A great vending, micro market or office coffee service account executive (AE) does three things.
- They rehearse in their car before a presentation. This is much easier to do now because of hands free cell phones. In the past, other drivers thought you might be crazy because you were talking to yourself in an animated fashion. Today, nobody knows.
- They critique their own performance after a sales presentation. Self-evaluation is important and if you know you made a tactical error, fess up to yourself. I have been known to give myself a good talking to in the car after a meeting. It works.
- Most importantly…they follow-up skillfully – after a new lead comes in and after a sales presentation.
Ray Leone, CEO at The Leone Resource Group, says follow-up is basic to selling, but poses a broader question. “Why don’t the prospects respond?” asks Leone. “The seller must bring up something that causes the prospect to see them not as a seller, but as a valued resource that always brings something of value.”
Ray is on target of course, but despite the value presented, have you ever heard this from an account executive: “The initial meeting was awesome, but now, I can’t reach the prospect.” Read on and learn what to do when the prospect suddenly goes missing and silent – when your AE hears nothing but crickets during follow-up attempts.
AE Follow-up Strategies
Over the last several years, Jon Fishman and I developed some creative and effective follow-up strategies. These fundamental and often creative follow-up techniques will result in more closed deals. These techniques are not about manipulation, but instead, about keeping your prospect focused on your company’s program amid a dizzying array of distractions.
When considering follow-up, there is the intolerable, the bad, the good and the best possible follow-up.
First, the Intolerable…
#1 - No Follow Up at all
Opportunities should not be wasted. Being too busy, or too lazy, or too distracted to follow up on a lead or to follow up on a pending deal is intolerable – a big reason why sales managers need to track follow up activity.
#2 – The Relentless Follow Up
There is a fine line between a consistent follow up effort and coming off like a stalker. Leaving voicemails or e-mails every two days is not a good idea.
Same goes for repeated, non-compelling voice mails, which takes us to #3.
#3 – The Lame Follow Up
After returning from an industry show, I received the following voice mail – in a listless monotone - every week for six weeks.
“Hi Bob. We met at the NAMA show and you visited our booth. I just wanted to reach out and see if you might be interested in our services.”
Seriously – once a week for six weeks.
#4 - The Immediate Follow Up
Every sales lead has a cost, whether it is generated from telemarketing, direct mail, search engines, strategic partners or a client referral. If an account executive is fortunate enough to have lead support, you should expect them to respond to an incoming lead immediately. This means that your account executives need to stay connected all the time. That includes nights, days off and vacations. That may be an unpopular opinion, but commission driven people need to have that mentality, or they need to be on someone else’s team.
#5 – The Fundamentally Strong Follow-Up
Your AE met with the prospect on Thursday and promised to connect with them for a follow-up presentation early next week. Friday morning, they should send the following e-mail or something similar to it.
Thanks for meeting with me yesterday. It was exciting to see the positive response to our products among your employees.
It is clear to me that we will not only be able to improve your program, but will save you money at the same time.
In line with your request, I will reach out early next week so that we can compare our calendars to set up a proposal meeting.
Have a great weekend.
After calling on Monday and getting voicemail, they send the following e-mail:
I hope you had a great weekend.
Regarding our next meeting, I am available to meet with you on Wednesday at 10:00 AM or 2:00 PM or Thursday at 9:30 AM or 1:30 PM. I am also available for a lunch meeting on Tuesday or Friday at 12 Noon. Which day and time is better for you?
Of course, always offer multiple options. Once the prospect confirms, a calendar invitation is sent.
This fundamentally solid follow up should lead to a closed deal on the next visit.
What to do when your AE hears nothing but crickets
After a great meeting, your AE sent the follow up e-mail. Now the prospect has gone missing. The AE is unable to reach them by phone and there was no response to their e-mail effort.
Your company has moved down on the prospect’s priority list and your AE needs to take steps to fix that.
#6 – The Important Question Follow Up
The AE should reach out by phone and/or e-mail and let the prospect know that they have an important question to ask them regarding the proposal.
Hi Connie: I have an important question for you relating to our proposal. I know you are busy, but could you please give me a quick call if possible? Depending on your answer, I may have some information for you that will really make our proposal even more attractive.
Your AE may not even know what that important question is, but they will think of something. Maybe a yes answer means a free product bonus or a 5% discount. Typical important questions:
- Do you have over 100 employees?
- Are you planning to grow by more than 10% in staff size next year?
- Are you able to add beverages and snacks to your product list?
The objective is simple – resume the dialogue.
#7 – The Urgent Incentive Follow Up
The prospect is still missing or the AE could not close the deal in that second meeting.
Hi Connie: I have great news for you. Remember when you mentioned that you would like to get a new program in place by the end of next month? Now, there is a really good reason to make that happen. Because of our buying power, we are offering a special incentive for all new accounts that are installed by October 25th. Let’s get together this week to talk about it so that you can take advantage of this offer.
#8 – The Special Perk Follow Up
If you are not violating a company policy by offering some form of schmoozing, then inviting the prospect for a round of golf, to a lunch or to a sporting event can make the difference. While Connie
might not be excited about making your program a top priority right now for many reasons, the offer of four tickets to a WNBA game could have her dialing AE’s number.
#9 – The Threatened Visit Follow Up
The prospect is still unreachable, the proposal is on the table – it’s a no-brainer to say yes to your proposal, but the deal is not going to happen unless your AE can connect with the client. This particular approach is so awkward, it often generates a response.
Hi Connie: I will be in your area next Tuesday around 11:00 AM for a meeting. I am so close to your office I plan to swing by to see if you are available so we can wrap up the details on your program and set an installation date. Better yet, I can pick up a couple of salads and we can roll up our sleeves and have a working lunch. Please let me know if you have any preferences on the salad. I’m getting Chicken Caesar for myself.
#10 – On the Spot Follow-Up
No follow-up needed at all is the best scenario. That is because your AE has taken advantage of the positive buzz at the first meeting to set the proposal meeting on the spot. They even sent a calendar invite right from their phone, right in front of the prospect. If they can’t close the deal in the first meeting, this is the next best thing.
Your AE can still be successful without rehearsal and self-evaluation – but without skillful follow-up, they will lose deal after deal. As owners and managers, we tend to evaluate AE on quantifiable data – lead acquisition, number of appointments, pending deals and of course, new accounts sold. Follow up techniques are the critical and intangible, often neglected by sales managers. For better results, focus on follow-up strategies and add these creative solutions to your playbook.
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Over the last 37 years, Bob has sold video games, cigarette machines, cranes and juke boxes to bars and amusement centers, full line vending to public locations and office environments, pay telephones to retailers, coffee service to thousands of office locations and of course, micro-markets. He has a very successful track record as key strategist, sales trainer and media manager under the title, "Director of Business Development" for World Wide Vending and Gourmet Coffee Service.