The Money is In the Follow Up
The follow up is where most sales are made, yet this is the area that most business owners and sales people fall short on. It's also much easier to sell to an existing client then to find a new client. So the follow up really is where the money is made.
Some things to consider in choosing when and how you want to follow up:
- Meet with them in person: this is the most time consuming, yet clients know you're serious about doing business with them if you're willing to go to them and meet them face to face. Of course this is the most costly and requires the most time, so reserve it only for huge spenders or local clients.
- Talk with them over the phone: if the client is too far away to meet face to face, a phone call will do. This still takes time and money (assuming you need to pay long distance charges) but it is also a very effective method of turning a lead into a paying client. When a lead meets with or at least speaks with you over the phone, you become more of a real person and not just a name on a screen or a piece of paper. People tend to appreciate it when you're willing to take the time to speak with them live and handle any questions or concerns they may have.
- Mail a letter: I know that sounds old fashioned, but it still does work, perhaps now even more so then when that was the main way of follow ups. It does cost more then sending out emails but as it's not done as much in the age of internet and emails, it also grabs more attention then just another email or banner ad does.
- Send an email: Yes, in the last point I did mention the issues with emails, but they are cheap to send, if you already have a list, they cost almost nothing, you're probably already paying someone, such as your autorespondor provider to keep that list anyways, so why not use that list?
- Chat on Social Media sites: This is also a time consuming method, but it works, I found my two most recent clients that way, one on Facebook, and the other on a forum we're both members of. This is yet another way of keeping engaged with your leads and letting them know you are a real person.
- Always answer comments: You write a blog regularly, you post in forums, you post on Facebook, you Tweet, you post videos on Youtube. These are all different forms of social media. So when someone comments on your post, write a reply, it only takes a few seconds, but it shows the one who wrote the comment that you do actually read those comments and care what they have to say. They'll be much more likely to come back or even buy something from you if they know you are paying attention. This does take time to look around and find the comments you should respond to, but it's time well spent, especially if you plan on using social media as one of your primary traffic sources and promotional tools.
All of these are options have their merits and they each have a time and place to use them. If you're selling a $100,000 3D animated video to a big corporation, then it may be worthwhile to even hop on a jet and fly out there to meet in person, even across continents and borders. On the other hand, if you're selling a $10 ebook, it won't be worthwhile to go to the person, even if he lives in the same city. In that case sending an email or a sequence of daily emails ought to do. All it takes to know how to follow up is common sense, and knowing how much money is at stake. The more the money you stand to make, the more time, effort and cost you can afford to put into closing that sale.
But what if you did fail to follow up?
You may have put yourself into a difficult situation, but it's never too late to start following up. The key here is be honest about your failure to follow up. Don't pretend that failure never happened and that you've been talking with all your clients regularly. They're not stupid and they know who's been following up and who hasn't, and probably by the fact that they don't remember who you are any more, especially if it's been many months since you last contacted them.
It's better to start with something like "Hi I'm ____ and I'm getting back in touch with my past clients, I'm sorry I didn't follow up with you sooner, that was my mistake..." and go from there, based on how the client responds.
What you do NOT want to do is start out like nothing ever went wrong such as "Hi, this is ___, what can I do for you?" First off, the person probably at this point doesn't remember who the hell you are or what you do, so has no idea what you can do for her, and even if she does remember you, she will also remember how you snubbed her by not following up after you got her money. Either way, you've just dug yourself into a deeper hole.
So be honest about your mistake and see if you can re-build your relationship with the client. The client will appreciate your honesty, and you save yourself from making a bad situation worse.
So, all that's well and good, but when do I follow up?
Well, that really depends on what your product is, how many clients you have, the temperament of each client, and what method you're using. For email follow ups for basic everyday products you can get away with (and should be doing) daily follow ups. With social media, you need to be monitoring it on at least a daily basis as users of this media expect immediacy, so if it takes you a day or two to get back to an email, that's not so bad, but if it takes you more then a day to reply to a post, then it seems like you're ignoring your followers. Still, a late reply is better then no reply.
If you're doing phone follow ups, then once a day would not only be a strain on your time, it will annoy your clients, however, once every 1-3 weeks, depending on how many clients you have, how interested they are in your offers and how profitable your offer is should be fine. Get much shorter then that and you risk annoying your clients and could even cross the line into harassment, too much longer and you risk your clients forgetting who you are. Again use common sense and industry standards.
Each industry and each follow up method has a different acceptable lag time in follow ups. Find out what that is and follow it or suffer the consequences of bad follow up.