What is your “follow-up reputation” in your business? Is it ‘always and promptly’? Or, is it ‘usually fairly timely’? Or, could it be ‘doubtful it will get done’? The highest performers keep their promises and exceed the expectations of their prospects and clients. Be a bear about this one. It isn’t a task to be dreaded; it is an opportunity to be seized. You can set yourself apart with good follow-up skills.

What is the difference between “following up” and “following through”?

If your prospect declines or delays the decision to do business with you, you still have obligations to that person, which requires following up. If they do become your customer, you need to follow through; ensuring that every promise is completely fulfilled.

Let’s take a look at the bad news first: No sale! Time for following up with this prospect.

First, the prospect deserves to be sincerely thanked for her time and for giving you an opportunity to exchange information. A hand-written note is always appreciated and sets you apart from a vast majority of salespeople that take shortcuts.

Next, you need to stop and objectively reflect upon the circumstances that caused the prospect to say, “No, thank you.” Depending upon the situation, you may have a high likelihood of landing the account sometime down the road.

Here is a list of questions that you should ask yourself when debriefing each sales call:

• Did they decline because I proposed a solution before fully exploring their needs and collaborating solutions with them?
• Did I do my best possible job of asking questions; encouraging them to share their ideas, or did I do too much “presenting” of my ideas and possible solutions?
• Did I adjust to their pace (faster versus slower) and to their priority (task versus relationship)?
• Am I confident that I helped them make the best possible decision that is in their best interests?
• By behaving respectfully and professionally, have I left the door open for doing business later if their situation changes?
• Based on their reasoning for not buying, might the situation change in the future?

True sales masters become comfortable hearing “no”, as long as they have gotten to the real reason(s) for the answer.

After careful, objective analysis, you are now fully prepared to follow up with this prospect. We believe that in many cases you can often turn a “no” into a “yes” if you execute customized, long-term follow-up campaigns.

It is common for salespeople to be in the right place (a qualified prospect), but at the wrong time. Many prospects, if empowered to educate themselves over time, can—and often do—change their own minds. However, no one likes to have to do so in front of a salesperson.

There are two different types of follow-ups that you can execute; each serves a specific function.

The first is a standard type of follow-up. The salesperson sends literature, case studies, testimonials and other “value proposition” information designed to further educate the prospect about the value your product/service delivers. Sometimes this does work, but no matter how cleverly disguised, it might convey a message similar to: “You didn’t say ‘yes’ during our discussion, so here’s evidence that may help you change your mind.”

While this “traditional” practice of marketing is acceptable, it can be improved. Although educating prospects is never a bad idea, “attention erosion1” is making it harder to get your messages received, read and digested. Businesspeople today are over-taxed, stretched thin and have little time to spare reading your literature and newsletters.

However, we bring good news: The second type of follow-up makes the first type much more effective…

Dale Carnegie taught us that to get what you want, first help others get what they want. He said that if we live our lives helping others achieve their goals; everything we desire will come back ten-fold. We heartily agree.

“Treat others the way they want to be treated,” is our mantra. It’s The Platinum Rule®. By blending the Carnegie philosophy with ours, then adding a mix of cutting-edge technology, we were able to create a new method of following up with everyone in a customized, effective manner that ensures marketing messages are received with open arms (and open minds!).

Goal-specific Communication is the act of sending people (prospects, customers, clients, colleagues, referral partners, etc…) information that helps each of them achieve specific goals or seize a new opportunity.

If you take the time to ask interesting questions and pay careful attention to answers, you can now leverage technology to automate follow-ups that send articles, tips and ideas to each of your contacts that match their goals, challenges, interests and preferences.

Pay careful attention to this statement: If you send people helpful information—especially if it is unrelated to what you sell—you will position yourself as a helpful, thoughtful professional, and not as a pesky, pushy salesperson.

For example: Let’s say that Scott is calling on a sales manager and exploring ways to possibly help the sales team develop new skills and create more effective marketing messages. While Scott’s company happens to provide solutions in these areas, he also discovers that the prospect is relatively new to his position and has not received formalized management training. Additionally, he learns that they invest large amounts of time, focus and money attending several trade shows.

After the sales call, Scott executes a “blend” of follow-ups for this prospect. Using The Cyrano Marketing System, he selects a series of articles written by experts in the areas of interviewing, hiring, managing and interpersonal communications; all containing information that the prospect would find helpful in becoming more successful in his career. These are “relationship building” messages; chosen specifically to help this prospect become a more effective manager. These messages contain no information about Scott, his company or his products; they only serve to help the prospect.

When the prospect receives a few emails or articles mailed from Scott, he begins to perceive Scott as someone who is thoughtful, and also as someone who takes action on his ideas. As you might imagine, this type of communication begins building a bridge between Scott and each prospect.

When Scott calls back, he immediately offers to introduce the prospect to one of his colleagues that happens to be an expert in trade show marketing and long-cycle lead conversion. Couple that with the helpful articles on management skills, and Scott has earned the respect of his prospect by adding value at each touch point of the relationship.

More importantly, this approach dramatically increases the odds that when Scott sends “value proposition” information (literature, case studies, etc…) that the prospect will receive each message with an open mind.

By truly helping each prospect, Scott has earned “mind share” with each person. By matching messages to the goals, preferences and interests of every prospect, Scott eliminates “attention erosion”. People in Scott’s Cyrano database actually anticipate his follow-up messages!

If Scott discovers that the timing is poor with a prospect, he “fills the time” by sending helpful information to him. If the prospect suggests that Scott call back in six months or so, he tells Cyrano what type of articles to send, when he wants them sent, and asks for Cyrano to remind him to call back at the appropriate time. In other words, Scott doesn’t get frustrated when he is in the right place at the wrong time. Instead, he simply leverages this to his advantage. By filling the time gaps with showing the prospect that he cares about their success, Scott ensures that when he calls back, his phone calls are eagerly accepted and/or his voicemails get prompt return calls.

As many thought leaders often remind us: If you want to get everything you want, first help others get what they want!

While conducting our sales training programs, we are often asked if adapting to different styles and/or sending helpful information may be “manipulative.”

Our stock answer is, “It depends”. If you do it right it is not. If you handle it with a win-lose approach it certainly can be.

If your intention is to help other people; help them make decisions that are in the best interest of their company and/or career (even if it means not buying your product or service), help them achieve more, help them solve problems and help them succeed, then you are in no way practicing any form of manipulation. You are living The Platinum Rule. You are leveraging the power of persuasion in a positive fashion to create win/win outcomes in your business relationships.

However, if your intention is simply to make a sale, mislead another person or do anything that is even 1% less than ethical, then we can confidently state that are using adaptability, technology and persuasion in a manipulative fashion.

As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his best-selling book Blink, almost every person has the innate ability to detect authenticity in another person in mere seconds. As importantly, they do it on a subconscious level; without even knowing they are doing so.

If your intention is pure, prospects and clients will subconsciously be compelled to want to do business with you. Conversely if your intention is to make money, push people into making buying decisions and/or manipulation, then no amount of training, psychology or technology will help you build a long-lasting career in sales.

Here are some important questions you should pose to your sales manager and to your marketing manager:

• Are we effectively leveraging information gleaned from the field (sales calls)?
• Is our contact management system (or CRM) being used to full capacity?
• Are we effectively communicating with everyone in our database?
• Does every one of our prospects know about each product and/or service that we offer, and why they should be buying from us?
• Are we effectively cross-selling to each customer who makes a purchase with our company?
• Should we consider matching our benefits to behavioral styles of our prospects?
• Since it is now possible to automate customized follow-ups (even if salespeople forget), would we grow our sales if we added effective technology to our process?
• Do we have a system for developing leads, cross-selling, increasing customer retention and growing referrals?

These are very important questions for your team to consider.

While it is important for you to learn how to adapt to each prospect or customer during your sales process, it is equally as important for you to market/communicate effectively to ensure that you have a steady stream of qualified prospects, your current customers feel appreciated and thought of often, and you never lose another client due to perceived indifference.

Author's Bio: 

Scott Zimmerman helps companies make more sales with less effort. By combining proven one-to-one marketing, sales & customer service training with proprietary communications technology, Scott’s clients enjoy measurable advantages over their competition.

During the past 20 years, Scott has studied graphic design, branding, positioning, psychology (as related to influence) business-to-business selling and one-to-one marketing.

In 1989, he started a full-service marketing/communications firm: Zimmer Graphics, Inc. In 2001, he unveiled the first web-based contact management system (called “Cyrano”) that could automatically deliver customized messages to prospects and clients on behalf of salespeople and rainmakers. One-to-one marketing immediately jumped from theory to reality when The Cyrano Marketing System was released. Zimmerman promptly changed the name of his company to The Cyrano Group.

In 2003, Zimmerman began searching for ways to match marketing messages to recipients’ personality types. His research led him to Dr. Tony Alessandra (one of America’s foremost experts in applied human behavior). They began looking for ways to combine Zimmerman’s new technology with Alessandra’s proven psychology. In 2005, they formed and became become partners in Platinum Rule Group LLC.

Also in 2005, they co-authored “The Platinum Rule for Sales Mastery” with Dr. Joseph La Lopa. “The Platinum Rule for Small Business Mastery” was released in 2006 (with Ron Finklestein). In 2007, “The Platinum Rule for Trade Show Mastery” (with Steve Underation) became an Amazon.com best seller.

Scott has appeared as a guest on several video shows for TSTN.com (The Success Training Network). In 2008, Scott was asked to join the exclusive faculty of iLearningGlobal.tv to share his knowledge of leveraging psychology and technology for creating high-trust relationships. Scott is listed as one of the Founding Experts in the CanDoGo knowledge base for selling skills, personal development and motivation.

As a speaker, trainer and consultant, Zimmerman is known for his lively, humorous delivery while he gently leads people into a new way of understanding interpersonal relationships, the power of persuasion and how to leverage new technologies.

To reach Scott Zimmerman: 1-330-848-0444 x2 or email: Scott(at)PlatinumRuleGroup.com

Dr. Tony Alessandra has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having been raised in the housing projects of NYC to eventually realizing success as a graduate professor of marketing, entrepreneur, business author, and hall-of-fame keynote speaker. He earned a BBA from the University of Notre Dame, an MBA from the University of Connecticut and his PhD in marketing from Georgia State University.

In addition to being president of Assessment Business Center, a company that offers online, 360º assessments, Tony is a founding partner in The Cyrano Group and Platinum Rule Group--companies which have successfully combined cutting-edge technology and proven psychology to give salespeople the ability to build and maintain positive relationships with hundreds of clients and prospects.

Dr. Alessandra is a prolific author with 18 books translated into 49 foreign language editions, including the newly revised, best selling The NEW Art of Managing People (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2008); Charisma (Warner Books, 1998); The Platinum Rule (Warner Books, 1996); Collaborative Selling (John Wiley & Sons, 1993); and Communicating at Work (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1993). He is featured in over 50 audio/video programs and films, including Relationship Strategies (American Media); The Dynamics of Effective Listening (Nightingale-Conant); and Non-Manipulative Selling (Walt Disney). He is also the originator of the internationally-recognized behavioral style assessment tool - The Platinum Rule®.

Recognized by Meetings & Conventions Magazine as "one of America's most electrifying speakers," Dr. Alessandra was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame in 1985 and is a member of the Speakers Roundtable, a group of 20 of the world's top professional speakers. Tony's polished style, powerful message, and proven ability as a consummate business strategist consistently earn rave reviews and loyal clients.

To reach Dr. Tony: 1-858-598-3455 or email: TA(at)PlatinumRule.com