How to Follow Up Sales Leads Without Hard Selling

November 2, 2014

Following up on sales leads from your trade show marketing can be tough.

While you want to initiate action and get the sales process moving forward, coming off as too pushy can backfire and cause your lead to back out altogether.

Much has been written about closing the deal, but there’s surprisingly little detailed information out there on taking your leads from cool or simply lukewarm to the end of the sales process.

In this guide, we’ll share seven strategies that you can use to follow up on sales leads without coming off as the pushy, desperate, hard-selling salesperson every business owner dreads having to listen to on the phone.

Follow up on inbound leads as quickly as possible

There are two types of sales leads: inbound and outbound. Outbound leads are leads you generate through advertising and trade shows. Inbound leads are leads that get in touch with you, either over the phone, in person or via your website.

Sometimes, it’s strategically advantageous to wait before contacting outbound leads, especially if you know their time is occupied. But with inbound leads, you should act as quickly as possible to capitalise on their interest in your product or service.

Follow up trade show leads quickly – the next day if possible. Whenever a new enquiry comes in from your website’s email form, follow up within the hour. The faster your response, the higher your close rate will be, since most of your customers will associate a quick response with high quality service.

Get to know your leads before picking up the phone

Far too many sales representatives take the spray and pray approach to direct sales, firing off hundreds of calls per day and getting very few sales. It’s far better to take a slow, calculated and highly targeted approach to following up on your sales leads.

Pretend you’re the owner of an advertising agency that’s just exhibited at a trade show. You have a stack full of hundreds of business cards of companies that could very well be interested in your advertising services.

Do you call them straight away without doing any research? Or, do you search for their latest advertising campaigns to learn more about what they’re already doing and how you could help them?

When you know your prospect, you can approach them not just with a sales pitch – something they’ve undoubtedly heard before – but with real advice that’s tailored to their situation. The more personal your call, the less selling you’ll need to do.

Build rapport with prospects using social media

Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting with prospects when used the right way. When used the wrong way, however, it’s a disastrous sales method that often leaves you with alienated prospects and a reputation as a spammer.

Instead of using social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to push your sales message on other people, use it as a tool to directly connect with your prospects and have a conversation. Like their posts, share their content and be… well, social!

Think of social media as a priming method for your sales call: you’re not selling over Facebook or LinkedIn itself – that’s extremely difficult – but simply reminding leads that you exist, that you have something to offer and that you care about them.

Use custom Facebook Ads to make them remember you

Here’s a cool way to strengthen your brand before a follow-up sales call: create an advertising campaign using Facebook Ads targeted only towards the people you’re interested in reaching.

Facebook’s Custom Audience feature lets you display News Feed and Sidebar ads to people on your email list. This means you can display ads only to leads you’ve gotten from a recent trade show, networking event or digital marketing campaign.

One of the most difficult parts of following up on a sales call is establishing trust in your brand. If your prospects have already been reminded of your brand through a Facebook Ad, they’re more likely to respond positive to your follow-up sales call.

Call to solve their problems, not just sell your product

Do you follow your leads on social media? If not, you should. Many companies post to their Twitter and Facebook Pages about what they’re working on, new products and, on occasion, the problems they’re facing as a business.

When you spot an opportunity to help someone in your professional network, act on it by following up with a problem-solving call. This way, instead of selling them your service, you’re simply offering them a solution to a problem they’re facing.

This is a great way to frame the sales process if you want to avoid the hard sell. You don’t have a product or service to sell; what you have is a solution to a problem, and your job as a salesperson is to discover how it can help your prospects succeed.

With warm sales leads, always have a reason to follow up

Not all sales leads are cold. Some sales leads – such as people you meet at industry networking events and trade shows – are warm. They’re people you already know, at least as acquaintances, and have plenty to talk about.

The key to following up effectively is to provide a reason for your call before the call itself. At the end of your interaction with a prospect at a trade show, tell them you’ve got some information to share with them and that you’ll be in touch.

Or, tell a prospect that you’ll send them a discounted price list. Or a sheet of special offers you don’t offer other customers. Bait the hook a little and give yourself a good reason to follow up, making the inevitable “just checking in” call less awkward.

Have a real conversion – after all, there’s a person on the line

When you think of sales as a volume game – a mentality that far too many sales reps have – it eventually transfers into your dealings with people. Prospects aren’t other people on the line to you – they’re just opportunities to get a “yes” or a “no”.

This mentality might work in high-pressure sales environments, but it’s a recipe for disaster in B2B sales. Businesses are made up of people, and being good at talking to people is what will help you close deals, make sales and make progress.

Instead of thinking of follow-up calls as an opportunity to close a deal, think of them as an opportunity to connect with someone. Have a real conversation – about what their business is up to, recent events or anything else – instead of just product talk.

As an aside, people remember great conversations they have with businesses and occasionally blog about them. Last year, Netflix received a massive amount of free coverage after one of their customer service conversations went viral.

The quality of your product matters a huge amount in sales, but people are often swayed not by features, but by personal service. Show that you care by talking to your leads about more than just your product and you’ll eventually close the sale.

What’s your favourite soft selling technique?

Sales may have a reputation as a high-pressure environment – one that’s no doubt been created by movies like Boiler Room and The Wolf of Wall Street. But a massive amount of sales is about being friendly, straightforward and helpful.

What’s your favourite technique for moving a prospect further down your funnel without coming off as too sales focused? From follow-up emails to greeting cards, tell us your favourite soft selling techniques in the comments.

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