Sales Sales/Selling

To follow up or not, that is the question…

“Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely and the likely definite”
is a quotation from Robert Half and which I have stuck up at eye level by my desk!
To follow up or not, that is the question – is a complex issue that challenges many business owners and there can be an extraordinary number of reasons why they shouldn’t follow up, today at least….  It’s as if a fear takes over and the business owner is rendered paralyzed… I don’t want to be annoying, or bothersome, or a nuisance or…….
And you’re right, no one does.  But, and it’s a big but, with the volume of emails in particular, as well as calls, that go around these days, it can take time to wade through all the emails and it can quite simply be that your last email got to the bottom of a very busy day’s list of emails.  You don’t know what day your prospect is having or whether it has been a day from hell.
But think how not following up on a conversation, a quotation, a meeting can reflect on you and your business.   If you are an avid networker, is there any point if you don’t follow up?  What is your process?  Do you have one?   If not, agree one with yourself and write it down and keep it somewhere you can easily refer to.
The sales process isn’t a straight line, nor is it a funnel where everything that goes in to the top comes out as an order at the bottom.   You need to understand the balance of emotion and logic and what makes up the sales process.
A survey conducted by the National Sales Executive Association reveals that only 10% of leads are being followed up more than three times, while nearly half (48%) are left languishing altogether.  The same survey shows that 10% of sales are closed on the fourth contact, while 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact! Based on this data, how can you find excuses not to follow up?   Whilst the exact % differs slightly I’ve come across an approximation to these figures a few times.
I wonder too if it’s that business owners don’t like to consider themselves as ‘sales’ people.  After all, is this what you studied for years to become the expert?  But, no matter if you are a lawyer, accountant, web designer, video maker, manufacturer of widgets, without sales you don’t have a business so if you are the only person in your business, you are then also the sales person.
So what happens if you go to a business expo – be it a small local affair or a large event in Olympia?  What have you planned in terms of follow up?  What would be the cost to your business if you don’t?

  • If you are a larger company then most likely the sales team will leap onto the hot prospects and follow these up. Let’s say 20%.   Then what about the other 80%, what happens here?
  • Often it can be that the sales team don’t have the time or energy to weed out the % of non-qualified contacts to nurture, so they abandon them.  Or, sales blame marketing saying that the leads are not great and then marketing blames sales for being lazy.  The challenge is to keep in touch with that % of the balance, let’s say 40%, to develop the relationship.
  • And in a smaller business, then the same principles but you are arguing with yourself and blaming your other self.   Oh, I’ll do that one tomorrow, it’s not important.   Then tomorrow becomes next week/month and the chance you had of following up is out of the window as you are by now completely forgotten.

So what do you need to do/know to follow up effectively?

  • You need to know you are talking to the right person who can make the decision to purchase whatever it is you are selling;
  • You need to understand his/her buying process… Who else is involved? What information do they want/  need and supply this ideally before being asked;
  • You need to understand the sales process and the mix of emotion and logic and when and where to supply evidence of both;
  • You need to understand completely what your prospect needs in order to solve their problem/hurt and ensure you have communicated to them how you can do this
  • You need to have supported your claims with evidence – case studies and testimonials for starters. If something concrete rather than a service, then a trial of something.
  • Have you explained the benefits to the client of working with you? Have you shown your passion and commitment to your role and to your company and demonstrated at all times your professionalism?
  • You need to get a feeling of the type of personality they are so that your communications are geared to ‘how they like to be communicated with’, so for example, if an FD, then bottom line, figures, ROI and no waffle. 3 words are better than 3 paragraphs.
  • By what means does your contact like to be communicated with? Email/telephone/mobile/text?
  • If you have a good CRM system you can set up a series of relevant follow up emails and then be able to see when each one is opened if at all. But do beware of overuse of these informative but non-personal communications. I had been waiting for some information from a CRM supplier on behalf of a client and then I started getting the follow up before the information I was waiting for.   Not impressed!
  • In your process you need to establish a guide of how often you should be following up and how; typically this could be
    • Give it a week since the last conversation and then weekly to start with
    • Then default to two-weekly
    • Try different days and different times of day
    • Can you slot into something that is of interest to the buyer that you learnt at your meeting or have picked up from LinkedIn? Comment on their favourite team’s performance, favourite venue etc, great film….
  • Be direct: if you don’t get anywhere ask if you should stop following up. People respect honesty and it can have the effect to get a reaction to your email…
    • A simple “I know how busy you are and completely understand if you just haven’t had time to get back to me, but I don’t want to bombard you with emails if you’re not interested. Just let me know if you’d prefer I stop following up”
    • Here’s a fun direct one I came across… Tongue in cheek but depending on your relationship can elicit a response…
      • This one from Workbooks, a CRM system (not the one referred to above, though) where someone asked for details and the ‘system’ was trying to establish contact with no luck:

“Should I stay or should I go?”   (was the email subject header)
You recently left your details on the Workbooks CRM website and I’ve tried reaching out several times with no luck. Usually people fall into one of 4 buckets when downloading our content or registering for our webinars:

  1. Thanks for following up; however, at this point I am only educating myself on CRM systems.
  2. While I am educating myself, I am also interested in learning more about Wizard Systems and Workbooks CRM.  Please schedule me for a no-obligation 20-minute assessment.
  3. Please call me as soon as possible. I am looking to evaluate my plan and would like a custom CRM presentation of Workbooks CRM.
  4. I have terrible carpal tunnel and can’t type! Please call a doctor!

 I’m a firm believer that any of these answers could be the right answer for you at this time. Your response (1, 2, 3, or 4) will allow me to better gauge your interests without bothering you during this busy time”.
 For sure the prospect will smile and will probably take the time to respond.  Understanding the meaning and value of a ‘no’ is also important.
Following up demonstrates your determination to build a relationship with your prospect and most significant sales are the end result of a relationship. You will still find a lot of disinterested parties, but a few potential buyers will appreciate the extra effort. These can become your best customers. In the long run, sales follow-ups are more cost-effective than chasing down new customers.
And, don’t forget, if you really can’t bring yourself to pick up that phone to follow up, outsource it.   There are lots of great people out there who will do so for you.  So don’t beat yourself up and just get it done!
If you need help with your sales and/or follow up processes, please give me a call or email me on; I’d be delighted to help.  A tighter sales process can eliminate much of the follow up.
And finally….another quotation for you about persistence:
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Calvin Coolidge
30th president of US (1872 – 1933)

Emotional Fear Fear of Failure Sales Sales/Selling

Fear – exploiting our emotions to increase sales

Fear – exploiting our emotions to increase sales

Think about how often you see this being used – consciously or subliminally…. the technique – I suppose you can call it this – is one of the most powerful drivers of our spending today.  Fear is the emotion being used to manipulate us to part with our money.   Such campaigns

  • find the most subtle way to manipulate our fears and reactions
  • exploit our anxieties
  • dwell on the make believe – the secret of eternal youth
  • using all tactics from paranoia to reassurance to unlock our basic instinct ‘ Wow, I really want/need/must have this XXXXX.

There was an excellent BBC2 programme in the summer which examined some of the examples which I give below, but what prompted me to look further into this was an instance earlier this year when one of my clients, at my suggestions,  attended a two-hour ‘intro’ sales seminar,  which he then followed up with a 1-2-1 session with the deliverer.  The up-sell from intro two hours was a sales training programme of £several thousand.    Not an option for someone new in business and I would challenge not necessary at that point at all.  But the feeling my client was left with was not good.  Not going for this service was clearly going to mean the business was never going to succeed which thankfully was and is wrong. But more than that I would challenge it is immoral to leave prospects feeling like this in your justification to sell your product or service.
Another internet marketer who I have been following is the same although of course the emotion is perhaps tempered as it is not face to face.  You get the emails initially with the ‘free’ stuff, then you are deluged, literally, with the follow up emails with the up-sell for this and that and if you don’t do this or that then you won’t ever be successful.  If he is putting on a (paid for) seminar or webinar, then there is a frenzy of emails, hard copy mails, automated voice mails telling you why you must attend.  I stick with it for a while as it is interesting to observe from a marketing point of view, but then I have to unsubscribe as it is just taking over the inbox!   So is this moral?  Is it successful these days?
Think about some of these early examples:


“Halitosis makes you unpopular”  – early ads from the 1930s created the fear with halitosis which was ‘inexcusable’ as it could be cured with – wait for it – “Listerine”.  Listerine cured halitosis at a time when Americans didn’t know what this was or that it was really a problem. But suddenly it became a huge epidemic in society and the damsel in distress/mother was the social outcast.  “Men never linger”  “Whisper copy” by fear – leading you to understand that ‘this woman will never be married as she has halitosis’  Why take chances?  This technique took sales in 8 years from £115K to $8M. So clearly it worked.  And how sexist was it as well….
When Zantac was a new prescription drug for heart burn, the branding experts had to get the message out there that instead of going to the drug store to ask for over the counter medication, you needed to go to your doctor and demand Zantac. Which clearly worked as 240 million people took Zantac, yielding revenue of some $3.5bn – until the patent ran out.
Similar examples with high cholesterol and statins… “know your number”.

  • And think to today….
  • Corsodyl has taken over from these early Listerine ads – but it’s now concentrating on gum disease.  “Treat gum disease if you have it… Protect your gums if you don’t… Gum Disease is a main cause of tooth loss”   And the image of the lady with that ‘blood’ running from the corner of her eye.    Exactly the same technique/recipe as years ago.
    • Anti bacterial sprays. We’re now bombarded with messages about germs, moving from traditional cleaners to the new anti-bacterial, and for children’s toys and now for washing children’s clothes.  Tests show that hands washed in both ‘ordinary’ soap and anti-bacterial soap give the same results.  Germ panic is also firmly planted in our minds – first swine flue – how long to see ‘Ebola safe’ items on the market. In fact there are already such face masks selling.
    • When Coca Cola bought Glaceau , they had the opportunity to take vitamin water to the next level and to be seen as pushing its healthy products.  “Find out more about the history of Glaceau Vitamin Water as well as getting nutritional information & facts”.
    • Nintendo brain games – all part of our effort to keep our brain fitter for SAGA age group who didn’t want to lose their ‘marbles’.  “With practice your brain can improve”.  A winning formula and it became their best selling game.  The player just had to measure and judge him/herself and bring the score down.  Nintendo never made any false claims – they just played on anxieties – the more you play the more it will lower your brain age.

“Happiness is freedom from fear” screams a billboard from the side of the road. Storytelling advertising is a simpl system honed:

  • Creating anxiety
  • telling them something they didn’t know
  • and then introducing a magic solution.

Story telling engages us – damsel in distress, the consumer, the villain, any number of frightening things going on.  The hero whisks us away from danger.  Always with the moral, “without your favourite product, you are in danger”.

“Please part with your money.  Thank you”,


Armstrong Beech Marketing Sales

Can you send me some literature?

It’s Monday morning and you’re sitting in the office planning your week of sales calls. The phone rings and suddenly you’re in a friendly conversation with a new prospect, Bob. Bob seems like a nice enough guy… knowledgeable about your industry, interested in your products and eager to ask all sorts of questions.
Up to now this is starting to look and feel like a real opportunity for you. But when you ask Bob about his decision criteria you hear those words that all sales people dread…”Oh, I’m just gathering information for someone else in my organization.” The atmosphere of the call has been positive, so you decide to ask Bob who the ultimate decision maker is. The conversation stalls for what seems like an eternity and then Bob says, “Sorry but I can’t do that.”
Sound familiar?   Great article from Tim Wackel. What do you do?

Sales Sales/Selling

Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople

“If you ask an extremely successful salesperson, “What makes you different from the average sales rep?” you will most likely get a less-than-accurate answer, if any answer at all. Frankly, the person may not even know the real answer because most successful salespeople are simply doing what comes naturally”.
Read the rest of the article from the Harvard Business Review from June 2011, written by Steve W. Martin.   Though, personally I would add integrity, there are some interesting results.
Good article

Armstrong Beech Marketing Communications Marketing Sales Sales/Selling

Sales tips to improve effectiveness

Sales tips to improve effectiveness

Generally people buy to make themselves feel better or to solve a problem.  People buy for the ‘afters’ ie  they go to University because the ‘afters’ can give them better job prospects.  What ‘afters’ are you giving?  What do you ‘leave behind’ after you have made the sale –  a better lifestyle?  more sales/profit?  Really important to identify and communicate it.

How will you sell each product/service? – (to your already identified target market)

Armstrong Beech Marketing Copywriting Sales Sales/Selling

Five Deadly Sales Letter Mistakes

by Ernest W. Nicastro
To be effective your sales letter must be opened, read, believed and acted upon. In order to do this it must attract attention, warm the interest of the reader, create a desire for your product or service and cause your prospect to take positive action.
An effective sales letter, not surprisingly, achieves the same objectives as an effective salesperson and just as there are certain mistakes a salesperson wants to be sure to avoid in the selling process, the same holds true for the writer of sales letters.

Armstrong Beech Marketing Customer Journey Sales

17 tips for selling in a recession

Written a couple of years ago when this latest recession first hit….

Trust is a paradoxical thing. It requires risk-taking when we’re risk-averse. It requires doing the opposite of our first instincts. Recessions are the same. The thing our prospects and clients want to do—cut costs, squeeze suppliers and customers, and scale back plans—paradoxically drives the recession deeper.  Trust is about relationships, not transactions. Thinking of downtimes per se is transactional thinking. Thinking of downtimes as one half of a business cycle is relationship thinking. And it’s what you do in tough times that determines how others trust you in the good times. Trust is based on being willing to put the other’s needs first. But in a recession, the instinct to take care of Number One has the same trust-destroying effect as selfishness does in personal relationships. And it hurts business development in both the short and long run. Building trust in professional services involves four principles: client focus, collaboration, taking the long-term view, and transparency. Here are seventeen trust-based tips for selling in a recession organized around these four principles.

Client-Focus Tips
Tip #1: You’re a practice area head in a professional services firm and project or client
relationship managers report to you. When was the last time you visited your top three or four clients? Go visit, with your client manager. Your agenda? “Just wanted to hear what’s new with you. Besides our own services, what can we do for you?” And don’t even think about charging the time.

Armstrong Beech Marketing Sales Social Media

Linked In tips to get you started – 7 – Sales Acceleration

 7. Sales Acceleration

  1. If you’ve got a meeting with a new client, see what you can learn about them – do you share any connections? What are their hobbies or interests?   Show that you’ve done your homework.
  2. With existing customers/clients, see who they know and ask for a referral if appropriate.
  3. You could search for people in your prospect’s company who are not involved directly in what you do.  If they are a 2nd degree contact, ask for a referral and this is where trusted relationships count for a lot.  You could forward your contact an email asking him/her to on-forward it to your ‘wanted’ contact with a request that they call/email you.  If such a request for contact came from a few sources, then it would be powerful – too many and annoying, though!)
  4. If you have a really good solution/referral to a true ‘friend of a friend’ then it’s a win-win.

If you are running a business within one hour’s drive of UK BA15 2 , and need some support in getting your LinkedIn started, why not use my ‘Getting Started on Linked In’ service – see the Armstrong Beech Marketing website on the right under ‘Marketing Projects’.

Armstrong Beech Marketing Internet Marketing/Social Media Sales

Do you want more sales?

There are only three main ways to increase your sales in your business….
1. Find new customers
2. Get your existing customers to buy more (cross sell and upsell)
3. Get your existing customers to buy more often
With (2) and (3), once you understand why your existing customers buy from you, you can examine ways of getting them to buy more or more frequently (more next time).
Simples…” Or is it?
Finding new customers is expensive. Think about the Banks and the ‘deals’ they offer to entice you to switch accounts to them. How much does it cost them? How much does it cost you? Do you have a sales team/business development people just concentrating on growing your data base and finding new business? Lots of figures around for how much more it costs to sell to a new customer rather than an existing one, but broadly it’s around 10-15% – some research shows a lot more. I attended a webinar this week which suggested it was “25 times easier to sell to an existing customer than find a new one” (no support research for this, however). How much are you spending on finding new business?
Cross Selling: refers to selling items that are complementary to the item your client/customer is purchasing. So then, what if you are a professional practice, how does this work for you? Do you have some larger clients in, for example, London who only use you for a specific discipline of your whole offering. How would it be to expand this? How can you motivate your client to buy from you? What is important for your client? How does he/she think? You need to have genuine interest, really understand your client’s organisation in depth and have built trust with them first.
Upselling: Getting your existing customers to buy more… where you offer your customer an additional product or service at the point that they buy – either a more sophisticated version of what they were going to buy or items that will complement the sale. The purpose of upselling is to build a mutual benefit so that both you and the customer win. Upselling assumes that you have already made/are making the sale – now don’t lose it – the process must never be aggressive.
Because you have already costed in your overheads into the original selling price of the goods or services, the ‘cost’ of the upsell can be relatively inexpensive if offering ‘extras’, eg a second cup of coffee. So even a small additional extra can add up to a valuable profit contribution over time.
We’ve all experienced it :

  • Restaurants/Coffee Shops: would you like to see the dessert menu”? “What size coffee” or “would you like a pastry with that”?
  • McDonalds: Offers to ‘go large’ for fries/coke etc.
  • Laptops: more memory, hard disk, free anti-virus or XX months free insurance
  • Shoe Shops: how many jars/cans of polish do you have in your cupboard?
  • Amazon: suggesting other products/services we would like, based on our previous shopping history;

Selling more often:

  • can you increase the % sales of your service/product to a client?
  • what are the buying patterns of your customers? Have you discussed their needs to see if you can offer additional products/services which would ‘fit’?
  • can you ‘add value’ to your offering to build loyalty and repeat business?

The Maths (kept simple but do apply the principle)
Now: you have 50 customers each spending £500 x 5 times a year equals £125,000
Add: 5% to each you get:
You get: 52.5 customers each spending £525 x 5.25 purchases equals £144,703
What’s so powerful about this is that the increase in turnover is not just 5% but three times this, giving you a huge 15.76% increase in turnover. Try this calculation too: instead of adding 5% to the three elements, add 30% – you’d find you’ve doubled your turnover. What would that do to your profit contribution and bottom line? Food for thought, certainly…