Sales advice

Years ago, I received some excellent sales advice at a networking event. The guidance was related to the number of times you should follow up with a prospect. We all struggle with this, right? How many times is too many? How will we know if we’re annoying them?

Here’s the ‘Three Strikes Your Out’ rule.

Assuming you have permission to follow up with someone, whether inferred or direct, give them three opportunities to respond to your phone call, e-mail, or message.

The first time, remind them what you talked about, that you’re following up, and you’d like to either meet them or speak to them again. If you want to make it extremely easy for your prospect, suggest a few times over the next week that you’d be able to schedule the next meeting. Then, wait a few days for them to respond.

After a few days up to a week:

  1. Send a second e-mail or make a second phone call.
  2. Remind them once more that you are following up.
  3. Remind them what you discussed previously and that you had agreed to meet or talk again.

You’re just trying to set up that next meeting or discussion. Again, offer a few days and times for the next meeting.

The third time is critical. It’s the last time you’ll be following up, so your message will be different.

Here’s an example:

Hi Mary,

I know you are incredibly busy, and I certainly don’t want to waste your time. I also don’t want to turn into an annoyance by filling your inbox with numerous e-mails. So rest assured, this will be my last e-mail until I hear back from you. 

As I’m sure you remember, we talked about meeting to discuss a possible project with your team, and I certainly want to help you in any way I can. If you still want to meet, please let me know. I don’t want to keep pestering you.

Thanks so much for connecting, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Most Sincerely,

This last message leaves the ball in their court. In my experience, either you’ll receive a response immediately, or you’ll hear nothing. Either way, you’ll have an answer.

This process has been valuable to me, and I’m genuinely grateful to the salesman who offered it to us years ago as new coaches. But that’s where my gratitude ended.

Fifteen years ago, I started my coaching business, and 15 years ago, this sales professional (we’ll call him Brian) told me I would fail. Statistically, new businesses fail 50% of the time in the first year. In the first five years, the number jumps to 95%.

Brian wanted to sell me a sales training course which would cost me thousands and focused on:

  • high-pressure sales
  • overcoming objections
  • convincing them they needed you
  • showing them how they couldn’t afford NOT to hire you
  • speaking to their pain
  • if you didn’t close the deal then, you’d lose it

Not only did this go against everything I believed, but I could also tell he was using this process on me. When he told me I couldn’t succeed without this sales process, I politely told him to ‘WATCH ME.’

So Brian, here I am, 15 years later. I’ve exceeded $1M in sales WITHOUT your high-pressure process. More importantly, I was able to help people when they were ready and committed to the help, not because they felt pressured. I’m going to call that a success!.’

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Lynn Zettler is an Executive and Leadership Coach specializing in helping to create amazing leaders with excellent communication skills, exemplary accountability cultures, and impactful strategic plans.

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