Follow-up is one of the key elements of sales success

Timely follow-ups with prospects can convert them into customers but don’t let it seem like you are harassing them. PHOTO | FILE 

One question my sales people often ask is how many times one should visit or call a prospect before they either get a sale or dismissal and end the chase.

Well, there is no direct or single answer to this question. It depends on individual prospects, your approach, the depth of your interaction, and what you are selling, among other factors. But certainly the answer is never once.

Except for impulsive products of low value, most prospects are not likely to buy from you on the first interaction. If the product is expensive, technical in nature, less understood by the prospect or there are some risks associated with it, the prospect will certainly take time before making a buying decision.

This is why a follow-up is one of the important elements of sales success.

Most business opportunities are lost because the business owner or the sales person is too eager to make a sale. When this does not happen on the first or second contact, they give up, dismiss the prospect and start chasing others, when a bit of patience and follow up would have converted the prospect to a customer.

The ultimate result is always marketing chasing many prospects and very low conversions.

Whether it is cold-calling, email marketing, referrals or networking, it takes multiple contacts to build up the necessary trust and credibility before most clients will be ready to buy.

Essentially, when you contact a prospect, for example someone who has a genuine need of your product and ability to purchase and use it, a certain reaction is ignited and immediately something starts to happen – the prospect, if not previously aware, becomes aware of their needs and availability of the solution that you offer.

They may be hesitant to take action but with passing of time, they increasingly get frustrated with their problems until they begin considering solutions available in the market – and guess what? When it reaches a point of no return, they turn to the provider who has been in touch or is nearest – not the one who made the first contact or who made them aware of their situation.

Therefore, sales people who do presentations to prospects but fail to do follow up only lay the ground for their competitors to come and harvest while they continue hustling.

Fostering relationships with prospects through several contacts is one of the key determiners of success in sales. Fortunately, today it is possible to do effective follow up and to keep in touch with your prospects on the platform of technology. You can email, call or SMS quite cheaply and conveniently.

Online facilities such as Skype, WhatsApp, Linkedln and others have made keeping in touch socially possible. Just an email or SMS once in a while is sufficient to keep you in touch with your prospects and position yourself in their minds so that when time comes to purchase, they think of you favourably.

The more you drop a line, even if it is just to say hello, the more you remind them of their needs and availability of your solutions.

However, you must strategically learn how to ask for business constantly without appearing to be nagging. Your interaction should be cleverly woven to reinforce your brand and expertise. Remember the Ugandan proverb, “A man who hangs around a beautiful girl without saying a word ends up fetching water for guests at her wedding.”

The people you hang around with – your neighbours, social network friends both online and offline – are great assets to your business.

Though not all can buy from you, they can do something ranging from marketing you to their contacts, giving useful leads and referrals and testimonials – but only if you ask, not just hang around.

Mr Kiunga is a business trainer and the author of The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market. [email protected]