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11 Tips why ‘Follow-Through’ is critical to sales success

BY: Mawuli Ocloo

A couple of years ago, I received an invitation from one of my clients that was hosting a golf tournament to come play.  I was excited at the prospect, given the fact that I had lived for more than 10 years near an 18-hole golf course, and indeed, the Hole Two tee was right in front of our house then.  

I had literally watched hundreds of amateurs and professionals play, and therefore this invitation was my opportunity to play a tournament. Equipped with a borrowed set of golf clubs with very little coaching and practice, I entered the tournament.  

Playing the 18-hole was one of the longest days in my life because my game stunk so bad that I returned the highest score ever on that course which in golfing terms is a disaster. 

Let me explain. The main objective of golf is to hit the golf ball into the hole in as few of strokes (swings at the ball) as possible, than your opponent(s). Players start by teeing off from the tee. This involves properly swinging the golf club in order not only to hit the ball as far as possible, but also guide it to where you want to go.   

Then, hitting the ball from the fairway onto the green, making sure you avoid numerous hazards such as water and sand and rough (thick grass). 

So then, what accounted for my disastrous performance on the golf course?  As I found out when I retained the services of a golf instructor to coach me, it was my golf swing.  I neither possessed the golfing technique to ‘properly swing the golf club not only in order to hit the ball as far as possible, but also guide it to where I wanted to go.’  

From my golf coach, I learnt the most important lesson in golfing; the “follow-through” when practicing my swing.  My ‘Aha! Moment’ was when I realised some similarities between the game of golf and selling.

Importance of sales follow-through

In a recent study conducted by National Sales Executive Association which relates to sales follow-up, the following shocking conclusion was arrived at:

• 48 per cent of sales people never follow up with a prospect

• 25 per cent of sales people make a second contact and stop

• 12 per cent of sales people make more than three contacts

• Two per cent of sales are made on the first contact

• Three per cent of sales are made on the second contact

• Five per cent of sales are made on the third contact

• 10 per cent of sales are made on the fourth contact

• 80 per cent of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

The implication of the above findings, therefore, is that staying in touch with prospects and customers is the single biggest sales activity that professional salespeople should be investing their time in.  

The reward to salespeople who invest time in following up on prospects and customers include growing their business, eliminating their competition and becoming a superstar amongst colleagues.

The 11 tips to follow-through  

Here are some things salespeople can do to increase the probability of connecting with their prospects and customers during the follow-through, and increase the likelihood of closing more deals:

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1. First and foremost, create and use a follow-up system to direct and focus your activities properly.  This should include your follow-through goals, prioritisation of prospects as well as the resources required to achieve them.

2. Always agree the next steps with your prospects, and ensure that you are clear on what those next steps are.

3. Make sure you acknowledge and confirm agreed actions by e-mail within a day of the meeting.  This conveys professionalism which builds confidence in your prospect.

4. Send articles, video, audio and other information which might interest prospects. You might include a message such as “I thought you would enjoy this.”

5. You may also wish to send email with a link to an online article that would be of interest to prospects.

6. Reach out to them when there’s a news item which might have an impact on their business.

7. Telephone and visit them regularly to check in on progress and do make sure you ask questions which will help the decision making.  As they say, “out of sight, out of mind.” 

8. Use your company’s monthly e-newsletters to keep you on their minds.

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9. Send them personal and hand-written cards, as well as congratulatory messages on anniversaries (birthdays, marriage etc.) as well as promotions.

10. Make sure you maximise the use of holiday and special days’ greetings cards: Christmas, Easter, Eid, Valentine, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day.

11. Remember your prospects in times of bereavement. Salespeople must understand the importance people attach to the burial of loved ones in Ghana, and by extension your prospects and customers.  Salespeople may want to take a cue from politicians in this direction.

In conclusion, salespeople must understanding that any initial contact with a prospect without a well- planned and sustained follow-through system results in wasted sales opportunities for both salespeople and sales organisations.