"How Often Should I Follow Up?"


“Jeff, how often should I call on or visit a prospect?  I don’t want to be a pest…”

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?  We’ve been called on and bothered by salespeople our entire lives.  Let’s face it, we’re never really that enthused about it.  It’s one of the things that turns most people off to salespeople, and a big reason most people are not interested in selling for a living.  Yet, we know that persistence is a major key to success in any endeavor.  We’re told that it takes upwards of thirteen touches before a sale is made.

How do we balance these concepts?  How do we avoid burning a bridge down before it is even built?  Like most things, it’s helpful to take a step back and look from a different perspective.

Frequency Is Not The Real Issue

Let’s imagine this scenario…  Your local newspaper calls you once a week to ask you to subscribe.  They serve up a bland pitch that talks about all of the readership, their history in the community, online content, daily and weekly subscription options, etc…  Essentially they’re telling you how great they are, and they think that translates into why you should subscribe.  After a few weeks of hearing them brag about themselves, you’re eventually going to block the number.  You don’t want to hear from these pests anymore.

Let’s take a similar situation…  You get a call from the local newspaper about subscribing.  Instead of a blanket pitch full of stats and features, the woman on the other end of the line offers to send you a link to an article from a new writer for the business section.  This new writer is focused on small businesses just like yours, and the paper is focused on creating new sections to better serve niches like this. She thinks you might find value in taking a look.  The very next day, you get another call from her.  This time it’s about a feature they did about a new restaurant in town that’s getting rave reviews.  Based on some of your social media activity, she thinks you might like to read it.  The next day, you get an email from her with a testimonial from a relatively new subscriber who was skeptical at first, but absolutely loves what the paper is doing these days, and how the price of the subscription is more than worth it.

What It Comes Down To Is Value

I don’t work for a newspaper company, and a daily cadence might be a bit much, but I think it’s illustrative in this situation.  Which of those two salespeople would you rather hear from?  The regularity of the interactions isn’t nearly as significant as the quality of those interactions.  The second salesperson is talking about how I would benefit from being a subscriber, not trying to convince me I should subscribe.  It’s a subtle difference, but one that changes the complexion of the entire sales process.

Think About What You’re Doing

Contrary to what you may think, most salespeople are rule followers.  With something as complex and challenging as professional selling, the first thing you’re going to do is look for a ‘cookbook’ for some guidelines.

“Here, staple a business card to this shiny brochure, and drop it off at a client’s office…”

“Use this slide deck for your demo…”

“Here’s a list of leads, start dialing…”

“We created these talking points so you could use them and be effective right out of the gates…”

Really?  What have you learned?  You take those talking points and you just start spewing them to anyone who will listen, but you’ve never taken the time to think about what you’re actually saying, let alone what your product actually does.  How do you expect to actually serve someone if you have nothing but talking points?

This is where the best salespeople actually become rule breakers.  Real sales effectiveness becomes apparent when the outcomes are presented, not just the company line.  Understand the real value of what you represent, and then show your prospects how they will benefit from the service.  Dig a little deeper.  Put some thought into it.  Most salespeople don’t do the hard prep work necessary to make the selling part easy.

What Are You Really Trying To Accomplish?

Your job in sales is not to talk about features and benefits.  It is to understand the outcomes achieved by doing business with you, and communicating that potential to your customers.  When they understand how they win, you win.  Ultimately, I think the more often you can provide value, the better.  From the prospecting stage of the sales process all the way through to developing customer loyalty.

The frequency of the message is not nearly as important as the perceived value of the message.  Understand this concept, and you’ll never be considered a pest again.

Go out there and be great.