In sales, the follow-up is everything

Wanted to follow-up on something interesting Steli said when he spoke at the BTM event in September of last year.  Eric asked him if he could list off his favorite sales hacks, and Steli responded that he only had one; the follow-up.  Then he went on to say:

90% of winning happens with the follow-up and follow through.

I totally agree with him, and wanted to spend some time on the follow-up to understand why it’s such a huge opportunity for almost every sales team out there.

Why sales people don’t follow up

  • they forgetReminder string poster
  • they feel like they might be annoying someone
  • they feel like they are repeating themselves
  • they believe there’s a reason behind the lack of response

Why this isn’t true

Of the 4 reasons people forget to follow-up, 3 of them are simply beliefs.

Let’s take the fear of annoying someone. After 3 calls and 4 emails, the sales person starts to think that the prospect must be annoyed by all the attempts. The reality is the prospect probably has not even begun to realize that someone is trying to contact them.

Let’s look at the other option, which is “taking the hint”. This is the belief that the other person is telling you something by not responding.  The sales person starts to feel bad, becomes more tentative and eventually gives up. This decision is mostly based on a feeling the sales person is creating internally. In all of my experiences, the person on the receiving end of the call does not share those same feelings. If you’re offering something of value, and I’m the person on the receiving end of those calls, I probably just have not had the time to get back to you.  It’s a super inefficient system, but you’re basically my pro-active reminder, and you’re on hold until the time is right for me.

What you can do to help

As the manager of a team of sales reps, there are a handful of tactics you can use to emphasize that importance of follow-ups.  First and foremost, make sure all of your sales people have a system for remembering to follow-up with people.  If you’re getting new sales people, then there’s a better chance you can train them all on a single system.  Think beyond what you did when you were selling, think about teaching them a system that is scalable and trackable.

Next, empower your team with the value of your product or service.  Have them sit down with happy customers so they can experience the value first hand.  Better yet, put them in the clients shoes and make them do your clients job using the old solution, and then make them do the job again with your “new” solution (your product).  If the sales person feels the pain of the old solution, they’ll be that much more compelling on sales calls.  They’ll be calling with conviction because they’ll really believe they are calling to help clients out.

After that, make sure to keep them continually armed with reasons to call.  I touch on this concept in a post here, but it’s critical for keeping a team on the follow-up path.  They need fresh things to say so they don’t feel like a robot on every follow-up call.  Do an exercise with your team, have them each write out 10 interesting follow-up call reasons and then share them with the team.

Last, you need to recognize people for following up, and you need to celebrate like crazy when they get a win off of a follow-up.   This will help convince your team that it’s important, and when wins start to come in, they’ll be completely sold on the methodology.

Example follow up system

Every sales team will have its preference, so I’d focus more on making sure everyone has a system.  If you’re in a position to put in place a new system, here’s the one that’s worked best for me.  I’d have them use tasks in Salesforce, and have them use a task report as their calling list.  The trick here is to use the subject as a way to store information about the task and as a way to count how many follow-ups you’ve tried.

Example task subject:

  • ” 1 – follow up on voicemail”
  • “2 – follow up on email”
  • “3 – follow up around 3pm , ask for Sally”

Tasks have a couple of benefits.  First, they’re in salesforce so you don’t have to introduce another technology to your team.  Second, they’re visible to you as the manager, so you can keep an eye on your team members tasks to help them make sure they’re not slipping through the cracks.  It’ll will also help you assess their skill level on prospecting because you can see leads / accounts in the system with no tasks on them are not being worked.

Salesforce tasks are clunky so they’re not for everyone, here are some other sotul

  • Outreach
  • Outlook
  • Google Tasks
  • Wunderlist
  • Todoist


In the end, don’t get caught up with the system.  Just remember that everyone needs a way to stay organized, and most importantly everyone needs to stay sky high on the conviction that they are following up for a good reason.  If you belief your product is useful, and you believe you’re doing a client a favor by calling them, then you’ll never stop following up!