The Wasted, Unproductive Follow-Up Call

Whenever you meet new potential clients, it’s a good idea to followup with them later. Before you pick up the phone, be sure you have a plan and purpose for your call.

I received a telephone call yesterday. It was someone I’d met at a networking group months ago. She reintroduced herself, mentioned the group where we’d met and said she was calling to follow up. She did not say about what. I asked the question for her, “Why are you calling? What did we discuss?”

She told me that she makes customized covers for laptops. I thought that was nice, but I didn’t need one and still didn’t understand why she was calling me. She then told me she makes other types of customized covers too. I said, “Oh.”

We had now been on the telephone for a couple of minutes. I still really didn’t understand why she was calling me. She seemed to want me to lead—but she was the one who had made the call!

I try to be nice, I always talk to people who call me—it’s my business. Other people are not always so nice or willing to give time to strangers who call for no apparent reason.

Finally my caller asked if I was developing products that might need covers. I’m currently developing a new product that will go in a binder. I told her about that. She said they also could do customized packages for products. She continued to point out that the work was customized and I could get “whatever I wanted.” Now what I wanted was binders, I could get them in Staples or some internet discount site or from a vendor who specializes in these types of products, so telling me I could get “what I want” doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I asked if she could give me an example. She had no samples to send and no brochure or catalogue with appropriate examples. She had a web site, which only showed laptop covers. The caller kept reiterating that her creations are “customized” and that I could get “whatever I wanted.” She kept reiterating this as if it was important. It wasn’t.

She was selling features, “It’s customized,” rather than benefits, “It will make your product unique and it will make it stand out. It will add value. It will help with your brand and image. You will sell more because of the way it is packaged.” These are benefits. What a better outcome to the conversation if she had only mentioned one of them!

Think also what a better outcome if she had suggested, “Let’s get together and talk about your product. We could do some brainstorming as to how it might look and what you want to accomplish with the packaging and I could make some recommendations.” I would have gladly met with her. Who knows what might have followed that meeting?

At that point it was time for me to get off of the telephone. I had a coaching client calling in 5 minutes and I needed to get ready. As we ended the phone call she said, “I’m here if you need me.” That’s nice, but she had never given me a compelling reason to think that I might need her.

I was annoyed. She was probably very frustrated.

So what are the lessons learned?

1. Understand your sales cycle and the goal of your telephone call. This caller had no agenda beyond calling to “follow up.” After that, she expected me to lead.

2. Focus on the benefits not the features! Imagine your prospect thinking to themselves, “Why should I be interested? What will this do for me?” If you want your call to succeed, you must answer those questions.

3. Ask for what you want. (See #1.) Once you know the goal of your phone call, you must ask for what you want.

4. Keep asking for what you want.

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