It takes a lot of work to start a small business, but that’s nothing compared with the long, long process of generating leads, turning them into qualified prospects, converting them into customers, keeping their business… Phew, we’re tired just thinking about all that. But that whole process is what keeps your business going and growing, so it’s incredibly important that you’re fully engaged in every step, and aren’t forgetting how vitally important it is to follow up with leads, both in the short-term and long-term. Far too often, small business owners give up on leads too quickly, when just a little bit of (or a lot of!) follow-through could make all the difference. Why? Let’s check that out below, and then take a look at some strategies for following up with your leads.
What’s the Big Deal About Following Up?
We’re just going to put it right out there: if you’re giving up on prospects too quickly, you’re giving up on growing your business. One of the most eye-opening stats that we’ve seen regarding the importance of persistence and following up is this: 80% of completed sales require 5 follow-ups, but 44% of salespeople give up after just 1 follow-up! Let’s break that down further, and look at some other stats that prove the importance of following up:
- Only 2% of sales are made during the first point of contact. This means businesses stand to lose potentially 98% of their sales leads if they do not follow up. In addition, only 3% of prospects will sign up on the second contact and only 5% will say yes on the third try.
- 92% of salespeople give up after no sales on the 4th attempt, meaning only 8% of salespeople get to that 5th follow-up. And 60% of customers say no four times before saying yes.
- 50% of buyers choose the business that responds first.
- On average, high growth organizations report 16 touch points per prospect within a 2-4 week timespan
- Salespeople who follow up with a lead within five minutes are 9 times more likely to convert them.
- At any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying, so you need to be there when your prospects are ready to buy!
Those numbers make it clear that it really is all about the follow-through – and that it’s not just the early bird, but the super persistent bird, who gets the worm. So what should you be doing to follow up with each prospect and get them to the point where they’re ready to buy?
Strategies for Following Up in the Short-Term
When you’ve generated some leads, the first thing you can do is segment them. After all, not all leads are going to be hot and ready to buy, or even warm! So, depending on how they came to you (e.g., through an email opt-in form, versus someone who filled out a contact form on your website), you’ll want to classify them as hot, warm, or cold, and then move them around as necessary as they move through your sales funnel. So once you know who you’ve got (be sure to have a system in place for tracking your leads), and how much warming they’ll need, it’s time to implement your short-term follow-up strategy. Try these steps:
1. Immediately send out an email
Any leads who come to you via email, fill out an online form, or who you meet at an event, etc, should get an email welcoming or thanking them ASAP. We live in a world where automating everything is possible, so take advantage of it, just don’t forget to personalize your communications.
2. Call if you can!
Email is great, but a phone call is even better in some circumstances, especially if you can place a follow-up call from your first contact within 12-24 hours. Most leads will need to have their questions thoroughly addressed before they commit to buying from you or hiring you, so sometimes your best bet is a good old-fashioned phone call to go over all the details. But remember: research shows, the sooner you pick up the phone, the better!
3. Schedule a follow-up call
If you’ve made contact with your lead, great! But always keep in mind those statistics from above, and remember that you’ll probably need to talk to them more than once, or twice, or even four times. So give your prospect the info they need in your first call, but don’t hang up the phone without trying to schedule a follow-up call appointment, so you know you’ll have a second point of contact with them.
4. Send a thank-you note
Things are getting serious now! Up your game by sending out a handwritten thank-you note, instead of a follow-up email.
5. Send out a reminder
It can be tough to gauge how much contact is too much, but it is generally worth it to send your lead a reminder email before your follow-up call. You won’t get anything out of an appointment that your prospect has forgotten about!
6. Make the follow-up call
Keep your appointment with your prospect, and use this time to review the info you went over with them in your first call, answer any new questions that have come up, and get a feel for whether now is the time for a call to action. They might not be ready to buy at this point, and you might have to start the process again with new information, but most prospects won’t buy unless you ask!
Hopefully you’ve landed yourself some ready-to-buy leads at this point, but even if you haven’t, it’s not time to give up. Start the process again, giving your lead some new information, and/or shift to your long-term strategies for following up.
Strategies for Following Up in the Long-Term
As we’ve already seen, not everyone is going to buy on the first, or fourth, attempt – and you know what? Some leads need even more time, so now we need to take a look at some tips for having more long-term follow-up strategies in place. These longer-term strategies aren’t necessarily going to have the same first step, second step, etc cadence of your short-term strategy, but they are things you need to think about when trying to play the long game in sales. And remember: it’s playing the long game that wins you customers in the end.
1. Qualify your leads
If you’re finding that you’re not getting a whole lot of bites after going through your short-term strategies, make sure you’re qualifying your leads. This way you’ll know who is most ready to buy (or the “hottest” prospects), and who needs to be put into your follow-up system. Remember, even if they don’t have the motivation and means right now, don’t write them off!
2. Get to know your leads’ preferred contact channels
As you get to know your leads better, you can hone in on exactly how they like to be contacted and what type of communication they respond to best, so your long-term efforts will be more likely to pay off. Try email, phone calls, social media, text messages, etc.
3. Have a schedule
Creating a follow-up schedule will help you stay consistent with your communications and prevent you from letting the leads you worked so hard to generate fall through the cracks. Try to create a schedule that helps keep you in your leads’ minds, but doesn’t annoy them! For example, try emailing once a week, calling once a month, and offering to meet up with them once per quarter.
3. Make it personal with the help of a CRM
One of the best ways to keep leads in your orbit is with the help of a content management system (content relation management software, or CRM). You can take the leads you’ve generated, and who you want to put into your long-term follow-up system, and plug in important info about them, like their birthdays or other personal tidbits, so you can send out super personalized communications. If you don’t want to invest in this software, you can also keep track of your prospects’ info with spreadsheets and calendars, it’ll just be a little more labor-intensive.
4. Use valuable content to keep leads interested
Part of your long-term strategy to keep your business on your leads’ radars can be expanding from just emailing and calling to capturing their interest with some valuable content. Blog posts, infographics, helpful stats, success stories, and downloadable guides are all great options – you can even use a downloadable guide or a video tutorial as a “baby step” to getting your leads to buy your product or service.
5. Ask for referrals
Most people are actually willing to give referrals, but only a small percentage of sales people actually do. Even people who aren’t quite ready to buy will often be willing to refer you to someone they know who is, if you’ve taken the time to build a relationship with them.
6. Know when to back off
Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. If your prospect has made it clear that they’re not interested after multiple attempts, it’s time to respectfully thank them for their time and back off. You never know, if you’ve made an impression on them, they might come back to you in the future.
When it comes to making sales, and growing your small business, it really all comes down to the relationships you build with leads – and hopefully the work you put into building these relationships will turn those leads into loyal customers! Just don’t be afraid to be persistent – it’s that fifth phone call that your competition didn’t make that could make all the difference!