Six key follow up principles that you should keep in mind

by Steli Efti
key-follow-up-principles

In the business world, rarely are deals closed on day one. 

It takes a lot of nudging and nurturing before a prospect is ready to throw money at you.

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That’s why following up with prospects is so important for any sales team. 

But here’s the thing with follow-up emails:

Even though they have the power to convert a ‘no’ into a ‘yes,’ they can be extremely daunting. A series of ‘no’ replies is a morale killer, and handling rejection is tough. 

That being said, getting positive responses from your follow-up emails isn’t rocket science. 

To get the best results from your follow-up emails, keep in mind these six key follow-up principles:

Define an email follow-up plan for your sales team 

The biggest follow-up mistake that sales teams make is sending emails without a plan in place. 

“We already know we need to send them—why do we need a plan?” you ask. 

Here’s why: 

Instead of just relying on gut instinct, your sales reps will have a clear goal for each follow-up and know exactly how many times they should email prospects before calling it a day. 

Let’s look at how you can build a follow-up email plan for your sales team. (Note: These steps will pan out differently for each company.)

Step 1: State why you are following up

Start by answering this question: What’s the purpose of your follow-up email campaign?

Is to urge them to book a demo? Or take advantage of the limited-time discount your company is offering? Or provide more info that you need?

If you observe closely, you’ll see two things clearly: First, there can be tons of reasons for your sales reps to follow up with a prospect. Second, each prospect is at a different stage of their journey, and therefore each situation demands a different follow-up approach. 

By using a purpose-driven approach, you’ll ensure that the sales reps are fully aware of the end goal and are better prepared to handle the prospect's objections. 

Now that you understand the need for a clearly defined purpose, let’s move on to the next step: How often should your sales reps follow up?

Step 2: Specify how often you should follow up

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Now that’s a difficult question to answer, so before we go any further let’s look at some statistics about follow-up email: 

A study by Iko-System found that the follow-up response rate varies from 14% for the second email to 10% for the fifth and a surprising 27% for the sixth email. Another study by Yesware found that even the 10th email in the sequence got a 7% response rate.

This is very confusing, right? Should you send six emails, or 10, or 16? But here’s a formula that works every time:

1. Pick the number of emails that makes sense for your business: look at your past follow-up emails data for patterns and find that “golden number” where you see most conversions happening. Also take into account the price & plans of your product. A higher priced product/ plan needs a ton of approvals, which may add to a delay in response.

2. Once you’ve reached this number, move the contact to another list and follow up again after a couple of months.

I’ve said it before:

“I have a simple philosophy: I follow up as many times as necessary until I get a response. I don’t care what the response is as long as I get one. If someone tells me they need another 14 days to get back to me, I will put that in my calendar and ping them again in 14 days.”

Here’s the follow-up formula that propose: 

Follow-up #1: Day 1

Follow-up #2: Day 3

Follow-up #3: Day 7

Follow-up #4: Day 14

Follow-up #5: Day 28

Follow-up #6: Day 58

And then every 30 days after that.

Sales reps can’t be chasing a prospect for eternity—unless the deal is getting you millions of dollars. By sticking to a fixed follow-up formula, such as the one above, reps can use their time effectively. 

If you’re a Close user, you’re in luck. You can create simple follow-up reminders within the CRM.

close-crm-follow-up-reminder

The CRM will send you a notification on the day the next follow-up is due. 

Make it easy for sales reps to create emails 

You know well that managing productivity is the biggest challenges for sales reps. They often get caught up in the daily humdrum and are unable to focus on, well, selling. Salesforce’s 2018 State of Sales report found that sales reps spend a mere 34% of their time actually selling!

Sending follow-up emails is one task that can derail your sales reps from more important duties. And that’s why it’s important for your reps to have ready access to tools that can make the whole process faster.

Here’s what you can do to help: 

1. Create ready-to-use templates: Creating templates that require minimum tweaks can save a lot of time for sales reps. Here are a few templates you can use for inspiration.

2. Make it easy for sales reps to find content: Sales reps often find themselves lost when searching for the right resource—a resource that if attached to a follow-up email could significantly boost conversions. So make that content accessible to sales reps. You can either have a practical arrangement of folders or drives (if using G-Suite) or use a solution like Docurated from Quark.

The bottom line: You want sales reps selling, not spending all their time writing follow-up emails from scratch. 

Bring out the best in your follow-up emails 

The best follow-up emails are the ones that provide a great experience for the recipient—they are remarkable, they offer value, they are functional, and they are respectful.

follow-up-email-experience

So how can sales reps ensure their emails score at each level of this pyramid? Here are a few pointers: 

1. Focus on personalization

It’s a small ask, but one that can make a big difference to the recipient. Personalization isn’t just a feel-good factor; it also has business benefits—personalized emails have a higher chance of getting opened because they seem relevant and they stand out in the recipient’s inbox. 

Backlinko analyzed 12 million outreach emails and found some amazing data on personalization. According to the study: 

  • Personalized subject lines boost response rate by 30.5%.
    personalized-subject-lines
  • Emails with personalized message bodies have a 32.7% better response rate than those that don’t personalize their messages.
    personalized-email-message-bodies

Another interesting finding from this study is that only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response. If we connect the data on personalization with response number, it is safe to say that any amount of personalization is good for outreach. So whether it is personalization in the email subject line, or in the body of the email or both, your follow-up emails should make room for it. 

2. Check for correct spelling and grammar

There’s nothing more annoying than a poorly written email. It impacts the way the recipient perceives you—and not in a good way. 

Jane Vignovic and Lori Foster Thompson, psychologists at North Carolina State University, recorded people’s perceptions of a potential colleague based on an error-ridden email message. Participants who read the email perceived the sender to be untrustworthy. 

Bottom line: If prospects feel they can’t trust you, chances are they won’t do business with you. 

3. Include value bombs

Getting prospects to open an email is one thing; getting a response is another. And that’s where value bombs come in. When you send a follow-up email without factoring in value, you probably won’t get the kind of response you want. 

What is a value bomb? Well, do you have a resource the recipient could use? Or a special offer or discount code to push the sale? Maybe a free 30-minute evaluation?

Think about what would be valuable for your prospect, and share it with them. 

4. Be human

With hundreds of emails thronging their inbox, getting your prospect’s attention is more difficult than ever. That’s why it’s important to make every email memorable. Ensure that your message is courteous and friendly, gets right to the point and doesn’t require the prospect to take multiple actions. 

For example, if you’re urging them to book a demo, make it easy for them by providing a built-in option to book a time. A tool like Calendly can come in handy here.

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Get innovative with your email

Good follow-up emails have one thing in common: They stand out. In the crowded world of email, a standout experience begins with the subject line and continues in the copy. 

Now, there are tons of great guides that will tell you how to nail the subject line, so let’s look at what you can do with your copy. 

Using GIFs and videos can help you stand out in a busy inbox. Not only is that kind of content fresh, it’s also visual—a medium that we’ve all grown to love. 

The folks at Strikingly make clever use of GIFs in their emails. Here’s an example:

strikingly-gifs-in-emails

In this email Strikingly used two kinds of GIFs: stock GIFs, like our friend Bill Hader, and a personalized GIF of the sender. These are tricks you can use in your own follow-up emails too. 

What about video?

Salesforce used video voicemails to follow up with prospects that had stopped responding. After receiving the video, a lot of their prospects said no, but sometimes that’s what you need to re-adjust your plan, isn’t it? 

A tool like Soapbox can come in handy for creating video-based pitches. Soapbox users also have the option to personalize video thumbnails with GIFs, loops and text overlays to make their pitches even more appealing.

soapbox-personalize-video-thumbnails

Target your prospects on multiple channels 

A report by Google reveals how B2B prospects buy products today:

“A majority of offline purchasers are influenced online, and they’re doing vast amounts of independent research. Before making a purchase, today’s typical B2B shopper might consult online catalogs, perform multiple Google Searches, or visit branded websites. They look for product specifications and brand comparisons, and they try to figure out where to find the best deals or promotions.”

What does this information mean for your follow-up process? It’s a good idea to target your prospects through multiple channels once they’ve shown an interest in your product. This tactic will give them a break from your follow-up emails while still keeping your brand alive in their minds. 

Installing a Facebook pixel on your website, retargeting prospects, being present on social media channels and participating in communities where your prospects hang out are all powerful ways of staying connected beyond email. The idea is to let prospects get to know your product outside their inbox so that they’ll be ready to commit when you come knocking again. 

Be smart with follow-up 

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Deals aren’t closed in the show-up, they are closed in the follow-up.

True, you need to be consistent with follow-up. But here’s the thing that you need to remember:

While follow-up is crucial, you don’t want your sales reps to waste time following up with prospects that will never close. You don’t want them to be “working on their pipeline” when it’s filled with names that won’t see value in your product. 

So here are a few pointers that will help you tighten your follow-up process: 

1. Quantify the economic value of the deal—is it worth it?

2. Gauge when the prospect can commit to your product—in two months? In a year? Never? Trust us, you’ll see the signs early on.

3. Determine whether your prospect is just window-shopping. Can you offer a hook that’s hard to resist? 

At Close, we like to believe that following up isn’t hard—it's really our fears that make the deal fall through. You can’t live in “maybeland” and neither can you be “hopelessly optimistic”—and while persistence is key, you’ve also got to be smart about your follow-up emails; otherwise, you’re just wasting time. 

Wrapping it up

It’s only human to assume that a prospect isn’t keen to talk to you since they haven’t responded to your emails. But research shows that follow-up is worth it—it just takes time and persistence.If you want to hit your quotas and score conversions for your team, you need to keep in mind the principles we just talked about:

  • Define an email follow-up plan for your sales team 
  • Make it easy for sales reps to create emails 
  • Bring out the best in your follow-up emails 
  • Get innovative with your emails
  • Target prospects on multiple channels
  • Be smart with follow-up 

We hope that these six principles will come in handy for your next follow-up campaign. If you’re looking for more insights on following up sales prospects, get a free copy of my book The Follow-Up Formula.

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