I talk a lot about the importance of having a next scheduled calendar event secured before you leave the interaction you’re in. One of the other critical success factors for great opportunity management and artful selling is something that doesn’t get the attention it deserves and that is the follow up sales email.
Throughout the sales process there’s a lot of information exchanged, knowledge shared, opinions expressed and commitments made over time. There also tends to be a great deal of emotion. One of the pitfalls salespeople face is believing they have received a specific commitment the client didn’t actually make. Another is extracting a commitment from client only to see it change or disappear over time. Artful selling requires moving from the subjective to the objective; from opinion to fact; and moving from what we believe to be true to what we can validate is true.
When I am doing an opportunity review, one of the questions I ask salespeople often is ‘What evidence can you provide to validate the client’s need, timeline, and buying process?‘
This questions cause salespeople a lot of heartburn because they often interpret it as a challenge of their honesty. In fact, I am trying to ensure the information they are acquiring is actually the information the prospect provided as well as to ensure we have a way to hold the prospect accountable to that commitment over time. For me, the concept of evidence is not designed to disprove the salesperson, but rather to avoid a natural tendency towards hearing things we want to hear (known as ‘happy ears’) as well as ensure momentum in the sales process.
Absent a conversation focused on evidence, salespeople tend to talk about what they believe happened in the meeting based on what they heard the prospects say. Often, they point to their notes from the meeting but little to no evidence exists from the prospect.
This brings us to the concept of the follow up sales email which is a critical step in the sales process and represents one of the simplest and most powerful forms of evidence we can use when evaluating opportunity and when working with a client to ensure momentum of a particular deal.
This practice is very simple. Once we move past our first scheduled meeting – into discovery or solution presentation – every single subsequent scheduled conversation should be concluded with the commitment to deliver a follow-up sales email. A follow up up email represents a tangible form of communication sent to the prospect (as well as all attendees) and outlines exactly what was discussed, what information we gathered, and specific commitments made. Finally, effective follow up emails should include a request of the prospect to formally respond to that email indicating that we got it right or letting us know where we were off base.
It’s a powerful way to both manage the sales process and to hold our clients accountable, to ensure that what we’re hearing them say is what they are intending, and also to provide a means for them to remember information they shared or commitments that they made.
Sending follow up emails is a simple but powerful tool for maintaining momentum in the sales process. Unfortunately, it’s one that is not used all that often. I hope you’ll use this as a strong suggestion to use follow up sales emails to conclude every one of your scheduled interactions.
By Townsend Wardlaw