Take a minute to looks at your sales pipeline. Filter your CRM to show just the deals at the very end of the sales process. If you’re like most salespeople you have a backlog of prospects sitting there for some time in limbo. And also if you’re like most people you have told a number of these prospects FU. Or your only plan is the go back to them and say FU. ‘’Hey, just thought I’d Follow Up and see if you had a chance to go over things yet.’’
Yes, the follow up. The aimless check-in. The, ‘’just touching base so I can see if bla, bla, bla….’’ The big ‘’FU’’ to your prospective client.
Sales managers get told FU all the time, too. Teams who are rife with bad case of the fups. ‘’Hey, where is this deal in the process?’’ ‘’FU.’’
Diagnosing the Fups
If you are saying or hearing FUs all the time, that is a symptom of a deeper illness. At its core are 2 major issues. 1.) The rep’s sales process is not aligned to the buyer’s decision-making process. 2.) The sales rep has not explored what steps need to happen next for the buyer and set a specific day and time to meet with the agreement of advancing on action to move the process forward.
Harmful Repercussions of the Fups.
If you or your sales people are saying FU a lot you likely have a severe case of the fups. If left untreated, the fups could result in a slow-moving sales pipeline, unhealthy, unpredictable forecasting, a drop in win rate and even death of your role as a rep or manager. Worst of all the damage caused by the fups hurts not just you, but those around you.
The Fups Effect on Your Prospective Client
If a prospect has the expectation that she will get back to you once she has taken some course of action, telling her FU can really damage your relationship. She set an expectation that she would reply when she’s ready and your FU can easily be interpreted as you are not respecting her process.
Also, the FU is more about you than it is her. It put’s your agenda of getting the deal ahead of hers of solving a problem or capitalizing on an opportunity. FU adds no value to your prospect and if often annoying to the point of damaging your credibility and tarnishing the work you’ve put in up to that point.
The Fups Effect on The Sales Manager
If sales managers are regularly being told FU, this too is harmful in a number of ways. It makes it very difficult to forecast incoming revenue for the company. The poor forecasting can not only mess with reporting, it can cause misalignment with staffing for other areas of the business (ex. Support/Customer Success) and create inaccurate budgeting.
If the sales manager hears FU and does nothing to help treat his rep’s Fups, he is relegating himself to nothing more than a sales accountant and a poor one at that. He spends 1-on-1 time with reps trying to track pipeline numbers rather than working as a sales coach helping skill-build and increase win rates.
The Fups Effect on The Sales Rep
As a sales rep, living with a case of the Fups just doesn’t feel good. You don’t like telling your prospects and managers FU any more than they like hearing it. With both, you want to have productive mutually beneficial conversations that end with something having been accomplished.
You also want that predictability in your number. It weighs heavily on your psyche seeing all those deals sitting in your CRM, with a history of work already invested, but a hopeless feeling attached to them. It drags you down thinking, ‘’What happened to those happier days when we were in discovery or I was presenting you what I can do to help and we both seemed really into one another? Where did the love go? Why won’t you return my calls?’’
Treating the Fups
So rest assure, there is a tested, proven, well-documented cure to the Fups. Starting right now you can follow this 5-step treatment program to eradicate FUs from your vocabulary and get healthy for yourself, your manager and your prospects.
Step 1. Know Your Prospect’s Decision-Making Process.
If you have finished your sales process and are hearing ‘’I want to think about it’’ or ‘’Send me the proposal and I’ll get back to you,’’ you prospect has not finished her decision-making process. As a thoughtful salesperson you need to get back to work here and explore what more she needs. Is there information missing? Is she not 100% clear on what you offer? Is she not comfortable enough with you or your company to say ‘’yes’’ yet? Is she still in the research phase and also looking at your competitors? If you don’t know your prospect’s decision-making process, you will cease to help her with it and fall into the trap of telling her FU.
Step 2. Know Your Prospect’s Buying Process.
Different than the decision-making process, which is how an individual decides on accepting or reject your recommendation, the buying process is the company’s protocol. Who else is involved in the decision, who are the other stakeholders? What is the order or how the process of buying or not buying occurs? Who makes the final call? Who owns the budget? What are the procedural steps that need to be executed? Finance approval? Vendor approval? Purchasing approval? Imagine if you don’t know the prospect’s buying process, but your competitor does and is helping the client in executing them while you are just following up. You just Fup-ed yourself.
Step 3. Isolate a Specific Next Step.
Once you know the decision-making and buying process you can isolate a specific next step and build a plan with your prospect on moving the conversation forward. If there is only 1 step left this is easy. If you are involved in a more elaborate sale with 4 or 5 remaining steps, the total work needed to get a deal down can seem overwhelming to both you and your prospect. Forget the big win and focus on the next little win needed to move toward a signed contract. If you notice your language changing from ‘’follow up’’ to ‘’next step’’ when talking about late stage deals, this is the first sign that the treatment is working.
Step 4. Assign Action Items.
If a next step is required in wither the decision-making or buying processes, it means more work needs to be done by the prospect to go from maybe to yes or no. To forward a healthy process for both the buyer and the seller, action needs to be taken. If budget needs to be confirmed, gain agreement from your prospect that confirmation will be done by the next meeting. If another stakeholder needs to be brought up to speed and you will not be granted access, gain agreement that your prospect will set the meeting by the end of the week and confirm with you when it is going to happens so you may help prepare her for the conversation.
Step 5. Schedule the Next Step.
Expectation-setting is critical for maintaining a healthy conversation with prospects and healthy momentum toward finalizing a deal. The foundation of transitioning from follow up to next step is the expectation of when the action item will be completed. An agreed upon day and time must be made. Scheduled meaning in the calendars of the prospects and the salespeople involved. This leaves no chance of anyone misinterpreting the call as a random check-in. This is a committed meeting when progress was agreed to have been made. Prospects who are truly interested and engaged appreciate this as the formality of the process helps them stay organized and making progress. They too have invested valuable time and want to see a resolution.
This 5 step process is a treatment to the Fups not a cure. There will always be the chance of relapsing if salespeople don’t stay vigilant. The easiest way to assure that this does not happen is to build next steps into your sales process, assuming that even when you are down presenting the potential client is not done deciding and next steps will be required for both salespeople and prospects in order to finalize the conversation.