When Shall I Check Back With You?
By Peter L DeHaan
months ago, I was doing research on some specialty software for my
industry. The general promise was that this class
of software would streamline and integrate operations, as well as
provide the ability to offer new services. With all its promises
and pretension, I suspected that it would likely be pricey as well.
not dream a little, I reasoned? It wouldn’t hurt to get prices.
Perhaps I would be pleasantly surprised. I found a resource guide
that compared the key factors of the major players’ offerings.
Using a couple of basic screens to limit the roster of some thirty
providers, I quickly narrowed the list down to four promising
contenders. To be efficient, I sent an email to each of them,
asking the entry-level price and sharing my contact information.
chose to request pricing for two reasons. Firstly, if it was
astronomical, I could quickly opt out of further interaction and not
waste any more time – mine or theirs. The other reason was that I
expected a query about pricing to invite dialogue, thereby allowing
me to learn more about the product and the company behind it.
Although I could have chosen a more formal approach and submitted at
RFP (Request for Proposal), preparing it would have taken up a great
deal of my time, most likely exposing my naiveté and producing reams
of largely worthless documents – not to mention demanding a lot from
these vendors. (Now you know what I think about RFPs.)
merely sent an email asking for their entry-level pricing. Of the
four, one responded almost immediately, two the next day, and one
never answered my query. All three of the responses contained a
terse statement of price. Only one asked a solitary follow-up
question, and no one attempted to enter into further dialogue.
Another promised to send me a demo – but never did. For the third,
I needed clarification on his poorly worded message, which garnered
me another brusque email.
one did any follow-up – ever. Although my initial communication was
via email, I conspicuously provided both my phone number and mailing
address. Sadly, there was nary an email message, phone call, or
mailing. It doesn’t even appear that I have been added to any
marketing databases for any future sales efforts or routine
the three prices, one was too high for consideration, the second was
also shocking, although feasible if the software proved as
compelling as promised, and the third, although also high, was not
unrealistically so. The bottom line is that had either of these
later two software packages lived up to their grand pronouncements,
I would have made a purchase, most likely within the month. But we
will never know, because no one bothered to follow up with me.
Frankly, I am perplexed. At a price point comparable to a decent
used car, you would think that there would be sufficient motivation
to diligently pursue all possible leads.
opposite of no follow-up is endless, pointless follow-up. It is
perhaps even more deadly, because each purposeless contact serves as
an effectively poignant reminder not to buy from that
Joe for instance. Joe was a good-ol’-boy salesman, with an
order-taker mentality. He stumbled onto my name and called to set
up an appointment. Even though I stated my preference to conduct
business via the telephone and through email, he pressed for an
in-person meeting. Since I did have some interest in what he was
peddling, and based on his assurances of top-notch customer service
and competitive pricing, I eventually acquiesced to meet with him.
During our appointment, it became quickly apparent that his company
was not a good match for me. If Joe’s demeanor was representative
of his company, I was confident that customer service would be
decidedly inadequate. My conclusion of a mismatch was further
confirmed with his price quote, which was twenty-five percent higher
than “competitive.” I told him so and concluded by saying that I
would call him if I wanted to pursue things further.
Sadly, Joe did not hear me, and my name and number were firmly
ensconced in his Rolodex. Mechanically, he would periodically call,
not for any real purpose, but just to talk. He never provided more
information, never shared company news, and never attempted to move
the selling process forward. His spiel was always along the lines
of, “Hi, this is Joe; I’m just checkin’ in to see how you’re doin’.”
first, I was relatively cordial and would conclude each call with,
“I’ll call you if I need something.” Over time I became less
affable, eventually ending a call with “Joe, please don’t call me
anymore; I will call you if I need something.” Although necessary,
I felt horrible for being so blunt.
dismay was short-lived, because two weeks later, he called again. I
cut him off, and as politely as I could muster, I said, “Joe, I
don’t wish to be rude, but I asked you not to call me anymore.
Please don’t call again.”
may have been the first time he actually listened. “D-d-did I do
something to offend you?” he plaintively implored. I explained my
perspective on the situation. Incredibly, he called again a few
weeks later, spewing his same tired, old rhetoric. That was the
last I heard from him. Either he finally got the message – or got
may think me a malcontent, first complaining about a lack of
follow-through and then being critical about too much. In reality,
there is a middle ground that salespeople should aim for.
simply, follow up until you hear a definite “Yes” or an emphatic
“No.” And by all means, do not assume that the lead is not a good
lead or infer that the prospect will say “No”; wait until they
actually voice it. If they are not ready to make a yes or no
declaration, you need to continue doing your job until a decision
can be made.
brings up two more thoughts. First, use careful discretion in the
frequency of your follow-up contacts. Many salespeople ask, “When
shall I check back with you?” Seemingly, this is a wise tactic, but
the uninterested prospect will simply opt for a time as far in the
future as possible, without the need to say “no.” All that does is
string the salesperson along and waste time. Better is to ask what
other information the prospect needs from you or what the next step
is in their decision-making process. The other point is that even
when a prospect says “No,” that may not mean “Never.” Ask them if
they might want to revisit the situation in the future. If so, make
sure you contact them at the appropriate time, but not before.
importantly, when you call, be sure that you have a reason for doing
so. Don’t call just to chat; today’s decision-makers are far too
busy to engage in idle, purposeless conversation. Call only when
you have a predetermined purpose in mind or have defined a worthy
goal directly relating to the sales process. Examples of reasons to
call are to provide more information, update the prospect on new
developments, share about new products or services, or offer a
way, your calls will be of value and your communication will have a
better chance to be welcomed. And then you will be more likely to
make a sale and less apt to read about your failure to do so!
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