5 Follow-up Tricks to Avoid Annoying Your Sales Prospects

Sales lead generation requires persistence, but it also requires tact. Learn how to follow up without annoying your prospects.

May 9, 2015


Anyone who frequently eats at restaurants has encountered the too-persistent waiter. Before you’ve finished browsing the menu, he’s impatiently tapping his pen on his pad for your drink order. He brings the drinks, then interrupts your conversation to take the dinner order. When he brings the food, he comes back before you’ve swallowed the first bite to ask how it tastes. Though he means well, the overbearing waiter isn’t going to inspire you to stay for dessert.

Sales professionals are taught to be persistent. It’s part of the job description to follow-up, even after being told ‘not now’ or ‘not going to happen.’ But there’s a difference between being persistent and being irritating during your sales lead generation efforts, as the hapless waiter in the first paragraph illustrates. Even if you’re working in the prospect’s best interest, it’s possible to be too intrusive.

Read on for five ways to be persistent with prospects without seeming like a nuisance.

1. Kill them with kindness and wow them with insight

At times it can seem like the salesperson and the buyer are two opposing teams, each trying to score a victory. But it’s more productive to think of the buyer as a partner. You’ve chosen to connect with this prospect because they have a problem you can help solve. Try to approach all of your interactions with the following mindset: You are here to help. Then you can lead with insights that are uniquely tailored to a specific problem or concern your prospect is facing.

2. Use tactful persistence

Of course, it’s possible to be polite and still be too persistent. For the initial contact, make sure you’ve secured a warm introduction; cold outreach is only effective 3% of the time, and can damage your reputation.

If you do have a warm introduction, keep in mind that your sales prospects are legitimately busy. While contacting them is your top priority, you’re likely to be much further down on their list.

It’s worth it to wait at least a week before following up. After you have followed up, circle back to what drew you to this prospect in the first place. If they still seem like a prime prospect, feel free to ask them directly if they are interested.  This creates a win-win-win scenario because:

  • If they’re not interested at all, it gives the prospect an out and frees you to pursue more likely leads.
  • If they are interested, it spurs them to act.
  • If they’re on the fence, it shows you are respectful and considerate, which can help in future communications.

3. Find creative ways to stand out

When you’re making those repeated contact attempts, it helps to have a personal differentiator. What makes your sales message stand out?

Elliot Bell, Director of Marketing at The Muse, recalls a salesperson who “Every week [would] send me a new email quickly re-explaining what he sold—as well as a suggestion for good pizza to try around the city. Why? He had seen a blog post where I mentioned I'd eat pizza 24/7 if I could, and cleverly worked that into his follow-up. It made him stand out in a good way, and as a result, we eventually had a call."

Spend a few minutes researching the prospect on LinkedIn and the web at large to find ways in which you can engage them on a more personal level. Then you can make sure every communication has that extra something special.

4. Change it up

Vary your approach so you’re not doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If your weekly Monday morning email gets no response, try a Wednesday afternoon message. If changing the time and day or day of the week doesn’t help, your prospect may have an inbox flooded with unread messages. You can get out of the email trap with a well-timed and written InMail message.You can also change it up by using other social media for that initial contact.

Here’s a great real-world social selling example: Travis Wallis, then VP of PeopleBrowsr, was having trouble getting a response from Gerry Moran, the Head of Social Media at SAP North America. Wallis knew that Moran was incredibly busy and that he wasn’t anywhere near the top of Moran’s priority list. So Wallis asked Moran a question on Twitter, seeking Moran’s expertise on an unrelated topic. Once that initial contact was made, Moran prioritized Wallis’s communications.

5. Broaden your list

Before you even come close to pushing a prospect to the point of no return, consider building a relationship with someone else at the company. You may find another contact who is more responsive or has more authority to move forward.

And since the average B2B decision involves 5.4 decision makers, the buying process is more likely to progress if you have multiple points of contact.

It’s necessary to be persistent in sales, but being irritating is always optional. If you stay polite, make yourself memorable, and try multiple methods and points of contact, you can encourage a response without being overbearing. Polite persistence can mean the difference between getting an appointment and getting the boot.