Persistence vs harassment. In sales, how much follow up is too much follow up? In my role as a B2B Sales Coach, I am asked that question a lot. The latest question was from a sales rep in Toronto.
Dear B2B Sales Coach:
My boss insists I keep calling the prospect, but after a bunch of calls and messages, the customer told me to stop harassing him. Any advice you can give me on keeping the boss happy and not annoying the customer? – Rob, Toronto, ON
Studies have shown that 2 of 3 sales are made to prospects who have said “no” not once, but 5 times! In fact, someone has to hear your company name at least 3 times before it even registers.
The problem is that 75% of salespeople give up after just the 1st or 2nd rejection! So it’s easy to see why 25% of all sales reps produce 90 to 95% of all sales. These are the reps who use a Follow-Up File system and don’t give up too early! One very successful sales rep stated he must leave an average of seven to ten voice mails before his messages are returned.
Where is the Fine Line Between Persistence vs Harassment?
So your boss is right to insist you keep calling. However in your case Rob, I believe that the customer thought you were harassing him not because of the frequency of your calls, but because the customer saw no value in your calls. You were an annoyance because there was nothing in it for the customer to continue your regular contact.
The Purpose of Prospecting
Just making more calls doesn’t guarantee success. The purpose of any prospecting call is to for you and the prospect to agree to move to the next step in the sales process, normally the fact find. Not only must it be the right solution, it also must be at the right time.
In other words, a prospecting call is considered successful if you can answer the following questions:
- Is this company actually a prospect?
- If yes, are they a prospect today?
- If not today, then when?
Whether you are knocking on a door, telemarketing, or about to send an email to another social network contact, if you do not plan to answer these questions, you are only wasting your and the prospect’s time.
You Need To Stay Top of Mind
When all is said and done, a customer will buy on his time line, not yours. If he will not buy today, you must develop a plan to stay in touch with him. That way, when he is ready to buy, he will think of you first. Your frequent contact, if done correctly, builds a relationship. If done incorrectly, however, is when you come close to that fine line of persistence vs harassment.
Every contact must include something of value so the prospect welcomes the call, not avoids it. It’s like every contact is a drip of water. On its own, it doesn’t amount to much. But over time, each drip can add up to a very large pool!
Here are ideas on how to be pleasantly and patiently persistent without being annoying from Hubspot.
When to Follow Up Depends on the Prospect’s Buying Cycle
How often you contact your prospects with your “drip” marketing campaign, and what information you include depends on your prospect’s buying cycle. You don’t need a marketing department or any special tools to create a campaign. I set my first one up when I was a territory rep and had no budget. To this day, I believe creating my system was one of the biggest factors in my success over my sales career.
To help get you started on creating your Drip Marketing Campaign, check out the following blog posts:
- How to Penetrate A Non-Tech Vertical Sales Market in 90 Days – 5 Steps to Success
- The Best Marketing Automation Tools for B2B Lead Generation.
I also go into great detail on how to define your target market and then create a follow up file to maximize the sales opportunities within it in my book, Action Plan For Sales Success – Not just what to do, but how to do it!
The Bottom Line on Persistence vs Harassment
In sales you have to be persistent. The numbers prove that. To know how peristent you need to be, however depends on your prospect as much as it does you. If you bring value to each conversation, they will never think of you as harassing. In fact, you will be thought of as a trusted sales professional.
As my business partner, Bob says, if you have a viable business reason for contacting a prospect, then you should make it your mandate to continue your follow up until you are either told they are not interested or they become a customer.
“… what I can tell anyone, is simply this – If you want to learn and understand sales, talk to Susan.”
Do you have a question about sales? You’re not alone. Most sales people have questions like this on how they can sell more. For the right answers, check out my book, Ask the Sales Coach-Practical Answers to the Questions Sales People Ask Most.
Want more ideas so you can make more money in sales? Check out my webinar video recording, “What To Do Today to Sell More Tomorrow – Quick Sales Tips To Improve Your Results Immediately”. As one webinar attendee said, “I have been on all 5 sessions and I have enjoyed every one. I have been in B2B sales for 10 years now and have attended training from lots of trainers and your material and delivery is among the best.”
Good luck and good selling!