how many of my biz dev folks out there are familiar with the following situation…
You finally get the meeting with the Decision Maker. The meeting goes well, you are verbally in agreement to work together, they would like an agreement or proposal sent, which you gladly provide.
You follow up 3 times over the next 3 weeks, and the entire follow up process receives no response.
Now, being in business development, you know that there is a fine line between attention & follow-up to detail and stalking. And you certainly don’t want to be a stalker! But the lack of communication leaves you completely uncertain of your prospects intentions. It’s a conundrum wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. What do you do?
The first best practice I implemented into my process was to tell my prospects during the meeting what my expectations would be and what my follow up process would be in the weeks to come. Before leaving the meeting, I mention the following:
“Thank you for electing to take the time to meet with me today. I feel as though we have discussed the expectations you had entering into this meeting. I will send you the requested proposal/agreement within the next business day. I’d also like to set the expectation. I will follow up with you next week in the event you do not have the opportunity to respond before then. If at any time you do not believe this to be a good fit, please provide me with the professional courtesy of telling me, and I will do the same. Of course, yes is the best answer; no is the second best answer. Let’s just focus on the decision and the communication thereof.”
Generally the response is a head nod, verbal agreement, and a chuckle. Everyone likes to know what the expectations are, and they usually appreciate the verbal contract. In addition, I do not believe this is SOP in many of their meetings, although it certainly should be! Communication is key in every relationship.
Now, contrary to our own beliefs as sales people, we may not be the most important thing on that decision makers agenda! And even though we have implemented our verbal agreement and set the expectations, we still have prospects that ‘go dark’ for any number of reasons.
I’m a process girl. I think most things can be effectively handled with the right processes in place. Realizing that this verbal agreement and verbal expectation setting is not always enough, I also send a 4th follow up that receives a 90% response rate minimum. It’s called the “Sales Jail Email” and it is genius. If you want to know about this part of the process, you’re going to have to contact Scott Messer, Sales Evolution. This is an amazing follow-up email that I, unfortunately, cannot take credit for! This is one of those things that is so effective, I’m disappointed in myself for not thinking of this! Gotta love lightbulb moments.
Even with both of these processes in place, I still had a fairly unpleasant experience with a prospect. Here’s the jist – this prospect came to me by way of referral so it was a warm (dare I say hot) lead, we had a great meeting, and they certainly need our help, and I followed my process of verbal agreement and verbal expectations conversation, 3 follow-ups followed by the all-too-amazing sales jail email, and received a very agitated response.
It turns out that they were in the middle of relocating and moving into another office location, and had 2 other very large projects happening at the same time internally, and so the timing was just not working out for them from a bandwidth standpoint.
I had no idea. There was zero communication about any of these activities. Once I came to know the situation, it was somewhat understandable when they responded quite irritated, that if they were no longer interested they would have said so. How could I possibly know that? There was absolutely no communication whatsoever!
Now the situation was understandable… after all, the entire leadership team was under an extreme amount of pressure. They also remarked that they now understood what it was like for the prospects that they follow-up with who were not ready for their services – and how much of a pest sales people can be (I’m para-phrasing). That was followed by a comment where they thanked me for showing them what they should not be doing. In that very same correspondence, they requested that I follow up again, and they gave me their expected target date for the start of our services. I had to chuckle.
Usually I look at this as a wild goose chase, but I was referred in to this company by a COI, so I agreed to do so.
This was over the spring. Just recently (within the last month), I added a quote to the bottom of my email signature as a gently reminder of the verbal conversation. This is the quote:
“Yes is the best answer. No is the 2nd best answer. The only bad answer is to not respond at all.”
That’s the last thing everyone reads when they receive an email from me. Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure how this last line would be perceived, but I received a few responses over the past couple of weeks that have proven that this last line in my email is actually more effective than the rest of the processes I have put into place from a standpoint of removing the “going dark” process with my prospects. Or perhaps it is just the final touch that pulls it all together…
My follow up with the company I mentioned above was set for 2 weeks ago. This time I received an immediate response. Wow.
I’m also going to share another example of how powerful this last line has become for me.
I consider myself a true connector. I like the ability and responsibility of being a COI for my network. My network may not need my services at the present time, but there is something I can help them with. Everyone needs help. Sometimes I can help with our services, sometimes by connecting them to other professionals that can assist them, and sometimes with my time and support. Each person has different needs at different times.
1 year ago, I tried to connect 2 Presidents of 2 Companies that really needed to know each other. Company A recently sent out an email blast announcement. The President of Company B received the email blast from the President of Company A and just this week reached back out to me to see if I could try to connect them again. Of course my response was yes. This time I sent the introduction to the VP of Company A and the President of Company B, and copied the President of Company A so he would be kept in the loop. I mentioned to the VP that her President just didn’t have the bandwidth at that time to respond and so I was connecting her to the President of Company B.
To my surprise, the President of Company A replied to the email with the following response:
Dear VP Company A, President Company B, and Bobbie,
Bobbie is correct! She did try to connect President Company B and me. I was swamped. Then President Company B reached out a couple of times. Same thing.
But-quite frankly-they are excuses. I have the greatest respect for Bobbie and how she connects people. She is one of the very best I have ever seen in trying to connect good people.
This last email struck home for me. The “yes is the best answer. No is the second best answer. The only bad answer is no response at all.” That red lined statement is pure genius! Got my attention! Guilty as charged!
No reason why I should not have agreed to meet President Company B by now. President Company B-let’s do it. Shoot me some good dates and I promise to pick one and let’s make it happen.
I pride myself on being a decent sales/relationship guy and I am always saying to my team that when you are reaching out to people-yes is best-no is acceptable-I can deal with those-but not getting either/or is just not right -continue to be persistent—and then along comes Bobbie’s email to remind me that I was guilty of poor professional courtesy!
Bobbie–sheer marketing brilliance putting that line in red on a connector email. Thanks for the quick kick in the butt!
As I have told you more than a few times-you are damn good at what you do and I have the greatest respect for you. Continued success!
President Company B–looking forward to meeting you! Sorry it took so long!
President Company A
Wow. I am totally blown away. Even good people fall short sometimes. But the best people always “make good”.
So, I’m sure you can see why no is the second best answer!
- Be the first to give to your new business relationships
- Always pay it forward
- Network with purpose.
Good luck and good networking! Remember… It’s All About Leverage.
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