Follow Up Calls That Close Sales
By Art Sobczak


As you scrolled through your follow-up files today, perhaps you ran across one or two prospects that you've called repeatedly and who continue putting you off. You feel there's some real potential there and you don't want to give up. Yet, it's grueling to come up with something more creative to say than, "Well, here I am again."

Or perhaps you have customers who currently buy from you, and your job description says you need to call them regularly, perhaps monthly, weekly, or more often. (I did a couple of training sessions at a national sales meeting for the Wholesale Florists & Florist Suppliers Association where I learned some wholesalers call retail florists every day!)

What you never want to say on these regular calls is:

  • Well, I was just checking in with you to see how it's going.
  • Wanted to touch base with you today.
  • Thought I'd give you a courtesy call.
  • Wondering if you needed anything?

So what's wrong with these statements? These approaches are reactive, provide nothing of value, can be viewed as nuisance calls, and leave you open to being treated as a simple vendor who can be manipulated into a price war. I've always said that these are some of the toughest calls to place because, they require creative thinking and lots of sales pros don't want to think that hard. Except the best sales pros. I bet you're in that group.

Lazy sales reps, or those who don't know any better are content calling to "just touch base," or to "see if there's anything on your desk I can bid on."

Calls to regular customers, and to prospects you're clinging to should always contain something of value. Include something that lets the customer feel you're contributing something useful by calling. Keep in mind that your regular customers are someone else's prospects. If they feel they are being taken for granted by a sales rep who simply calls and says, "Do you have an order for me?" they might eventually fall for the wooing of a competitor who is creative enough to dangle something attractive in front of them.

Also keep in mind your prospects are likely buying from someone else, and won't budge unless they see some value in what you have.

So, what to do?

Here are just a few ideas to spice up these calls to position you as a value added resource, and not just a salesperson.

  • Begin with "you." A good way to begin these calls is by saying something like: "I was thinking of you." Or, "I heard some interesting information, and you immediately came to mind." Or, "When this news came out, I thought about you."

  • Industry news. Perhaps you have some news your clients or prospects might not be aware of. Or, maybe they are aware of it, and you have something to help them take advantage of it. For example: "Ms. Prospect, you're probably familiar with the new regulations regarding the reporting of waste disposal. We've developed a way to make that less of a headache for companies in your situation, and I'd like to ask you a few questions to see how much of a problem this will be for you."

  • New policies at your company. If you change restrictive policies that would enable you to do business with people who didn't qualify in the past, call them again. For example, if your minimum order size has been dropped or you're now carrying a line that they previously asked but you didn't have or you've loosened credit requirements.

With regular customers, calling with changes that benefit them is always welcome.

  • New regime at your company. This approach can be effective for those accounts you haven't been able to break because of legitimate objections they've had. If, for example, new management has cleaned house and improved quality, decreased errors, etc., call again, since you're now selling a new company. Also, these can be spun into reasons for calling existing accounts.

  • New capability. If you have products or services that deliver results you weren't able to previously deliver, that's always a good reason to call. Just be sure you're positioning them in terms of results to the listener. Don't say: "Hey, we have a new product and we think it's great."

  • New you. Maybe you fell to pieces and self-destructed on a previous call. Since then you've acquired more skills and confidence. Maybe you've come up with new ideas, or a new strategy.

And here's the best way I know for you to come up with great value added reasons for calling:

Your Action Step

Have a brainstorming session with your colleagues. Invite customer service, production, advertising, marketing, operations—anyone who knows your products and services. Make it a game or competition. The goal is to fill in the blank:

"The reason I'm calling is ____."

The main rule is that the listener must perceive what goes in the blank as something valuable and interesting to him. Believe me, I've done this many times with clients in training sessions and we've come up with 20, 30 or more great ideas to use.

So get creative, get working, and you'll find yourself converting more of those prospects collecting dust in your follow-up file, and you'll also provide more value and sell more to existing customers.

Art Sobczak helps sales pros use the phone to prospect, service and sell more effectively, while eliminating "rejection."

Excerpted from Top Dog Recession Busting Sales Secrets. Learn more here.

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