Sometimes business owners are so much into the daily business that they might be missing the obvious solutions for opportunity growth. Meetings, investors, employees, product development, among others, come all at the expenses of growth. Startup founders, especially in the early days, need to find a healthy balance among all duties. However, as a founder, you also have the duty to keep your company in good financial shape to provide stability for your employees.
Making sure that new customers keep coming in is crucial to your company survival. Many of us involved in sales, give up on opportunities only after a couple of reach-outs or “no’s”. Being consistent and systematic with sales follow up is what makes a difference between a failing and a successful business.
After spending more than 10 years doing business internationally, I have learned what makes a difference in getting a prospect to reply to your email or just ignore it.
The Ugly Truth Of B2B Sales
No one will buy from you the first time. There’s a 2% chance that someone will buy something after the first meeting. If you are lucky and come across this 2%, most likely they have done already some in-depth research about your business or they are an existing client referral (well done on that!).
The same applies to inbound marketing. If someone signs up to your newsletter or visit your website, it doesn’t mean they are ready to buy. You will need to interact with them a few more times before the decision is taken.
Marketing, like Sales, is about understanding your prospect and developing a relationship with them. It might take months sometimes before an initial buying interest develops in a closed sales opportunity.
For this reason, understanding how sales follow-ups play a crucial role in your business success is vital for your company growth.
Persistence & Timing Are Key In Sales Follow Up
Although not as difficult as winning the lottery, closing a deal at the first meeting, as said, is highly unlikely. Even if the prospect is coming through referral, it is improbable they will agree on signing a contract after one meeting. Negotiation is part of the dance you will need to join.
But how long does it take for a prospect to become a client?
On top of that, at any given time, only 3% of prospects are in “buying mood”, while 56% are not ready, and 40% are only ready to begin looking for solutions (source). This confirms that “sales-at-the-first-sight” is not really a thing in a business environment.
Persistency, however, is not the only factor that plays a crucial role in closing a deal. Timing is also something to keep in mind, especially in the online world. In my career, I have come across sales managers who believed it was a good idea not to get back to prospects’ requests immediately. It has been shown, however, how getting back to an inbound web lead within 5 minutes of their request, increases the likelihood of closing a deal of 9 times.
The more you sit on a request, for whatever reason, the more chances a competitor has to get their budget first.
How To Write a Sales Follow Up Email
For these reasons, understanding how to successfully write follow up emails is crucial. Your business growth depends on how well you and your team work on follow-ups.
For most of us, a sales follow up email is a synonym of “just checkin’ in” with a prospect. Because of my job, I am lucky enough to be on both sides of the table. I pitch companies and I get pitches on a daily basis.
A common theme in the sales follow-ups I receive is to see at least one of these sentences:
- “I was just checking in…”
- “Just following up on our conversation (previous email/call)”
- “I wanted to circle back…”
I would lie if I would tell you that I haven’t done this myself as well. It is actually very easy to open up an email with one of these. The problem is that most of the inexperienced reps tend to write just that. Nothing more.
The Inexperienced Follow Up
I wanted to circle back on the email (call) we had last week. Have you had the chance to read (think) through the information I sent?
Let me know
Inexperienced Sales Rep”
What’s wrong with this follow-up? At the end of the day, we actually just want to remind the prospect that we have sent them some more information and we want an answer.
Every now and then, you can also experience something lazier than the above example.
The Lazy Follow Up
Just bumping this up on top of your inbox.
Inexperienced & Lazy Sales Rep”
The Key To Follow Up Emails: Don’t Be Annoying
The last thing you want to do when chasing a prospect is to be that annoying person your prospect will complain about when talking with her colleagues. Not being clear, just sending meaningless follow-ups, following up with the wrong person (yes!) these are just a few of the things to keep in mind.
If you want to succeed in the follow-up emails game, here is the best guideline to follow.
1. Be Specific & To The Point
When crafting a follow-up email (but also when working on your first reach out), make sure to be specific. Start with the email title. Are you able to attract attention in just a few words? Work on your email title, but don’t “scam” your prospect into opening your email. What’s the likelihood of convincing someone in replying to you, when he thought the email was about something else?
It’s also important to be to the point and don’t waste space (and time). The ideal length of an email should be below 125 words. This is the right amount of words that fit on a mobile screen. After all, 35% of business professionals read emails on-the-go. The more you write, the more distractions they will have while reading your email.
2. Make It Easy For Prospects To Reply
Your prospects get tons of emails on a daily basis. When reaching out to potential clients, it’s important to understand that you are competing not only with companies who might sell the same or different products as yours but also with their colleagues, their managers, their email subscriptions and anything else that get in their inbox.
Depending on the industry you work in, cold email open rate can vary between 15.22% to 28.46%.
If you send a wordy email with too many details and no clear directions, your prospect won’t reply. Same as in your initial cold email, in the follow-up, it is crucial to tell the prospect what action you want them to take.
3. WIIFM – The World Most Famous Radio Station
Regardless of the industry, there’s only one thing your prospect really care about, that is – WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?
Yes, prospects don’t care about your shiny technology or amazing solution, if it doesn’t provide them with some value. What problems are you solving for them?
Each one of us has a boss, somewhere, and each one of us needs to solve a problem to please that boss. Are you able to identify the problem your prospect is worrying the most at the moment? Be careful, I am not talking about A problem, I am talking about THE problem, your prospect wants a solution for.
No one more than you know which problems your prospect is worrying about the most. Is it increasing sales? Is it finding new ways to serve their employees? Is it optimizing internal workflow? If you are an entrepreneur, you have created a solution to that problem. If you work in sales, you have joined a company because you believed its solution is the best to solve that problem.
Spend some time with your team to discuss and identify what are the top 3 problems your company can solve and then start designing your reach outs accordingly.
4. Nail The CTA
One thing that I often see missing in sales follow up emails is a strong CTA – Call To Action. What’s next?
By CTA, I don’t mean only trying to set up a phone call for a certain date/time. A strong CTA is a mix of clear directions of what could happen after the follow-up.
Your prospect is busy and has no time to think, really. None of us does, especially when we receive a cold invite to buy something. Make sure to be clear and to the point (again) and don’t just ask for more time for no reason.
Although an old model and to certain extent limiting, the AIDA model (developed in 1898) summarise in the right way what you are supposed to do when following up with a prospect. Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action. What’s next?
5. Track Everything Little Thing
There’s one thing that many people involved in sales often forget and that is the power of tracking sales activities. If you ask any of the people I have worked with, they will tell you that I have a problem with sales reps who don’t track their sales activities properly.
Setting up and using properly a CRM can help your sales team and company reach a whole new level. If you think that investing in a strong CRM and enforcing your salespeople (even the top ones) to use the system correctly and constantly is a waste of time and money, then your company will rely on lucky circumstances to hit numbers and growth.
Tracking everything little thing in a CRM will allow you to systematically plan each step you take when crafting your sales follow-up emails and get you one step closer to your goals.
Following these 5 steps will help your team getting higher response rate at any follow-up they send. Remember that there’s no secret formula in getting your emails answered. Each time there will be something different that triggers your prospect in answering. To be successful we need to test different techniques and most importantly don’t forget that we are interacting with humans on the other side of the screen.