How long should you keep following up with a prospect?

Q & A by C.J. HaydenIt often happens that we follow up with prospects multiple times without getting a response. If you call them, email them, and send them letters, but you never get through or hear back, at what point should you scratch them off the list and move on? The rule I’ve always used to make this decision is: evaluate the value of the potential sale. A $1,000 sale might only be worth two or three phone calls, but a $10,000 sale would certainly pay you back for many more.

Not getting through to your prospects on the first, second, or third try is actually the norm, not the exception. In most cases, you should expect that you will need to follow up several times in order to get any response at all.

A classic study of sales calls made by Dartnell and McGraw Hill produced the following fascinating statistics:

  • 80% of all sales are made only after 5 or more contacts
  • 48% of all salespeople give up after the first contact
  • 25% give up after the 2nd contact
  • 17% give up after the 3rd or 4th contact

These statistics show that 90% of the salespeople give up before 80% of the sales will ever be made!

To me, one of the secrets of getting your follow-up to pay off is to become systematic about it, so that each attempt takes as little time as possible. If you create an ongoing system for follow-up as I recommend in GET CLIENTS NOW!, you can follow up with large numbers of people as a routine activity without getting tangled up in the personal angst of “why aren’t they calling me back?”

You always need to remember that your sales call is nowhere near as important to the person you are calling as it is to you. Busy people simply don’t have the time to talk to you unless they have an immediate and urgent need for what you are offering.

In my first couple of years in business, I remember once saying in a mastermind group that I returned every call I received, as a courtesy to the caller. One of the people in the group who had been in business for over ten years said to me, “Wait until you have a full client load. When you’re scrambling just to keep up with the people who are paying you to respond, you won’t be able to afford taking the time to call salespeople back.” I probably didn’t believe her then, but I sure do now.

In terms of priorities for responding to voice mail and email, my clients come first, next come my own marketing, networking, and product development activities, after that come administrative duties. Unsolicited sales calls are dead last, and I rarely — if ever — get that far down on the list.

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