Why failing to follow up sends the wrong message to prospects
“Sounds good. Follow up next quarter, and we should be ready to move forward.”
When a prospect asks for a follow-up, he or she is opening the door to future engagement.
Unfortunately, despite your sales team’s best efforts, such requests inevitably seem to slip through the cracks.
In this article, we’ll discuss why your reps forget to follow up with prospects and how to correct the issue. For the purposes of this post, we’ll use lead and prospect interchangeably.
Reasons why some reps don’t follow up
Everyone seems to be on the same page during your Monday morning sales meetings. Each deal in the pipeline is discussed thoroughly, next steps are agreed to, and the meeting ends. However, as the week progresses, you feel increased levels of anxiety. Why aren’t your reps following through on more of their promises? Are they intentionally ignoring certain leads, or is something else awry?
The answer is complicated, but it may have to do with a variety of factors:
Lack of structure & accountability
Maintaining a spreadsheet-based approach to sales management isn’t helping the situation. With no clear differentiation between leads and opportunities, your default sorting rule places too much emphasis on those deals further along in the pipeline. Granted, they’re important, but so are the leads that aren’t fully validated yet. In effect, spreadsheets artificially diminish the perceived value of your leads.
It’s entirely possible that your reps are actually engaging with prospects. Perhaps they’re just forgetting to update your tracking documents. After all, your reps are great at selling, but data entry isn’t their greatest skill. Integrating their inboxes to a CRM would mitigate the issue. Unfortunately, everyone is far too busy with data entry to evaluate vendors. It’s a vicious cycle.
Too many other tasks
Setting aside twenty minutes each day to follow up with prospects sounds easy enough. In reality, every minute of the workday is jam-packed with proposals, quotes, and demos. Creating automated follow-up workflows would add efficiency and build capacity. But, sadly, with your current setup, automation isn’t feasible.
Your reps receive commissions when deals close. Everyone wants to push pending deals across the finish line, but at what cost? Aren’t leads important? Perhaps it’s time to revisit your compensation model to encourage a healthier balance of lead engagement.
As a result of these and other issues, you’re fairly confident that some leads aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Prospects are starting to feel unloved, which isn’t beneficial from a revenue or reputation standpoint.
How prospects interpret the silence
When prospects expect to hear from you, but don’t, they can interpret the silence to mean one of several things. None of the following interpretations are particularly helpful for forming lasting business relationships. (In fact, they’re very difficult to overcome once a perception has been formed.)
“I guess they just forgot.” No one likes to be forgotten. Sure, communication is a two-way street; the prospect could follow up just as easily as your sales team could. On the other hand, if your company can’t even remember to follow up during the sales process, what else will it forget to do in the future?
“We must not be big enough to get their attention.” Rightly or wrongly, business owners can be notoriously skeptical of sales reps — especially when his or her company’s size is an impediment to being taken seriously.
“They don’t have their act together.” Aside from your organization’s marketing materials and website, your sales force forms an initial impression to prospective customers. Forgetting to follow up leaves an unmistakable mark on the perception of your company.
“They’re not able to serve our specific needs.” It’s difficult to establish a value proposition without having a conversation. Obviously, conversations can’t happen unless someone from your team reaches out.
In short, prospects shouldn’t have to beg to hear back from your team. When a prospect and sales rep agree on a follow-up date, they’re essentially making a verbal pact that your company must live up to. Silence is a violation of that pact.
Using technology to effectively engage leads
So, how can you break the silence and give prospects the attention they’ve requested (and deserve)? For starters, I would recommend forming a transition plan to migrate off of your spreadsheet-based system and on to a CRM. Spend time identifying a well-integrated CRMs and/or vendors that provide convenient data import options, field mapping features, and informative step-by-step onboarding documentation.
Although there are dozens of CRMs you could potentially consider, it’s also important to pick one that delivers the right mix of lead management features and integrates with your marketing platform. If your goal is to engage more leads without overwhelming your sales reps, look for a system that at least offers these key features:
Task delegation & tracking
Create accountability by linking tasks to specific lead records. In doing so, you’ll help your sales reps stay better organized. You’ll also create much-needed visibility into prior and upcoming activities for your leads.
Based on your sales team’s workload, they don’t have time to send lead follow-up emails during normal business hours. However, firing off a batch of emails at 7 pm on Friday evening won’t deliver the results you’re looking for, either. Identify a CRM that offers email scheduling, which allows users to queue up emails in advance and ensures leads are engaged at exactly the right moment. Who knows — you might even delegate this task to a sales assistant or fully automate it.
Depending on your lead volume, manually scheduling follow-up emails can still consume substantial time. Some CRMs offer mass email capabilities, which help you engage multiple leads in a single step.
As your business grows, you’ll also need to better align your sales and marketing, ensuring a proper lead disposition and consistent messaging. In this case, a unified CRM for sales and marketing might be your most effective option for data integrity, user adoption, team alignment, and ROI.
Engage more leads in the pipeline
In summary, the vast majority of your customers started out as leads. With perseverance, your sales team nurtured these leads through the pipeline. Some relationships developed quickly, while others took time to fully blossom.
Either way, one thing is unmistakable: your sales pipeline depends on efficient lead management. It’s time to drop the spreadsheets and use technology to take lead engagement and customer relationships to a whole new level.
Want to learn how you can use a CRM to better manage leads? Request a demo to get a free needs assessment and see Insightly CRM in action. No commitment required.