In my career that now spans more than 10 years of experience in sales, one thing that I’ve learned is that prospects don’t like loose ends. Actually, nobody does. And it’s probably the reason why we love follow-up stories so much.
Why do you think we are drawn to high school reunions or the conspiracy theories around the missing flight MH370? What else could have led a record-breaking 19.3 million people to have their eyes glued to the TV screens when the final episode of Game Of Thrones aired on HBO?
And trust me—I’m an account executive (AE)—nobody hates cliffhangers as much as salespeople. Everyone loves a good follow-up and, in the context of B2B sales, it’s a key to bagging lucrative deals.
If you stop to think about it, all things that help you grow your business—marketing, customer service, and sales—require great follow-ups.
As a senior AE at Avoma, I have been selling the value of Avoma to businesses of all sizes across the globe. And thanks to Avoma’s capabilities that allow you to look back at your customer conversations and constantly improve, I have learned a thing or two about leveraging follow-up as a sales technique to meet my quotas.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing some tips based on my first-hand experience on how to effectively follow up with prospects. If you are a fellow AE looking for ways to revive sales conversations with potential customers, I hope these tips will help you.
First, here is a quick breakdown of why you should follow up with prospects more times than you feel comfortable.
The importance of follow-ups in sales
Keeping up with prospects is pretty challenging for most AEs. If you look at insights across the industries, sales reps (on average) usually have about 8 touches with a prospect before they can close a deal.
And as if that weren’t tricky enough, most prospects usually turn down the sales rep 8/8 times when they reach out to them. Statistically speaking, most clients say “no” four times before saying “yes” to your offer.
It’s probably the reason why 44% of sales reps give up on following up with a prospect after just one instance of follow-up.
My suggestion—don’t give up so easily. If you want to advance in your sales career as a pro salesperson, go the extra mile and make that dreadful follow-up call with a great attitude.
Do you know the percentage of sales reps who follow up with prospects six or more times? It’s just 8%. If you want to be in the league of top performers, you have to do what the average 92% of professionals in your line of work don’t do—won’t do or can’t do. It’s what will set you apart from the mediocre.
In my experience, the ninth or tenth follow-up holds the treasure you seek. Everybody appreciates a good follow-up—especially the mature B2B buyers who know the value of thoughtful persistence. And research backs up too: 42% of prospects say that they might make a purchase if the sales rep called back at an agreed-upon time.
Follow-ups work because it’s a way for you to reconnect with customers who have already crossed paths with you in the past. In sales, using that historical context to follow up with prospects always gives you an upper hand in closing more deals. Follow-up is an underrated sales technique that can help you unlock new revenue opportunities hidden in plain sight.
But be warned, there are some complex nuances to following up effectively. Let’s go over them thoroughly in the next section.
Tips for following up effectively with your prospects
An effective follow-up has two main goals to it:
1. It has to offer value with each step
2. It takes the conversation to the next stage
#1 usually contributes to #2. But if your follow-up fails to achieve none of them, it’s not a good follow-up. The next steps usually include scheduling another meeting with the prospects, getting introduced to another stakeholder in their company, getting a trial set up, or agreeing on a timeline to purchase.
In our lingo, we call these crucial follow-up touchpoints “scheduled nest events” or SNEs. It’s a shorthand for making sure you get a follow-up scheduled for each meeting you have and move the deal along.
Can you have a template system or checklist for following up with each prospect? Of course, you can—and the tips in this blog are an attempt to help you do exactly that.
But how to follow up with a prospect, what kind of value to offer, and what the next-step conversation looks like vary from one client to another. Therefore, a lot of things in your follow-up strategy depend on different factors such as the prospect, their use cases, how the initial meeting went, etc.
The good news is—some principles are applicable to all of your follow-ups no matter who the prospect is. For instance, to be really good at being an AE, you have to familiarize yourself with some basic knowledge about human psychology. Buyers are driven by emotions, incentives, and reciprocity. If you can incorporate these things in your sales follow-up template, you win half the battle.
With that, let’s dig into an intriguing psychological hack that can help you improve your follow-up strategy.
Leverage the Zeigarnik effect
The seeds of an effective follow-up are sown much before the follow-up call or email, i.e., during the demo.
Do you find to-do lists helpful in striking through your house chores? Do you toss and turn in bed sleeplessly because you have a big day tomorrow? It might be triggered by the Zeigarnik effect—the psychological tendency that makes you remember tasks or events that are incomplete more easily than tasks that you have completed.
In sales, you can use this to tease prospects to pique their interest in your product or offer. You might have experienced this many times over in your own life. Production houses release captivating teasers of an upcoming movie strategically a few weeks before the movie launch and deliberately leave out critical clues in the promo.
You should design your demos like a movie teaser—thorough enough to give your prospects a good idea about your product and short enough to intrigue them further. That’s how everyone runs a demo at Avoma, including our CEO. Here’s what he has to say about running product demos:
...it’s a false notion to believe that the demo should be run like a training session for your product. A demo is a preview of what your product can do—a glimpse into a world of possibilities that the prospects can unearth if they decide to use it. Simply put, a demo session should be designed like a movie teaser instead of running it like a 120-minutes-movie.
- Aditya Kothadiya, CEO, Avoma
So what’s the benefit of not giving your prospects the full story? There are many benefits—the first being the ability to personalize the demo for the person in front of you.
Most salespeople start to wax eloquent about what their product can accomplish to every prospect that signs up for a demo. In reality, every person/business has a unique set of problems that they want to solve. As an AE, your job is to be able to understand their business use cases and tell them exactly how your product will help them.
A more important benefit of keeping your demo selective is that you can purposely give your prospects an itch to know more about your product—just like how not completing the tasks on your to-do list comes back to haunt you mentally. Remember, the Zeigarnik effect kicks in when you are restless to finish something that’s left undone.
Deliberately leaving out critical details about your product can also help you follow up with prospects more meaningfully after the initial interaction. It gives you a solid reason for you to email them and say:
There’s more to the product than what you saw. I’d love to share them with you. Can we schedule a follow-up sometime soon?
Come to think of it, that’s how most book blurbs, webinars, and events are designed—detailed enough to give your prospects a good idea about your product and short enough to intrigue them further for a later engagement.
Follow up meaningfully
Right after I say my farewell to a prospect, my immediate top priority is to come up with collateral that I think will help them in their research to find a perfect solution to their problem. It can be a link to a blog, an industry whitepaper, an intro to an expert in my network, or something else that can help them further in their exploration.
There’s no hard and fast rule on when you should share the collateral, but it’s important to be timely. For instance, if you mentioned that you would share a content asset with the prospect, you should come through with the promise as soon as possible.
But if it’s a collateral that the prospect isn’t expecting, send it after a few days after your meeting to strategically remind them of your conversation. The more valuable the collateral, the higher their chances of being delighted with it.
If the collateral promotes your product, that’s great. But don’t hold yourself back even if it’s not related to your product—your goal is to be valuable, not promotional. Giving your prospects valuable information is good karma that will pay you back handsomely, even if not immediately.
In our case, it’s easy: I often send my prospects a recording of our meeting immediately after the call. What better way to demonstrate Avoma’s value to prospects than to let them experience it first-hand, right?
Sometimes, I take a short snippet out of the meeting—usually, a question they had about Avoma—and email it to the prospects with a reply to their query. It almost always works—prospects email me back to thank me for clarifying their concern while being able to experience Avoma’s collaborative features. And that gives me more reason to advance the conversation further.
The point here is that you should provide value with each follow-up. Don’t ever send an email or leave a voicemail saying you are “just checking in” with them. You want to establish yourself as a trusted advisor, not a sly salesperson who “checks in” with all of their prospects with the same boilerplate message.
Reaching out to touch base with clients for the sake of it is like eating empty calories—it might make you feel good that you had it in your process but it offers absolutely no value.
What if your prospects don’t respond to follow-ups?
No matter what’s the outcome of your follow-ups, always be respectful to your prospects. Sales is one of the few professions where the odds of winning are really tough—no matter how hard you try. You can be the best salesperson in the world, you might have the best sales pitch or a great product and you might still lose a deal because selling to B2B customers is a long and complicated process.
If you start taking every customer rejection or no-show personally, you will soon be out of your sales job. The fun part about being in sales is accepting the fact that every customer prospecting and follow-up needs more (and probably, a different kind of) effort than the one before that.
And respect doesn’t just mean being polite in the email copy or stuffing “thank yous” and “sorrys” when you call them. I have a personal rule of thumb about calling my prospects only at appropriate times—depending on what time zone they are in.
For instance, I like to call prospects early in the day because it’s the time when most of us aren’t distracted by a dozen things on our calendar. It also gives me enough time later in the day to call again if they don’t answer my earlier call.
I try not to leave a voicemail the first time I call—it’s best to talk to people in real-time and hear from them directly than leave a secondhand message that doesn’t guarantee a response. I leave them a voicemail and send a follow-up email simultaneously as the last resort if I don’t get an answer the second time around.
And if I still don’t hear from them in a day or two, that’s a sign that I need to move on. After exhausting all the steps above, I send a "break up email" to a prospect letting them know that I won’t be reaching out to them again (at least not in the foreseeable future). Usually, it’s an email and the copy reads something like this:
I haven’t heard back from you since my last email and I don't want you to feel like I’m wasting your time.
Is Avoma still something you’re interested in? If not, I want to be respectful of your time and inbox so that I can stop reaching out.
Senior AE, Avoma
Emails can bring the worst of our biases without us realizing it—especially when we are expecting the desired response from a person. It’s easy to come across as passive-aggressive in your breakup email, so you have to be doubly careful in how you phrase your words.
For example: never, ever write an email like this:
If a prospect doesn’t respond to your messages, it could mean one or all of the above things from A through E. It’s understandably frustrating not to know what the exact reason is—but it’s more important that you give the benefit of doubt to your prospects and move on.
In any case, it’s a good thing for you to not waste your time on dud deals and instead pursue prospects that present better opportunities for your business.
Build a habit to analyze your sales calls
One of the tricks that has helped me and my fellow AEs at Avoma improve our follow-up is to look back and analyze previous sales calls and finetune our outreach. And we are lucky that we have an in-house product that lets us do that.
Avoma makes it incredibly easy for you to review your past sales conversations with a prospect and derive valuable insights into what might appeal to them. The revenue intelligence capability in Avoma gives you the complete overview of your pipeline health, helps you identify gaps, and lets you improve your sales efficiency—including follow-ups.
We have already discussed how sharing the meeting recording and Snippets allows the prospects to experience Avoma’s capabilities in a hands-on manner. The transcripts and AI-generated notes are my other favorites because they make it a breeze for you to review your meetings and pick up on small details that you might have missed during the live conversation.
Those details help you understand your prospects better and customize your follow-up to make it more appealing for them to agree to the next course of action.
At Avoma, we have our own version of the ABC framework that we use in our sales follow-ups—it stands for “Always Be Curious.” And listening to recorded conversations allows us to follow our curiosity—sometimes, down to insightful rabbit holes.
Here’s a first-hand example from one of my recent experiences. I had demoed Avoma to a SaaS prospect who was positively intrigued with what our product was capable of doing. She had asked a bunch of questions (generally a good sign) and I had answered all of them diligently—or I thought I did.
But when I sat down to go through the call transcript a few days after the said call, I noticed that she had expressed concerns about the extent of collaboration that was possible in Avoma when her company shared the recordings with external stakeholders (e.g., consultants).
The way she said it…wasn’t phrased like a question, which is why I missed it during the live interaction. But the newfound insight now gave me a valid reason to snip the part where she had mentioned that use case and reach out to her over email with an elaborate answer.
(As a side note, external stakeholders can absolutely view and listen to all of the recordings that you share with them. They just can’t record their own meetings as free users.)
Make your follow-ups count
Let me conclude by reminding you that follow-up is not every AE’s cup of tea. It takes a lot of planning, research, and discipline to pick up the phone or write a great follow-up email. Not every AE follows up with their prospects—and the ones that do, don’t do it as diligently.
Because the average salespeople neglect follow-up as a sales technique, it’s an opportunity for ambitious AEs to use it to improve their sales conversions and level up as A-players. Fortune favors the bold—get over the fear of failure and make fanatical follow-up a non-negotiable part of your sales process. All the best!