The difference between following up and following through

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Knowing the difference is a game changer

Sales leaders, stop me if this sounds familiar. One of your sales reps gives you a call and tells you the following.

“I just pitched to the biggest whale in my territory. It went great. We shook hands. We smiled. We laughed. They saw the value in what I provided. It was awesome. They’re going to call me back next week.”

Sales leaders, you’ve heard it right? And be honest, reps, you’ve said those words to your manager. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about a pitch to a prospect big or small. The problem here is at the end. “They’re going to call me back next week.” When a rep gets that kind of response from a prospect, the manager usually tells the rep to start following up. The manger tells them the story we’ve all heard. “You need to have adequate follow up because it takes 12 times for someone to say yes.” And that’s true, but most sales leaders aren’t training their team how to adequately follow through. Notice I said follow “through” and not follow “up.” What’s the difference?

Follow up

Follow up is just what it sounds like. The rep might send an email immediately after the meeting to thank them for their time and tell them they’ll reach out again next week. Then the rep might call the next week and say “I’m just calling to follow up. Did you have a chance to think about my proposal?” or “Did you have a chance to talk to the other partners about my offer?” People who make decisions do not respond well to lame follow ups. If they tell you they appreciate it, they’re lying. The follow up ends with some lame plea for another meeting, which is is often met with a wishy-washy response. “I appreciate the phone call, but I’m really busy right now.” As you can probably guess, I’m not a fan of the “following up” approach.

Follow through

A follow through is very different, and it’s what separates the best sales reps from the pack. When a rep follows through, they find a new way to deliver better value than they did in that first meeting. Because you may have felt the meeting went well, but you didn’t close, so something was missing. After that initial meeting, the rep needs to immediately begin planning what additional value they can deliver that was missing. Do the research and find out what’s coming up in their business. How can your product make a coming transition even easier? How can your product make something in the future move more smoothly? The follow through requires you to know your clients, know your product and know your industry inside and out. If you’re putting this follow though via email, that value has to be rock solid. That email follow through has to be approached like a pitch.

Follow through is the huge difference between being the top performer and a weak performer. If you’re managing your team to only follow up, you’re always going to be an average manager with an average team. Coach your team to follow through. 

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