetings. She challenges her sales people to schedule five in-person meetings a week.

"The idea is not just to sell but to make sure customers are engaging with our products," Godwin said. "[That engagement] used to be less than 10% and now it's 60%. Our sales team is going out and seeing customers, making multiple visits. It also gives motivation to current subscribers to renew. We'll spend a whole day on-site demonstrating the product or service, showing features, running an engagement day. Or we could just take up a couple of hours of their time where they book a room for us within the clients' office and current users and potential users drop by for one-to-one sessions."

She added that by having these meetings, "we've learned a lot [such as] you need multilayered contacts throughout organizations. Because if you have just one and he or she leaves, you're a bit flummoxed." Godwin called this type of initiative an engagement day.

"You should go see people in their habitat," agreed Arno Langbehn, CEO, B. Behr's Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. He famously once showed a SIPA conference keynote audience a video clip of a middle-aged daughter visiting her father in his kitchen and asking how the iPad she gave him is working out. He said he was thrilled with it and then proceeded to make a salad with guess what as a cutting board—and even placing it in the dishwasher after.

"When was the last time you sat opposite a prospect and listened to their objections?" asked Robin Crumby, founder of Melcrum and now Novatum Group, and also a speaker at SIPA Annual 2018. "When you come to make recommendations about changes, it's so powerful to be able to quote customers. If it originates with the customer, it has so much more power."

Selling in person isn't always the best thing, however. Lexie Gross, VP of business development at BVR, once told me that she had a large core group of customers who enjoy the content and never want to interact with account reps. "They're in a different bucket," she said. "I may know they're interested in xyz publication so I can send samples or highlighted articles they might like. Sending them content will yield more of a reaction than, 'Here I am, the account rep.'"

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
If not, you're missing out on daily strategies, tips, profiles and case studies that can build your audience and increase revenue. To sign up, please contact Nevena Jovanovic.

Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…