How to make a sale with successful follow-ups.

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It would be wonderful if every sale could be made in one conversation, but this is obviously only a fantasy. In reality, closing a deal often requires a series of phone calls and meetings. It’s important to recognize the opportunities such a longer sales cycle provides you; in particular, you must seize the opportunity to systematically educate the prospect from one encounter to the next. Here are some tips for ensuring that the value you create in one meeting will be there to build on in the next one.

Be remembered.

Make sure that you give your prospect a way to remember your last meeting. A classic play is to send the prospect a hand-written “Thank You!” note after the meeting. An email will work, although it lacks the tangibility of a physical card and the extra care that handwriting demonstrates. This is a great place to let your imagination go wild (within boundaries of good taste). Remember, the point is to be remembered, and an act that is both unusual and thoughtful is a great way to get this done.

Email a reminder and an agenda.

You want to be on the same page as your prospect, both regarding your last meeting and your next one. Don’t presume they are well-organized or hold it against them if they’re not… Do work of preparing for the meeting for them. Emailing a reminder with an agenda is a great way to make sure they are prepared and that they are prepared in a way that will help you make a sale.

Always be on time.

This is obvious, so obvious that people often screw it up. Every meeting is a chance to build trust, and being on time is a great way to signal that you value the prospect and their time. If nothing else, you have only so many opportunities to make a good impression, and you need to pick all available low-hanging fruit.

Continue to educate.

The information you pass on to your prospect over the course of a few meetings should all fit together in a way you plan in advance. For example, if you expect three meetings, you might have a list of five things you want the prospect to understand or believe by the time the third meeting is over. It’s important to stick to your game-plan, so important that it deserves its own list of tips.

  • Plan your opening statement. Don’t improvise the beginning of your conversation. You should know in advance how to open the meeting and how it serves your broader strategy.
  • Bridge each conversation. Make sure your prospect remembers the key points from last time and how they lead to the key points for this meeting. You need to make sure that they don’t lose your line of reasoning from one meeting to the next, and you should be prepared to review your past conversations to make sure they are with you.
  • Make the pieces fit together. This is the master tip that draws from many of the others. As explained above, you should be sending agenda emails, thoughtful post-meeting reminders, and doing everything you can to stay keep the prospect’s attention. Make sure everything you are doing fits into a plan and that you are checking how this communication strategy is coming along.

Remember, a longer sales cycle gives your prospect more opportunity to forget. Don’t count on them to remember, take responsibility yourself and do everything you can to systematically pass on the right information in a way your prospect has the best possible chances at retaining. If don’t have any master plan for communicating meeting-to-meeting, you are really just playing long odds for a sale and hoping that enough rolls of the dice will bring you luck. However, if you are more careful about following these tips, you can create synergy between your meetings, turning them into one long pitch that your prospect will remember. When you can do this well, then you have a good chance of closing your deal.

How do your follow-ups work together? Join the conversation with me (@muellerac) on Twitter.

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