Following up is a vital part of the sales process that is often overlooked. Are you following up when you should be? What are the best strategies for following up? What method of follow up is most popular – and is the most popular method really the best method? To learn more, listen to today’s episode in which you’ll hear from Jeff Shore, who’s recently released a book geared toward giving you the information that you need to know about the importance of and best practices for follow up.
- Why Jeff wrote his new book, Follow Up and Close the Sale
- How the book is organized
- What follow up isn’t
- What follow up is for
- How follow up shows customers how much we care
- The strategy of follow up
- Why email shouldn’t be the number one method of follow up
- Jeff’s definition of the lead conversion hour
- How to get immersed in the follow up process
- The story of Bill Porter
- The knee of the curve
Marylou: Hey, everybody. It’s Marylou Tyler. This week’s guest, you guys are going to love because you know that I get very hyperventilating over this thing called follow-up. There’s now a book that talks about follow-ups soup to nuts, and is written by Jeff Shore who is our guest today. He’s written a book called Follow-up and Close the Sale: Make Easy (and Effective) Follow‑Up Your Winning Habit.
Jeff is also a speaker and author. He has a website, I’ll make sure I put all of that in the show notes for you. The key here is that he has been doing this for 30 plus years. He is the go-to guy. I think with the follow-up potential that I know you all have but maybe haven’t developed that endurance muscle, this book will help you get on track and help you get to the point where you do this thing called follow-up on either an everyday basis, a couple of times a week, or whatever it is that fits into your pipeline objectives.
He’s the man, and he’s here to talk to us about this book. I’m so happy that this book has been written. Jeff, welcome to the podcast.
Jeff: Thank you very much. Let’s have some fun.
Marylou: Okay, let’s have some fun. Let’s talk about the book. First of all, why? Why now? Why did you write the book? You’ve been doing this for 30 years. What happened in your life that you said, okay, trigger event, it’s time to do this book for people?
Jeff: There are a couple of answers to that question. One is if you go on Amazon and you type in sales follow-up, you’ve got pretty sparse in what you’re going to find there as far as resources. A lot of people have spoken about it. I certainly know you have—many great people over the years. People write blog posts and articles, but there hasn’t been that just that one spot where you can get it all together.
The other reason—which is definitely more speaking into the psychology, mind-first, and then to the readers—is that a lot of salespeople don’t think of follow-up. Whether that’s a pre-sale follow-up as part of their prospecting, or what to do when the customer says not yet and before you get that sale. Either way, most sales professionals see follow-up as being not fun. They look at it as laborious and a chore that they have to check the box so they appease their CRM or don’t get in trouble. I want to change the thinking of that. I think follow-up can be fun, follow-up should be fun. When it’s fun for you, it’s certainly more enjoyable for the customer.
Marylou: Definitely. As you said, there’s a lot of reasons to follow-up, and it’s easier than when you and I got involved in sales and there weren’t these tools out there. It’s—I wouldn’t say effortless—definitely further along so that you can build a follow-up—what we call sequence, or playlist, or whatever you want to call it—to actually reach out to people. You basically have the rocket engine there, but you need to add the value, why are you reaching out, and what are you doing.
How did you organize the book for us? Is it the kind of book where you could dive into any section, or do you want us to follow along like a story?
Jeff: You could do it either way. The book is laid out to say, let’s talk about your mindset first, then let’s talk about the customers’ mindset, then we’ll give in the skills, techniques, scripts, and everything else. It starts with a discussion about the resistance, that part of us that doesn’t love uncomfortable things. If we see follow-up as something that is a wildly uncomfortable task, our brain is going to come along and say, no, you don’t have to do that. In fact, I’m going to give you some juicy rationalizations about why you should not.
We’ve got to overcome the mental hurdle first in order to do this. The real important foundational piece of the book is to think about it from the perspective of a customer. If you think about a customer who’s in the process of shopping—it could be for anything at all—when you’re in that shopping process, what’s happening? You’re in the time of what I refer to as high emotional altitude. An emotional altitude measures your degree of positive emotional energy with a product, with a person, or with experience.
Recently, my wife and I—like many people—we got a quarantine dog. You should think about the process that you’re going through when you’re shopping for a dog. You are emotionally engaged in that process. What happens here is that I’ve engaged now with that product, the website with the salesperson, or whatever it happens to be. Now, what happens? If I’m not ready to pull the trigger, then time has a way of eroding that emotional altitude.
The purpose of follow-up in the first place is to sustain emotional altitude, to keep that customer emotionally engaged, and feeling very positive. We’re emotional creatures. We make emotional decisions. Sustaining that emotional altitude is going to be just critical. The longer we wait, or the more we abdicate our follow-up—simply an email that’s cranked out by the system—the less likely it will be that we’ll keep that customer in that positive emotional place.
Marylou: There’s a mindset thing here. I know you say in the book, fall in love with follow-up. I used to say fortune in follow-up because as a process person, I’m driven to outcomes. There is an emotional component of loving to do this. Can you give our audience the idea of the conversations that they’re having? We used to always say, mapping calls, it’s 85% fun and 15% not so fun.
What is a follow-up? When you have the right mindset, is every call a fun call, or is there a nice ratio that people can get excited about?
Jeff: It can be. I think you have to start by answering the question, what is follow-up not? My friend, Art Sobczak, I don’t know if you’ve ever had him on the podcast.
Marylou: Yes, he’s been on my show twice.
Jeff: He’s fantastic. When I had him on my podcast, we were talking about what he calls parole officer check-ins. That’s not follow-up, just checking in to see when I’m going to get paid. Just checking in to see if I can meet my quota. That’s not follow-up.
We have to look at it first and ask, what is follow-up for? To me, I look at it and say, your primary purpose is to serve. If you are serving, that mental script that says, I don’t want to be a nuisance, I don’t want to be guilty of intrusion marketing, and interrupter at dinner. If you’re serving, if you’re truly seeking to serve, A) it will be fun, and B) you’re not being intrusive in any way.
There is that mindset changed. It has to look and say what am I trying to accomplish here in the first place? I’m so fully behind the idea that this is what salespeople do. They serve and they solve problems. I can assure you one example of what that would look like. If you’ve got a medical problem, and you go and meet with your physician, and you chat a little bit. She’s going to suggest you should probably do this, and then we’ll check back with you here soon.
The next evening, at 6:30 PM, you get a call from your physician who says, after you left, I was thinking about your situation. I was thinking about your problem. I talked to some colleagues, I did a little research. I think I’ve got a solution here. It’s not going to hurt you. It’s certainly worth trying. Would you like to hear about it?
You want to hear about that. You wouldn’t say to your physician at that point, it’s dinner time, I’m in the middle of dinner, how dare you call me to talk about how to solve my problem while I’m in the middle of dinner. That’s not what you would do.
The question here is when you’re reaching out to your customer, are you reaching out just to try and figure out how quickly you’re going to get paid, or you’re reaching out to say, you have a significant problem. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve got a creative solution here for you. How you approach that is just critical.
Marylou: Yes. Empathy and those words that you hear a lot about relationships are really important with the follow-up sequence. It’s not necessarily a trusted advisor yet to that level, but it is just letting them know that you care about them and you’re working on trying to figure out ways to help.
I love the way you say pain or pride because we’re so used to this pain and gain thing. Gain is subjective, but pride—that’s the right word. I made sure I wrote that down when I was listening to your videos. That’s such a good way to think about adding value. They do have challenges, unwanted obstacles, risks, or obstacles that are in their way to get stuff done, but there’s also this pride element, what they hope to gain from that, and how that’s going to reflect either on them personally, socially, functionally, or strategically. I think we lose sight of that sometimes in the follow-up process.
I was really happy that you delineated it that way. A lot of times, our guys are concerned about the whole, I can’t provide value at every touch.
Jeff: I just fundamentally disagree with that concept. It takes creativity. You need to know your customer pretty darn well, but I do believe that you could provide value at every touch. I do think that it starts by saying, not just what does their life look like when their problem is solved, or what is the solution to their problem? Again, we’re emotional creatures. How do they want to feel when this problem is solved? That’s where that pride comes into play.
I think creativity is one of the superpowers for salespeople. If you don’t know your customer very well, then I agree. It’s very difficult to add value every time. But if you know your customer well, if you know the ins and outs of their life, of their business, of who it is that they are, I don’t think it’s as difficult as someone thinks it is to continually add value.
Marylou: I agree. Also, there’s a process—for those of you who were like, Marylou, I can’t figure this out—of delineating row by row (if you will) how you serve. What the beauty of follow-up is that you could articulate how you serve. As we were talking about, there’s pain or there’s a pride component.
The pain component would be one you may describe that they don’t do something. That means they’re going to be in this pain zone for longer than they really want to be, or they really should be. Because you have a solution now that can get them where they want to go, but you also have something that gets them far beyond where they want to go. That’s your differentiator.
There’s a lot of ways that you can articulate the conversation in that follow-up touch that says the same pain point but in a variety of different ways. Strategically, financially, and personally how it’s going to affect them, especially in business-to-business. I try to get people to understand that. Let’s pretend you only know through your four pains that your client or prospect is likely to experience through the lens of your products or service.
If you can articulate that pain point in a variety of ways, to hit those emotional triggers like you said. That’s why we lose sight. We try to have unique pains on every touch. A lot of times, that doesn’t happen. In the real world, there could only be one thing that they’re concerned about. If you can articulate it in five different ways, one of those ways is probably going to resonate with them, so that they will want to reach out and get back to you.
Jeff: In the meantime, you are out carrying everybody else because you are consistently asking yourself the question, how do I solve your problem? Not just how do I stay in your face, but how do I solve your problem? I was just thinking, just this weekend, interestingly, my wife and I are going to switch financial planners or wealth managers (whatever they call themselves these days). We had looked at it and said, we got to make a move on that one. Where do you start?
It just doesn’t sound like a very fun task. My wife listens to The Dave Ramsey podcast quite a bit. She said, he does this thing where you could enter in your information, and then they’re going to connect you with five financial planners in your area based on who you are and what your needs are. I did that. This was on a Saturday morning.
I filled it out and immediately, I got a text message. It’s an auto-response, but the text message says, I just sent you an email from this guy named Marshall Goins. I just sent you an email. It’s a 30-second video. We’d love it if you would watch that video. I go over my video, there it is. It’s him saying, it’s the weekend, I’m not working, but we’re going to talk on Monday. I just want to be able to put a face to the name here. Really looking forward to chatting with you.
That’s on Saturday. On Monday morning, he calls at 8:20. I don’t recognize the phone number so I don’t answer the call, but I get a text message just after, hey, just left you a voicemail, I’m going to be in my office all day long, let’s chat. That’s four points of contact, right? Two text messages, a phone call, and an email, and we’re not 48 hours in.
For the other four people that I got connected with, I got two-form emails that said, click on this calendar app over here to book a time to talk to one of our financial specialists. I have to tell you, before we could even have a conversion with this guy, he’s already the front-runner. He’s lapped the field. He would have to fall on his face. I would need to figure out this guy is a pedophile to not use him at this point. Why? Because the idea here is that we teach our customers through follow-up how much we care. This is so critical, we teach how much we care. When we don’t follow-up, what we are teaching is that we don’t care, at least not to the level that our customers need us to.
Marylou: Right. In the book, you talk about the speed of follow-up and how impactful that can be. Again, the technology is here people for us to do this. You heard Jeff say that that first one he knew or felt that it was an auto-response, but again it’s the speed in which the follow-up occurred that makes the person on the other end think, wow, they really do care about me. They do respond to me. If this is something that is started at the beginning, the expectation is, once I become a client, it will be similar levels of service. I love that.
Jeff: Precisely. I think that speed is critical. Sometimes when we think about follow-up, we think, what is this cycle going to look like for the next 90 days? That puts you in a spot where you’re probably going to start wrong because you’re thinking about the laborious nature of follow-up. I don’t think you should be thinking about 90 days, you should be thinking about 90 seconds.
I think you’re going to be able to look at it and say, how do I stand out from everybody else right away? This is something we talked about earlier—emotional altitude. The more time that lapses between the point of contact with the customer and the time that we get back to them, the more they become unmoored, distanced from that emotional altitude. That speed is critical just to stay connected. Keep that emotional altitude high.
Marylou: 100%. Besides mindset then, the next step in the book was talking about the strategy of follow-up. Are there any pieces out of that section that you want to make sure we talk about on this call? Just to make sure that people get that in that right zone of what they need to do once the mindset is there?
Jeff: The number one way that salespeople choose to follow-up is through email. The very least effective way to follow-up is through email. We’ve got to come to grips with this right from the very beginning. I’m not going to say—and I make this very clear in the book—there’s no room for email in a follow-up. That’s not the position that I take.
The question is, why is email the number one way to follow-up? The reason is because it’s easy. I make this decision based on what is easy for me versus what is impactful for the customer. The fact of the matter is that in the United States today, over 80% of emails get deleted without being read. Even those that do get a cursory glance, sometimes we delete them just by looking at the subject line itself. It is a way for a customer to very quickly dismiss you, and yet we can sort of pat ourselves on the back. Check the box and say, well I did my follow-up. No, you didn’t.
I want to suggest here that one of the key messages in the book is to let the message choose the medium. There are times wherein in a long conversation with a customer, and I want to be able to send something—a document, a pdf, or whatever it is—great, perfect use of email. But to look at it and say, let’s connect on some personal level, or let’s connect to how I can solve your problem in some way. No, this is best done by telephone or by video chat.
When we look at it, there’s a communication hierarchy that we have to keep in mind. Face-to-face is always the most impactful, we know that. Second to that, video-to-video. Beyond that, phone-to-phone. Way down the list is that asynchronous communication where I’m sending an email that somebody, in all likelihood, statistically, will never even see in the first place. If we think that that email is going to sustain emotional altitude, we’re kidding ourselves.
Even the email that I got from the financial advisor was preceded by a text message that said, I just sent you an email. There’s a video on it. I would love for you to watch, only 30 seconds. That was great, it was like, 30 seconds? Yeah, I got 30 seconds. It connected me with that person because I wanted to get that email. It wasn’t a nuisance. I wasn’t going to delete it. I knew it was coming. It was perfectly executed.
Marylou: Right now, when we’re recording this, we’re in the middle of the health crisis with the United States, which means that sometimes the phone—if your database or your setup isn’t like mine right now—it’s only brick and mortar. It’s not individual lines of direct dial into that person. We do have to be a little bit chameleon as we navigate through how to reach people.
You mentioned video-to-video as being one of the top besides face-to-face. You say in the book that you don’t have to have the perfect video setup. It’s the authenticity of the message. It’s the empathetic nature of the message. It’s your enthusiasm as you convey the message that’s more important than whether you have the right lighting, microphone, or video camera. That really hit home with me a lot.
Jeff: Your client already Facetimes with their grandkids. Your client already uses Marco Polo, if they’re a millennial, whatever. We are in the video age. Relative to the pandemic, back in December, Zoom had 10 million subscribers. As of two months ago—when I looked at the article—there were 300 million subscribers. We have learned video. We have figured out video. The whole world is figuring out video, including our customers.
There is no reason at this point for us to look at it and say, no, I’m just not comfortable because your desire for comfort might very well be the one thing that’s standing in the way of serving your clients the best. We are in the video age. Make no mistake about it. It’s only a question of whether or not you’re going to jump on that train or frankly get left behind.
Marylou: Right. We move on from strategy to actual execution. You did have some great ideas in there. I want everyone to listen to your definition of the lead conversion hour. Again, I teach the power of habit borrowed from a bunch of experts in the field. They teach the five levels of habits, which starts with desire. The very next step is repetition. Then there’s discipline, routine, and then finally habit. It really folded nicely into what you are talking about, the lead conversion hour. Would you share that with us?
Jeff: Sure. It starts with a premise. When everything is critical, nothing is critical. You can’t have 18 priorities at a given time. It starts by asking the question, what really matters? And what is it that I do that really matters? I’m of the opinion that if you’re a sales practitioner in any walk of life, what really matters is lead conversion. What are we doing here, we’ve got this lead, we’ve got this customer over here, how do I solve their problem and make sure that it is fully and perfectly solved?
As I look at it from that side, if the lead conversion is that push, then not only do I want to focus on that, but I want to make sure there is a dedicated time early in the day where I can focus on what matters most. For most sales practitioners, you could theoretically hit your office. You start your day at 8:00 AM with no phone messages, no emails, and nothing on your to-do list. Again, this is all theoretical, and by 8:45 AM, you’ll be busy. You’ll be busy all day long. You can, if you are in sales, lead a completely reactive life just trying to juggle all the issues, concerns, and problems that are going to wrap up.
This is a Stephen Covey, right? The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. What is your main thing? I look at it and say, the main thing is lead conversion. Well, if it is, let’s get that done early for a couple of different reasons. For one thing, you call your customers early. You’re doing your follow-up work early in the day. You’ve given them the entire day to respond versus calling at 4:00, and by the time they call back, you’re gone.
A second thing is that the longer you wait, the less chance it’s going to get done at all. Oh, I’ll do it later. The next thing you know later turns out to be never. It just doesn’t get done. Another reason to do it early on, you’re fresh. Our bodies are built that way. By the time we get into the afternoon, we’re at the low-point of our circadian rhythm. You’re still fresh and your client is still fresh as well early on in the day.
You get a good solid hour of your follow-up work, of your lead conversion work done by 9:00 AM or 10:00 AM in the morning, man, you’re ready to take on the world. You are victorious regardless of how the rest of the day goes because you’re in charge of your success. It’s a matter of getting it on the calendar, turning it into a ritual and letting that ritual become a habit over time. At that point what happens? You are in charge. You’re not waiting for the phone to ring without that magic new client. You’re getting that done. It’s a beautiful way to be able to start your day on the right foot.
Marylou: Exactly. What I also recommend for our listeners—especially those who are focused on outbound conversations, outreach—is that you use this follow-up system with vendors and partners who sell companion products into your world with the same client types and start building this network of people. Because then, all of a sudden, the referral channel will start opening up to you to help along with the follow-up of clients and prospects you’re working on right now.
A lot of times, when we get into this rhythm, this muscle, this endurance of follow-up, we’re able to expand basically the gravitational pull of people now coming to us with new leads and new opportunities to work. Which gets us further up that funnel of awareness, that people already know, love, and trust us (so to speak) because they’ve been referred in. Follow-up is such a big option to use. It’s like the tool on the toolkit that’s the most powerful tool there to get going.
If you’re in the audience and you’re thinking, okay, this sounds great. Where do I start, Jeff? What do you recommend that they do to get immersed in a little bit more on the whole follow-up process? Where they should start, and how they should go about doing this? What do you recommend for that?
Jeff: Dan Sullivan—the founder of The Strategic Coach program—one of the things that he says here is that all change begins by telling the truth. It really starts by asking yourself the question, how do you feel about follow-up, and why do you feel that way? What is that based on? What’s happening in your life that would cause you to think through, this is something that’s problematic for me. This is something that I don’t like doing. This is something I don’t enjoy. It really begins with that.
It comes to grips with the idea, what are the stories that you’re telling yourself? If you can turn that outward and say, what is this for my customer? What does this mean to my customer? How do I serve? That’s absolutely the starting point. But then, you got to look at it and say, how do I make it fun? We make it most fun—we make it most personal and more creative.
If we can look into those opportunities. My system should be in place for what a 90-day follow-up program looks like, but start thinking about it in terms of minutes, not days. That’s when it’s the most enjoyable. Use this time to get creative, to stand out from everybody else because you’re doing things that they’re not doing. Make it fun. If it’s not fun for you, it’s not going to be fun for your customer.
Marylou: 100%. I remember reading the story of Bill Porter. I’d like to end with you telling his story so that you can get an understanding here in the audience folks that this is something within your reach. This is something that when you hear stories like this, you’ll realize you’re starting off in such a better position, to begin with. That the hill is not going to be as high to climb. If you’ll share that story with us, I would love that.
Jeff: It’s one of the most inspiring stories ever. A gentleman by the name of Bill Porter, in time, became the number one salesperson for a company called Watkins Industries. This was a couple of decades ago. Still, when it was tailing out, but when door-to-door sales were the thing. He sold household products, cleaning products, all kinds of different things out of a catalog door-to-door.
His territory was in the hilly area of Portland, Oregon. In fact, he had to beg to get that job. He just said, give me your worst route, the route that nobody else will take. He got it. He would walk seven miles a day in rainy Portland uphills. One last thing, Bill Porter suffered from cerebral palsy. He had a hard time walking. He had a hard time speaking, communicating. What happened over time?
He had more doors slammed in his face than he could ever count. He almost got hit by a car, still finished his route by the way. But his tenacity is amazing. There was a movie made about this. William H. Macy did a phenomenal job. It’s called Door to Door. Very, very highly recommended even if you’re not in sales. It is an incredibly powerful story about the human spirit.
When you look at that, there is this idea where Bill Porter didn’t end up being a salesperson. He ended up being a part of people’s lives. When Bill Porter retired, his customers were devastated. A part of their life was lost at that point because he had so stepped into saying, how can I serve you? I just love that.
Those people who would look at it and say, follow-up is all about wrangling that next dollar. Here’s a client behind that door. They got a dollar, and it’s got my name on it. I just reject all of this idea. The question is, how do I serve? If I can get a serve first mentality, then I can make follow-up fun both for me and for my customer.
Marylou: To finish that story, you’ve mentioned about the knee of the curve, which was definitely the Bill Porter story, and I know that it’s our story as well. Elaborate on that. What do you mean by that?
Jeff: The knee of the curve. The idea that oftentimes, we put in efforts over a long period of time, and we don’t really see the dramatic results. We see just slow incremental growth, and then we hit what economists called the knee of the curve. It’s when all of that effort now starts to pay off. When it started out as a line, it was almost horizontal, just trickling up a little bit and our response suddenly shoots up. There’s that bend, that knee of that curve, and it shoots up.
We tend to look at it and go, oh no, I didn’t get anywhere with that last call. If that was Bill Porter’s mindset, then you can forget it. He would’ve quit a long time ago. It’s that staying, that sticktoitiveness, that suddenly you’re going to look at. You’re going to say, I am miles ahead of my competition. I had paid the price. They didn’t see it. They didn’t get to see all the hard work that went into it.
Now, they’re shaking their heads saying, what is that guy doing? That’s not the question. The question should be, what has that person been doing for the longest time as a habit of follow-up to be able to get where he or she is today?
Marylou: That consistency of effort. In the book, you’ve mentioned the Beatles, who we all think of as an overnight success story.
Jeff: Yeah, they splashed on the United States like who are these guys? Where did they come from out of nowhere? It wasn’t out of nowhere. It was literally playing gigs eight hours in a row in a club in Germany with nobody in the audience, but the owner telling them, listen, when you stop playing, then for sure nobody’s going to come in. And so, they played and they played and they played. You didn’t see the hard work that went into it. All you saw was the end result. To put it in another way, it takes a long time to become an overnight sensation.
Marylou: There you go. The book is called Follow-up and Close the Sale: Make Easy (and Effective) Follow‑Up Your Winning Habit.
Jeff, thank you so much for your time today. Very much appreciated. I’ll be sure to put all your links on how to get a hold of you. Jeff also has—which my team has listened to—nine videos that a company has booked, that will give you a good jump start on where to get started, how to get started. He talks in detail about the different ways we can communicate. I think there’s all video on video, as a matter of fact.
Jeff: There is.
Marylou: Those are great getting started things. I’ll make sure that we put all your connection information if people want to talk to you directly. Thanks so much for your time. Very much appreciated.
Jeff: It was a lot of fun. Thank you.