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How to Create a Customized and Effective Sales Process for Your Sales Team
An effective sales process increases efficiency, engagement, and revenue. Learn how to create a strong process or improve yours for better performance.
Sending an effective follow-up email is a crucial part of connecting with prospects and closing deals. But understanding what to send — and when to send it — is often a difficult feat for already-busy sales reps, who struggle to break buyer silence without appearing overly aggressive.
Account executives face this challenge, too. They’re often “ghosted” by prospects with whom they’ve already been in contact but have become (for one reason or another) disengaged. It’s true that sellers hate losing deals: Every loss hurts, but perhaps none more than the “closed loss — disengaged” opportunities. Nearly every salesperson has a horror story about missing their number because the buyer ghosted them at the finish line. But ghosting isn’t an unnatural phenomenon; it happens when sellers lack clear alignment or milestones with the buyer, leading to lost deals.
Creating successful email follow ups can become one of your sales team’s biggest assets. With the right sequence, sellers can put an end to buyer silence, avoid ghosting, and move more deals across the finish line. Here, we’ll take a look at the science behind email follow ups, some strategies for a more effective approach, and examples of how to improve prospect responses.
Before we dive into specific follow-up strategies, it’s essential to first understand why prospects don’t respond to initial outreach or disengage after they’ve already been in contact with sellers.
It’s seldom that a prospect responds to a rep’s initial email: They’re far too busy to reply to read and respond, even if they fit the ideal customer profile. Reps must demonstrate their solution’s value to the prospect’s business in a limited number of characters, which, even when done well, doesn’t guarantee a response — much less a positive one.
Once they do manage to make a connection, sellers need to have clear alignment with buyers on next steps, milestones, and who's actually involved in the buying process in order to avoid a surprising loss on an opportunity they’ve committed. But sellers may not have knowledge or access to the entire buying committee, nor understand the roles they play within the final decision-making process.
Deals often start with just one person, but that person may not be the true decision-maker. It soon becomes a buying committee, made up of individuals with shifting preferences and priorities. This can result in wasted time selling to the wrong people or seeing the deal go sideways at a late stage because key influencers haven’t been engaged and convinced along the way.
Effective followup is vital for keeping conversations going, and timing is everything: In fact, nearly 87% of buyers reply within two days of their most recent message. And while it can take 80% of leads up to five-to-twelve points of contact before deciding, only 8% of reps follow up with prospects more than five times. That means a strong follow up process is the competitive differentiator that can become a valuable asset for your team.
Follow up sequences can help sellers reach the right person at the right time and avoid chasing their tails with underqualified contacts. And when your team’s follow up process is thoughtfully aligned with buyers’ objectives, timelines, and milestones, they can accomplish more with less effort.
Sales reps have only a 14-day window after first contact to engage a buyer before it’s too late. With every day that passes, the probability of prospect response diminishes more and more; so effective follow up is the key to success. But reps must balance personalization versus volume, while also deciding exactly when to send each email for the best results.
There’s a fine line between persistence and pestering: One that only a predetermined, organized follow up process can stabilize. This is especially true as your organization scales and more reps reach out to more prospects. While there’s no cut-and-dry answer for when to follow up, there are tools that can make the process more of a science than an art.
Robust follow-up platforms make it easier to test results, so your team can efficiently determine which messaging best resonates with prospects. We know that simply opening an email won’t tell us much about how a prospect feels about that particular email; but technology like buyer sentiment analysis is shedding more light into emotional response and intent. Whether it’s negative, positive, unsubscribe, or a referral, buyer sentiment can help teams more effectively craft their follow up—and better understand when to send it.
Start by developing four or five templates that have different bodies and proposed next steps. Leverage powerful software to track and measure the resulting data, then eliminate the messaging that flounders and duplicate the messaging that garners a positive response. Play around with timing and don’t forget: Successful buyers reach out to prospects an average of nine times across various channels, so don’t give up too quickly!
While each sales team’s follow up strategy will vary — depending on industry, target buyers, sales process, etc. — there are some overarching best practices that any team can benefit from implementing. Make your follow up emails more effective by:
Sellers should use reply follow-up when they need a prospect or customer to respond to an email; whether to provide more information, deliver a document, set a meeting, answer a question, or complete an agreed-upon next step. It’s a great way to gently push buyers for a response and prevent them from “going dark.” Automation is extremely valuable for this type of follow up, as it eliminates lower-value tasks and minimizes manual steps for salespeople and prospects alike.
If a seller is actively engaged with a customer but doesn’t yet have an agreed-upon next step, they can use a task follow-up to keep the ball rolling. This generally means sending an email reminder to the buyer at a regular cadence (e.g. every few days over a two-week period) to check in on the customer and ensure the communication remains open.
It’s not uncommon for a prospect to tell a seller that they won’t be ready to continue with any next steps for some period of time. By sending a follow-up email during or towards the end of that intervening period, reps ensure they remain in contact with the prospect and can continue to build their value. With weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly follow-ups, sellers can share product updates, white papers, case studies, industry news, or any other information that’s relevant to the prospect. This helps sellers to demonstrate their understanding of the customer’s pain points and needs, as well as their expertise in the industry.
Once a prospect has accepted an invitation for a discovery meeting, sellers should follow up to ensure they’re properly prepared. They can make connections, confirm title and job descriptions, and discuss any other information that will be relevant to the initial meeting. That way, the prospect knows the seller has done their homework and has a proactive attitude towards their working relationship.
Once you’ve completed the discovery call, you may find that there is someone within the prospect’s organization who’s better suited to handle the deal. Sales people should take the time to reach out to their initial contact to thank them for their time and ensure they get connected with the right prospect. This helps sellers to capitalize on the guidance provided by the referring prospect and to keep the conversation going with the appropriate audience.
If a prospect has gone cold after a demo, they might just need an extra push. Perhaps they’re stretched thin or can’t get buy-in from the right decision-makers. Regardless of the reason, sending a strong follow-up email can help keep your solution on their radar and drive them to the next stage of the buying journey; especially if they left the demo without any clear next steps.
Hello [Prospect Name],
Thanks again for making time to meet with me [Yesterday, Last Week, etc.]. Glad to be continuing the conversation we started.
As we confirmed [Product/Solution] was designed to solve some of your primary challenges: [Include challenges from initial meeting and additional insights from demo call].
We also clarified the objectives you’re looking to accomplish and how you hope to achieve them: [Include objectives, desired outcomes, and required capabilities].
We didn’t nail down a clear next step, but I will check back if I haven’t heard from you in a couple of days. In the meantime, [insert name of discovery call contact] may have shared these with you already, but if you haven’t seen them yet, these customer stories illustrate how we’ve helped companies like [insert account name].
If you have any questions or need anything before we meet again, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Closing the deal is always the goal, but this rarely (if ever) happens right after the initial sales call. Reps should remain persistent by reminding prospects of their solution’s value and engaging them in further discussion. You want your buyers to be excited about what you’re offering and understand that you’re customer-centric enough for them to trust you with their valuable time and significant investment. Be sure to include specific details (like a recap and action items) from the call to demonstrate that you were actively listening.
Hello [Prospect Name],
I appreciate you jumping on that call with me. Here’s what we settled on for next steps:
[Action item 1]
[Action item 2]
And just as a reminder, here’s what we covered today:
Once again, thank you for your valuable time! If I don’t hear from you by [Insert relevant date], I will follow up.
If your prospect submitted a form, they’re signaling an intent of purchase that shouldn’t go ignored. If a rep responds to the inquiry and doesn’t receive a message back, they shouldn’t give up just yet! It’s likely that the email simply became buried in the lead’s inbox or they forgot to respond, so sending another message is crucial.
Hello [Prospect Name],
Thanks again for contacting us through [submitted form type]. I realize my last message may have gotten buried in your inbox, so I wanted to follow up.
You said your business is struggling with [insert relevant pain points] and that you’re interested in how [product or service] might help. I’d love to set up a time for us to discuss. Are you available Thursday afternoon?
If not, feel free to book a meeting directly on my calendar: [insert calendar link]
If you’ve sent an email and called a prospect, but haven’t actually connected with them, it may not be the right time. To avoid agitating the prospect, wait a week or so before sending a follow-up email. It’s important to note that if you still don’t receive a response, you might be reaching out to the wrong person: Ask if there’s another person in their organization who may be better suited for the conversation.
Hello [Prospect Name],
It seems like now might not be the right time to connect, but I would love the opportunity to discuss how [specific product or service features] could help your business [achieve specific results].
If you’re not the right person to talk to, whom should I connect with?
If your prospect has reached the stage of getting a quote, it’s fair to say they’re at least mildly interested in purchasing your solution. They may have realized that your product or service isn’t a great fit (due to price, buy-in, etc.), or they may just need an extra nudge forward. Either way, it’s important to reach out and re-emphasize the value of your offering.
Hello [Prospect Name],
I hope you’re enjoying your week! Did you get a chance to review the quote I sent over on [date]?
Once I get the quote approved, we can get your business ramped up to [achieve X results]
I’m happy to answer any of your questions or, if need be, hop on a call to re-negotiate some of the terms. How does Thursday morning sound?
For organizations in certain industries (e.g. manufacturing and print), product samples are a great way to give prospects a taste of the real thing. If a prospect goes silent after receiving their samples, make sure you follow up to see if you can course-correct and move things forward.
Hello [Prospect Name],
I hope you’re enjoying the product samples we sent over on [date]. I sent a follow up last week to check in and wanted to reach out again to see how things are going.
How are you liking the samples so far? Here’s a comparison list of the products I sent over: [Insert list].
I’d recommend [Product X] because of [how it solves the prospect’s challenge].
Would you like to discuss any additional products? I’m free Friday morning, or you can take a look at my calendar and schedule a call at your earliest convenience: [Insert calendar link]
As a prospect’s free trial ends, reps have a short window of opportunity to capture their attention and get them hooked on the full-price offering. If they’re not responding to your outreach, try sending an email that keeps your solution top-of-mind.
Hello [Prospect Name],
I hope you’re enjoying your week! I just wanted to remind you that your free trial of [Product X] is ending on [date].
How are you liking [Product X] so far? Has it helped your business [achieve X results]?
If you still feel you need some more time to make a decision, I completely understand. Just let me know if you’d like a trial extension and I can work with our product team to get you another week.
I’d also love to hear how [Product X[ is working for you. Are you free Friday morning for a quick, 10 minute call? If not, you can take a look at my calendar and schedule a call at your earliest convenience: [Insert calendar link]
Ensuring strong, consistent follow up can feel time-consuming and burdensome for sales people, who have myriad other tasks to complete on any given day. But neglecting to follow up in a genuine, timely, and effective way can mean missing out on deals and leaving revenue on the table.
Want to eliminate the need for last-minute deal-saving efforts altogether? Put AI and machine learning to work to unlock a better understanding of customer interactions, trends, and overall deal health. Outreach Guide is the deal management solution that helps you spot and avoid surprise risks early in the deal cycles, so you’ll never be caught off guard again.