A great sales pitch doesn’t always result in a signed contract. That’s why it is important to have a follow-up strategy in place to help close the deal.
In sales, the only thing better than drafting a solid proposal that meets a prospective client's needs is getting a signed contract that allows work to begin. But the road from pitch to project often requires patience, focus and a sense of humor.
"When sellers leave a prospect's office without having the next step lined up, they run the risk of falling into a black hole," says Jill Konrath, a St. Paul-based sales trainer and author of the book "Selling to Big Companies." "These days, clients are totally overwhelmed, and their priorities tend to change day-to-day. That's why it is the seller's responsibility to stay in touch with them and, in effect, be their conscience about moving things forward."
Still, the active pursuit of closing a sale is often a fine line between persistence and annoyance. To help successfully navigate that path, Konrath suggests the following tips:
Become a resource. In today's frenetic business environment, it's often hard to reach prospects and harder still to hold their attention. So, instead of follow-up contacts making rote inquiries about a proposal's status, try delivering new information or data – such as recent white papers, statistics or industry news – that will enhance your value.
Leverage several entry points. As a general rule, it's bad sales strategy to have just one access point to a company. To avoid that trap, identify and build multiple relationships in an organization.
Have a sense of humor. After a half-dozen or so follow-up contacts, Konrath says a little humor can go a long way. "This is where you can try leaving a message like, `I know you're swamped. But I also know that shortening your sales cycle is important to you. That's why I keep bugging you. I'm looking forward to FINALLY reconnecting,'" she says.
Re-evaluate the initial pitch. If momentum stalls, it's time to look for ways to increase a prospect's sense of urgency. This may involve taking a second look at the sales proposal and comparing it with the client's current business priorities. Then, tailor follow-up contacts on how the product or service in question can directly enhance critical business outcomes.
Let them off the hook. If all else fails, it's often a good idea to send the prospect a short e-mail, in which you note that you may have misread the original level of interest. "Believe it or not, this strategy often gets a response and an explanation from a prospect who is feeling guilty about not reconnecting," says Konrath.