Master the Sales Follow-Up: Close Deals Like a Sweet Talking Ninja

Are you a quitter?

When the going gets tough, and the leads get reluctant, do you give up? When a sale wavers, and it’s nearing five do you go home? When they say, “I have to think about it,” do you believe them? When someone can’t talk right now because it’s their kid’s 5th birthday and they’re about to serve the cake, do you let them go?

Do YOU!?

Because you shouldn’t. That’s what a quitter would do. Not a seller. A seller would make that kid wait to get their cake.

Okay, we may be a bit too aggressive here, but the point is, most people give up too soon.

It’s rare for a prospect to respond to a salesperson’s first outreach. So what’s a sales rep to do?

Well, they would follow-up, and then follow up on their follow-ups.

But how many times should you follow-up before moving on, so you’re not a quitter but rather a seller who knows they’ve hit a dead-end?

Here’s a better way of putting that…

How Many Touchpoints Does it Take to Make a Sale?

It can take an average 8 touches to get an initial meeting with a new prospect.

Not make a sale. Just get an initial response.

It takes an estimated 7-13+ touchpoints to build a sales qualified lead.

Not buy something. Just get interested in buying something.

To actually make a sale? That typically takes a lot of touching. We’ve seen it take anywhere from 10 to 60+ touchpoints from start to finish.

Now that’s ridiculous. Trying to get a prospect to convert over 60 different times? Who has time for that? Not us. Or your prospects. After all, there’s cake to be eaten.

So your goal should be to make a sale in as few touchpoints as possible.

To do that takes a true artist.

There is no exact sales follow-up formula. It’s something that is practiced, honed, and perfected through honest handiwork and creative cunning, like a well-trained artist.

Or a well-trained ninja… that paints.

If you take away one piece of advice from our discussion here today, it should be this: Follow-up like Bob Ross paints. Artfully.

So shake off your losses, mix up your outreach, grab your brushes, and hold onto your afros. We’re about to master the art of the sales follow-up.

Always Be Closing

The best place to start any lesson on following up is with our ABCs.

If you don’t know the ABCs of selling, we recommend you head on over to your local Blockbuster and pick up a VHS copy of Glengarry Glen Ross — the classic 90s film about selling real estate.

In it, Alec Baldwin artfully (if not somewhat offensively) motivates a roomful of salesmen to sell better by offering sage wisdom. His advice?

Always Be Closing.”

 This motivational sales mantra is the regimen of winners.

For our purposes here, the ABCs can roughly be translated to “Always Be Following Up.” Or ABFU, for short. As in, Always Be FUing.

No, wait. That’s not appropriate.

What we’re trying to say is don’t quit. That’s the point. When you stop following up, you stop closing, and if you don’t close, there is no sale.

That’s just math.

The First Goal of Following Up: Make Contact

Does the following sound like you: You’ve reached out to a potential customer. Maybe you sent an email. Maybe you called and left a message. Maybe you pinged them on LinkedIn. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself. You’ve done your job. Now you sit back, pop open a bag of Cheetos, take a swig of Yoohoo, and wait for them to respond.

Because the ball is in their court now.

Right?

Wrong!

The ball is ALWAYS in your court.

Here’s a common outbound B2B outreach sequence:

  1. Initial Cold Email: No response.
  2. Follow-Up Email #1: No response.
  3. Cold Call: No one there. Leave message.
  4. Follow-Up Email #2: No response.
  5. Follow-Up Call: Response, but contact not a decision-maker. Get referred to the decision-maker. Start over.
  6. Cold Call Decision Maker: No one there. Leave message.
  7. Follow-Up Email: No response.
  8. Follow-Up Call: Response, but the decision-maker can’t talk now, so schedule an appointment.
  9. Follow-Up Email: Confirm appointment day and time.
  10. Meeting Call: Contact made. Warm lead generated.

 

That sequence took nine touchpoints to just talk to a lead, with one cold email, two cold calls, and six follow-ups.

That’s what it takes to make contact — the first stage of lead generation. The next stage? Qualifying your lead so you can re-initiate contact… over and over and over again until you close.

The Second Goal of Following Up: Qualify Your Leads

Okay, you’ve implemented the 5 surefire strategies to drive leads. So you have some leads. Nice.

But what do you do with them now?

Look at them fondly, trade them with friends, and attach them to your bike spokes?

Nope.

The sole goal of following up isn’t just to initiate a conversation; it’s also to qualify (or disqualify) your leads and send them through your marketing drip and sales funnel.

The end result being where you close.

To successfully get there, you first need to know which type of lead you’re dealing with.

The Difference Between Leads: MQL vs. SQL vs. SAL

There are two types of lead qualification systems.

 

  1. The Subjective Temperature-Based System
  2. The Objective Category-Based System

 

The former is what most people outside your sales department like to use. It essentially involves putting your hand to the forehead of your leads to determine whether they are:

 

  • Hot – Seem very interested in doing business.
  • Warm – Might be interested in doing business.
  • Cold – Not interested in doing business, or don’t even know you exist.

 

But these are really vague qualifiers.

One person’s consideration of a warm lead may be another person’s absolutely freezing.

Just ask someone from Michigan and someone from California how they feel about 50-degree weather.

A far more relevant and effective system is the latter systematic approach based on metrics that track the steps along the customer journey and sorts leads into distinct categories.

These categories are:

 

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
  • Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

MQL

A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is someone who likely isn’t ready to buy yet, but shows potential. They demonstrate interest beyond inbound leads by taking certain actions on your site like viewing pricing pages, reading multiple blog posts, or checking out your About Us page. The likelihood of their becoming a customer is looking good, with the right nurturing.

They are also considered a warm lead.

SAL

A Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) is an MQL that has been researched and vetted and is ready to be handed off from marketing to sales. They have expressed interest in what you offer by reaching milestones set by marketing analytics, like certain site engagements, social media interactions, or micro conversions. They also meet specific sales criteria.

They are considered a hot lead.

SQL

A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is someone who has shown definite interest and is ready to buy. This is displayed by their asking certain, high-value questions or seeking one-on-one interactions.

They are considered very hot leads.

A SQL is closely linked to a SAL. The difference is that a SAL has been accepted by sales for follow up actions, while a SQL has already engaged with sales, such as via a phone call or form request.

At this point, the lead is considered to have converted into an opportunity. From there, they can either become:

 

  • An opportunity in-progress
  • A closed-lost opportunity (i.e., failed to convert into a customer)
  • A closed-won opportunity (i.e., converted into a customer)

 

You’re probably getting bored right about now. Reading about lead qualifications will do that. But, trust us, it’s really important.

Why are these qualifications really important?

Because any true follow-up artist knows that the lead needs to be qualified properly if there is any chance of closing. To get from one category to the next and make a sale, you will need to follow-up repeatedly every step of the way. But to do so effectively, you will want to know what kind of lead they are which will dictate how you talk to them.

How Often Should You Follow-Up

More than you think.

The more you attempt to make contact, the higher the probability that you will make contact.

Our rule of thumb is to follow up as many times as needed until you get a response.

Maybe they’re ignoring you because they’re not interested. Maybe not. The only thing you know for sure is you don’t know until you get a response. So the only outcomes you should settle for are “Yes” or “No.”

Just be aware that sometimes silence can equate to a response. It’s probably safe to assume that after eight follow-ups without a reply, the answer is “No.”

Your follow-up rate should be based on whether you’ve had any previous interaction with the lead — i.e., are they cold, warm, or hot.

If your outreach is completely cold, and you have never interacted with the other person, follow up a maximum of eight times. If no response, they need more nurturing from your marketing team.

If your outreach is warmer, and you have had some form of interaction that was NOT a definitive “no,” then follow up as long as it takes to get a response. Any response. Even if it’s a “no.” Don’t give up until then.

What’s the Right Frequency for Following Up

In terms of frequency, start strong, and decrease over time. Here’s a general outline for timing your follow-ups:

Day 0: Initial Outreach

Day 1: 1st Follow-up

Day 3: 2nd Follow-up

Day 7: 3rd Follow-up

Day 14: 4th Follow-up

Day 28: 5th Follow-up

From There: Once a month

Rember, attitudes change. If someone doesn’t show immediate interest right now, they could change their mind down the road. So play the long game.

Which Follow-Up Method Should You Use: Manual vs. Automatic

Ah yes, the classic scenario of what came first: the ninja or the robot.

Should you manually engage like a disarmingly friendly ninja or blast out automated messages like a stoic robot?

To manually follow up is pretty straightforward.

  1. Pick a lead.
  2. Research their interests and past interactions.
  3. Use that research to tailor your communication to them.
  4. Send it out.
  5. Pick another lead, and do it all over.

 

The manual follow-up emphasizes personalization, sincerity, and legitimacy. But it takes a lot of time and effort. Not to mention managing reminders to follow up on a cadence.

That’s why teams turn to automation.

The automated follow is as follows:

 

  1. Build a follow-up sequence.
  2. Have it automatically sent out to leads as they roll in or meet specific trigger criteria.

 

The automated follow-up emphasizes outreach at scale, optimizing time and resources. But it foregoes some of that personal touch.

So which is right for you?

Luckily, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Add manual best practices to automated sequences, and you’re left with the ultimate follow-up method: a ninja robot… that paints.

(For initial reach-outs, we do recommend highly customized manual outreach)

Not being ninja-like is one of the main reasons why automated cold email prospecting fails. Another is not properly configuring CRMs — like SalesForce and HubSpot — to generate automated sequences tailored to each lead.

There’s also a third reason and it is….

Don’t Rely Just on Email for Following Up

Email is the bedrock of outreach. But it’s not the only game in town.

There is a reason why multichannel marketing is so important. Targeting multiple channels provides multiple touchpoints for closing multiple customers. After all, out of sight, out of mind. So never be out of sight, and you will always be on their mind.

Be sure to implement as many channels as possible into your follow-up strategy. For example:

 

  • Email – A long-term play that leaves the prospect in control of when and how they respond (if at all). Ideal for nurturing MQLs into SQLs.
  • Phone Call – A more direct approach that’s a little more intrusive but can get a faster response than an email. Ideal for turning SALs into SQLs.
  • SMS – A more informal approach that is less intrusive than a call but more direct than an email. It can be borderline stalking unless you’ve previously built-up a relationship—ideal for SQLs.
  • Social Media – A short-term “soft contact” that opens the door for more direct contact. Also known as social selling. Ideal for nurturing leads into MQLs and MQLs into SQLs.
  • Direct Mail – A more personal touch that supersedes digital clutter, like a handwritten note or creative mailer. Best if only performed once. Ideal for turning Unqualified Leads and MQLs into SQLs.
  • In-Person Visit – This is the most direct approach that forces an answer. Tricky to pull-off but provides the most personal touch. Works with any type of lead when there’s nothing left to lose.

As you can see, there’s more than one way to sell a lead.

Diversify Your Touchpoints and Be Consistent

Most people will contact someone once on one channel and call it a day. That’s leaving opportunity on the table.

If you figure it will take eight touchpoints to make contact with a prospect, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Approach them from multiple channels, interspersed with one another. Remember, multichannel marketing is the key.

For example:

 

  • 3 Emails
  • 2 Calls (and Voicemails)
  • 2 LinkedIn Messages
  • 1 Direct Mail

 

A multichannel follow-up approach like this helps prevent “banner blindness” and keeps your messaging fresh.

We get it.

You don’t want to be a pain in the a$$.

No one wants to run the risk of scaring off potential customers by being annoying. But this fear is unfounded. If someone is that sick of your follow-ups, they will tell you or unsubscribe. That’s the absolute worst thing that will happen. We promise. And it’s actually a good thing. Because now you can move on to the next prospect.

 So, we ask you, are you reaching out to your leads enough?

Basho Them Over the Head With Awesome Sales Emails

The ‘BASHO email’ is a highly personalized email directed at decision-makers with the purpose of setting up a meeting. It was developed by world-renowned sales trainer and entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman while working with the BASHO brand, hence the name.

Although BASHO is typically used in cold email outreach, its methodologies can be applied to all forms of business communication, including follow-ups.

BASHO outreach can be seen as a three-step process:

 

  1. Research – The first and most important step. Know thy lead. Scan blogs, company About pages, and social profiles (like LinkedIn and Twitter) to find out what you can about the lead.
  2. Pinpoint Talking Points – Highlight anything that stands out as either a lead’s personal interest or achievement that you can reference.
  3. Reach Out with Referencing – Craft a communication (email, social post, call, handwritten letter, whatever) using what you’ve found. Convey what you know in an authentic, approachable way.

 

Additionally, your communication should have a relatable subject line, strong hook, and clear CTA. Oh yeah, and keep your follow-ups short and sweet.

Here’s an example of BASHO email in action:

Subject: I heard you need a clean up on aisle 5

Dear Mr. Scott,

I read your book ‘Somehow I Manage’ and found it very compelling. I couldn’t agree more that toxic work culture is the worst. After finishing, I had to reach out. I called your office yesterday but wanted to follow-up via email in case that was easier.

While reading your book, I couldn’t help but notice how much you enjoy eating bacon in bed—me too! So much so I started a company that makes pillows that also grill food. We call it My Grillow.

If you’re interested, I would love to show you how My Grillow can improve your bed’n’bacon needs.

Do you have time this week for a 15-minute phone call to discuss?

Sincerely,

Danny

Short. Sweet. BASHO-y.

Conclusion: Don’t Give Up, Follow-Up

You don’t look like a quitter.

You look like a seller.

A seller who closes deals.

You’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, so that alone tells us you don’t quit easily.

It was a test—this entire post.

And you passed.

Congratulations! You are now a certified master of the follow-up arts. A graduate of MFU, if you will. Now, go forth and peddle.

Just remember our advice in the beginning about Bob Ross and being artful and remember to keep the following in mind when following up:

Ninja hard. Personalize often. Qualify properly. And, above all else, always be FUing.

Want more help with your outreach? Let’s talk.

Create a Sales-Driven Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

Previously we discussed the importance of multichannel marketing, how to do it correctly, and why it’s so much better than watching PBS.

But that was just the first step towards developing an epic omnichannel marketing strategy to grow your business sales. Now we take things to the next level.

In that prior discussion, we concluded multichannel marketing looks like this:

Not too shabby.

But as good as that is, we can do better.

A lot better.

So today, we’re going to turn your marketing strategy from that into this:

That’s right, a cat riding a sloth riding a dinosaur surrounded by pizza, ice cream, donuts, and In-N-Out Burger standing in a celestial realm encircled by a rainbow.

Or as we like to call it: Omnichannel Marketing.

(And yes, to answer your question, you can get that image on a T-Shirt.)

What is Omnichannel Marketing?

Omnichannel marketing breaks down as follows:

 

  • Omni, as in “of all things, ways and places.”
  • Channel, as in “a passageway providing access to specific ends or objects.”
  • Marketing, as in “that thing you do to promote your business and make lots of money so you can buy more pizza and donuts.”

 

Put those three things together, and what do we have?

The Holy Trinity of Laser Animals.

Also…

An interconnected content strategy that reaches your target audience across all possible channels and touchpoints to improve customer experience, enhance brand awareness, and drive higher sales.

In other words, omnichannel marketing is a seamless branded experience relevant to the buyer’s journey across every channel.

That’s the gist of it.

Though the concept of sales-driven omnichannel marketing is probably best grasped by comparing it to what it is not.

Omnichannel Marketing vs. Multichannel Marketing

People often confuse “multichannel marketing” with “omnichannel marketing.” These are not the same. And should not be treated as such.

Though to be fair, they do share some very close similarities.

For example, omnichannel and multichannel strategies both focus on using multiple channels to reach customers.

You can see where the confusion might stem.

So it’s probably best to try and not think of them as two individually distinct strategies, but rather an extension of one another. Think of omnichannel marketing as the evolution of multichannel marketing into something more powerful, effective, and awesome.

Just like how this….

Eventually evolved into this…

Another good way to understand the difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing is to look at their definitions:

 

  • Multichannel marketing is the ability for a brand to communicate with customers on various, separate platforms. These channels include a retail location or a website or an Instagram feed or print ad, etc…
  • Omnichannel marketing is the ability for a brand to communicate seamlessly with customers by integrating those various platforms into a singular branded experience.

Here’s that difference visualized:

Omnichannel marketing shifts the way people progress through the sales funnel. Instead of linearly sending them from top to bottom, it puts the customer at the center, allowing them to interact with a brand anytime, anywhere.

Consider these two scenarios:

 

  • Scenario 1: A consumer sees an Instagram post from a brand and “likes” it. Later, that same consumer sees an ad for the brand and visits their website to learn more. A couple of days later, the consumer visits the brand’s retail store and buys a product. Three channels. Three interactions. Three separate results. That’s the end of their relationship.
  • Scenario 2: A consumer sees an Instagram Story about a particular product from a brand and clicks it. They are brought to the product page on the brand’s website, where they are prompted to download a mobile app to receive an immediate discount on that product. They do so and are brought to the product page on the app. They use the discount to buy the product on the app, but choose to pick it up in-store to avoid paying for shipping. At the same time, they receive in-app reward points from the purchase that they can use for discounts on future purchases online or in-store. Four channels. Four interactions. One result. Their relationship remains open.

 

Can you tell which scenario utilizes omnichannel and which uses multichannel?

(Hint: It’s the second scenario.)

In scenario number one, each channel funnels the consumer towards different results that don’t integrate with one another and don’t keep the consumer engaged beyond their respective interactions.

In scenario number two, each channel is seamlessly integrated to funnel the consumer towards one singular result while simultaneously keeping them engaged once that result is completed.

This creates a unified experience.

Three Popular Brands Absolutely Nailing Omnichannel Marketing Right Now

There are few better real-world examples of omnichannel marketing in action than the following three brands.

Disney Parks: Omnichanneling Magical Moments

From its well-designed mobile-responsive website to its interactive My Disney Experience mobile app to its implementation of Magic Bands, Disney seamlessly integrates on every level. And that’s just at its theme parks.

Disney takes the cake when it comes to unifying online and offline marketing channels to create a more engaging branded experience. And when you consider the epic cross-promotion created by its vast number of branded entities, spanning film, TV, retail, and travel, few companies on this planet can match Disney’s omnichannel omnipotence.

Starbucks: A Venti Sized Omnichannel Approach

Starbucks is a leader in omnichannel marketing, thanks in large part to one thing and one thing alone: Loyalty Programs. While it might seem like run-of-the-mill these days for a business to offer a rewards program, there’s a reason for that. Starbucks showed the way.

By enabling customers to earn points, order drinks, design drinks, get discounts, and find deals tailored to their preferences — via phone, app, web, or in-store — Starbucks encourages cross-channel engagement like any good omnichannel strategy should.

Apple: Thinking Omni-Differently

Apple is proof that brick and mortar isn’t dead. In fact, they’ve reinvented it with an omnichannel twist into “click and mortar.”

Apple Stores are all about showcasing the experience of using Apple products. Knowing customers can (and mostly do) shop online, making a sale in-store is less important to them. Instead, they use an offline brand touchpoint to enhance their online sales funnel, tying everything together with consistent branding across every channel.

Okay, so you get it.

Disney, Starbucks, and Apple are slowly taking over the world, thanks to omnichannel marketing.

Big whoop.

Why should you care?

You’re not getting any of that Frozen money.

Well, we can glean a few key things from these three that will help your business omnichannel. And that you should very much care about.

5 Things Required for Your Omnichannel Strategy to Work

Several factors go into implementing a successful omnichannel strategy. Without these, your efforts will fall flat.

No one wants that.

So here are five things to ensure that doesn’t happen. Even better, these seemingly simple principles will help your business grow with a vengeance. All you need to do is apply them to your omnichannel workflow.

1. Remain Customer Focused

Multichannel marketing is sales-driven and channel-focused. It seeks to deliver sales via as many channels as possible. This is a short term approach. Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, is a longer-term, brand-driven, customer-focused approach. It seeks to build a relationship with customers by inter-relating those channels around a singular brand message. Starbucks’ loyalty program is a perfect example, as is pretty much everything Apple does.

2. Prioritize Consistency Over Conversions

Take it from Disney and Apple, delivering the same brand messaging across all channels does wonders. Apple Stores aren’t designed to drive sales; they are designed as an in-person touchpoint with its brand. Consistency is more profitable for them than someone dropping by to buy a computer and then never returning.

Similarly, ad campaigns built solely around generating one-off conversions can result in jumbled messaging from one campaign to the next and a disjointed customer experience across channels. But focusing all your campaigns around a consistent brand image can be far more effective. Do that, and conversions will follow. (So long as you have a brand that speaks to your audience.)

3. Synergize Your Team
Creating consistency begins and ends with your team. From PR to social media to sales and development, they all need to be on the same page. Departments should have the freedom to innovate individually, but everyone needs to collaborate before engaging the customer on any channel when all is said and done. Need a template? Try Steve Jobs’ Collaborative Framework.

4. Make Engagement Effortless

Omnichannel marketing should foster an effortless buying experience. The Starbucks app makes it super easy to order a drink. Disney’s Magic Bands are a digital swiss-army knife for vacationing. Apple Stores provide full, transparent access (hence the massive glass facades), letting customers effortlessly walk off the street and play with their products. Ask yourself, how can you, too, make your buying experience more effortless for your customers?

5. Put Unity Before Omneity

When starting with an omnichannel approach, don’t try and integrate “all” the marketing channels in existence into your marketing mix, at least not at first.

Instead of trying to streamline your strategy across ALL channels, unify your marketing across the BEST channels for your business. In fact, omnichannel marketing would probably be better referred to as “unichannel marketing.” Alas, the marketing industry didn’t ask our opinion when it was handing out names, so here we are.

What’s the main takeaway from these principles?

There are certainly right and wrong ways to implement omnichannel marketing.

Disney, Starbucks, and Apple are doing it the right way. Keep these principles at the forefront of your approach.

But where should you start?

Start Omnichannel Marketing Through Omnicampaigning

Studies show that businesses implementing omnichannel marketing see customer retention increase by 91% and 287% higher purchase rates.

Despite that, over 50% of companies have no cross-channel strategy in place.

So there’s definitely an opportunity for improvement.

Of those businesses not performing omnichannel marketing, 64% cite a lack of resources and investments as the biggest barrier. That’s fair. But not a reason not to try.

In fact, the evolution into omnichannel marketing can have a minimal to no cost impact when done right. But to make the transition easier and smoother, for any budget, we suggest a smaller-scale approach to first get a taste of the benefits omnichannel marketing can provide.

That means starting simply with something we like to call “omni-campaigning.”

What’s omni-campaigning?

It takes the broader key principles that we shared for omnichannel marketing above and applies them at a smaller campaign level.

Take a product. Any product.

You’re promoting it on several different channels, right? Say organic search, a Facebook ad, email, and Amazon. Each of those channels requires you to create a campaign. An organic campaign. A Facebook ad campaign. An email campaign. An Amazon campaign. All are promoting the same product, just through multiple channels.

But instead of building each of those campaigns separately, one-at-a-time, you create them all at the same time, with similar messaging that ties into one another. The result is one extensive campaign relying on multiple channels.

That’s omni-campaigning.

Same budget. Same resources. Same number of channels. Different approach.

It’s a soft entry into building an omnichannel business.

There’s a good chance you’re already doing something similar to this. If you add a dose of branding to all your marketing, you are already dipping your toes into omnichannel marketing.

From there, expand that branding using additional marketing channels to create singularly focused campaigns around the brand. And this even includes Amazon, where users typically have less control over ad creative but can more than makeup for it by building their brand story with A+ Content and ALO.

Track results. Adjust accordingly. And scale upwards as your profit margins increase.

It’s a systematic omni-approach that can work for every brand.

You don’t need to build a glassy retail store full of geniuses, design an immersive app that conjures coffee, or buy Lucasfilms to succeed in omnichannel marketing. You can start small and simply by seamlessly integrating your current different campaigns into one.

Test it out.

You might be surprised to find that it only takes a slight realignment to go from a good multichannel marketing approach to an awesome omnichannel marketing strategy.

And shoot rainbow lasers from your eyes.

Unsure if shooting rainbow lasers from your eyes is a good thing?

Yes, it is.