Most sales follow-up takes the form of that annoying “Are you still watching?” pop-up on Netflix.
The viewer is simply trying to enjoy eight straight hours of The Office when they get hit with an interruption. The pop-up doesn’t add any value—it only serves to save Netflix a few dollars.
Most sales teams treat lead follow-up in the same way. They send emails like, “Hey, just following up. Are you still interested?” All it does is interrupt the buyer with a self-serving message.
Of course, only 2% of sales occur during the first point of contact, so mastering follow-up is a necessary evil.
So how can sales teams turn lead follow-up into a value-add activity for the buyer, rather than an annoying interruption?
In this article, we’ll go over each of the follow-up stages, discuss best practices for following up, and give you the tools you need to get deal after deal signed.
The four stages of sales follow-up
If you’re thoughtful about it, sales follow-up can help you build strong relationships with prospects, keep your product top of mind, and create a sense of urgency to push them towards making a purchase.
Let’s quickly go over the different stages of sales follow-up and what’s expected of you at each stage.
1. Inbound lead follow-up
The first stage of sales follow-up is inbound lead follow-up. When a prospect submits an inquiry or fills out a contact form from your inbound sales efforts, respond promptly and professionally.
Inbound lead follow-up typically involves a quick email to the prospect to introduce yourself, learn more about their needs, and provide them with more information about your product.
At this stage, focus on two things:
- Building a relationship with your buyer by sharing information or booking a demo
- Qualifying your buyer as a legitimate prospect
Every action you take should either get you closer to a meeting or disqualifying the buyer.
2. Post-demo follow-up
At this point, you’ll follow up with the prospect to answer any questions they may have and address any concerns they may have expressed.
Your post-demo follow-up email should include:
- a thank-you message
- a recording of the demo
- a summary of the key points covered in the demo
- any other sales collateral that might push the deal forward
Ideally, you’ll share all of this within a single Dock workspace rather than sending a messy email with lots of links and attachments.
The goal at this stage is to give the buyer the information and collateral they need to take this information back to their internal buying team, which is why it’s especially important to house all your follow-up information in one place.
3. Proposal follow-up
Key to this stage is removing any roadblocks to getting the deal done. What are your prospect’s sticking points? How can you help your deal champion create more momentum internally? Is there anything unclear about your pricing?
Your follow-up should be focused on helping the buyer get to the finish line.
4. Post-close follow-up
The post-close follow-up stage occurs after a sale has been made. This stage is all about ensuring customer satisfaction, delivering a smooth Sales-to-Success handoff, and building a long-term relationship with the customer.
Post-close follow-up should include:
- a thank-you message
- an introduction to your customer success team
- an offer to provide any additional support or resources the customer may need.
This stage is critical because it can lead to repeat business and referrals.
In addition to these four stages, there may be other stages of sales follow-up that are specific to your industry or business.
For example, you may have a stage for upselling or cross-selling to existing customers, or a stage for following up with customers who have expressed interest in a particular product or service but have not yet made a purchase.
When you develop a follow-up plan for each stage, you’ll be well-equipped to close more sales.
Sales follow-up best practices
So where do you even start? How often do you follow up to stay top of mind but avoid coming off as spammy?
Build a strong follow-up strategy with these lead follow-up best practices:
1. How soon to follow up
According to a study by InsideSales, the odds of qualifying a lead after five minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times. So, it's best to follow up as soon as possible.
Leads contacted within the first five minutes are 100 times more likely to convert.
2. How often to follow up
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but it’s a matter of finding the sweet spot—you don't want to come off as too pushy. On the other hand, most prospects aren’t ignoring you out of disinterest. They’re just busy and have flooded inboxes.
And while the majority of salespeople give up after one or two follow-up attempts, 80% of sales require an average of five follow-ups in order to close the deal.
Think of all the sales you could be leaving on the table because you aren’t following up.
3. Use SDRs for follow-up with inbound leads
Since inbound leads are already interested in your product or service, you should follow up with them quickly.
Using sales development representatives (SDRs) for this purpose can help you respond to inbound leads more quickly and efficiently, with turnaround times as low as a few minutes.
Not only are SDRs a personalized way of following up, but they can also vet inbound leads and prioritize those that align with your ideal customer profile (ICP).
4. Don’t forget the top of the funnel
Your close rate is important, but so are your contact rates and meeting rates. If you only focus on closing deals toward the bottom of the funnel, you risk neglecting some potential big fish.
By improving these few top-of-funnel (TOFU) metrics and following up more at the start of the sales process, you could even see a 40% increase in bottom-line sales revenue.
Instead of restricting your follow-up to one champion, build a network of champions by multithreading.
When you multithread into an organization by reaching out to several stakeholders at the company instead of just one, you create more advocates for your product on the buying team.
6. Focus on buyer enablement
B2B sales is a complex world. With so many stakeholders involved and buying jobs to be done, follow-up should be about making it easier for your buyer to buy.
This is called buyer enablement.
Paving a frictionless path to purchase means taking work off the buyer’s plate and providing them with all the resources they need to make an informed decision.
For example, you can make life easier for your buyer by creating a mutual action plan. A mutual action plan lays out all the steps that need to happen for the buyer to make a successful purchase.
For example, they may need to several rounds of demos, internal budget discussions, or security reviews.
The more you can reduce friction for the buyer, the more you can shorten your sales cycle and heighten your chance of winning the deal.
7. Keep follow-up to one channel
On that note, after your initial multichannel outreach, it's best to follow up with your buyer through their preferred channel, whether that's email, phone, or social media (LinkedIn is a big player here).
This way, you’ll avoid overwhelming them with too many messages, and they’ll know exactly where they can get in contact with you.
8. Use a digital sales room
A digital sales room (DSR) is a centralized location that contains all follow-up materials, including proposals, contracts, and presentations.
DSRs make it easy for buyers to access the information they need and for your deal champion to share your sales resources with their internal team.
They’re also easily shareable across whichever channel your buyer prefers to communicate through. You just share a single link and buyers can easily access it or share it.
9. Always establish your next follow-up point
Before you end a call or meeting, make sure to plan the subsequent follow-up touchpoint. What does this look like in practice?
Rather than telling potential customers you’ll call them next week, put a specific date and time on things.
Having two separate follow-up timelines can help you prioritize leads, too.
If you have one timeline for active leads ready to buy in the near time and another for passive leads, you just have to worry about follow-up execution.
A follow-up action plan will help you avoid any miscommunication and ensure you stay on track with hot leads. Buyers will also appreciate the transparency and convenience.
10. Personalize your follow-up
Even if you automate your follow-up to a degree (and you should—it’s a huge timesaver), make sure you personalize your messages as much as possible.
Add their name in the email subject line or call their attention to a resource perfect for their needs.
Personalization will help you build a stronger relationship with your buyer and increase your chances of converting them into a customer.
Case Study: Nectar’s follow-up process
When following up after a demo, you’ll want to avoid messy emails filled with links and attachments at all costs.
This is how Andrew Hollis’s sales team at Nectar used to follow up after demos:
“Our follow-up would typically be an email with three bullet points that were hyperlinks. Three links is already a lot. But I’ve done ten links before as well. There are diminishing returns after one link, honestly.”
Now, Andrew uses Dock to support his team’s demo follow-up.
“The biggest thing I love about Dock, now that I've used it and now that I manage how a team uses it, is it's just elevated the quality of follow-up.”
Creating a templated Dock workspace allows you to house all of your materials in one place, including:
- Demo videos
- Pricing information
- Proof of ROI
- Product screenshots
- Other supporting sales collateral
Thanks to their innovative follow-up process, Nectar increased their year-over-year win rates by a whopping 31%.
Must-know follow-up stats
But wait, there’s more! We’ve got you covered with some of the most important follow-up stats. The more you know, the more you can hack the system and get more deals signed.
1. 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up attempt.
We already mentioned that only 2% of sales occur at the first point of contact. But did you know that almost half of salespeople throw in the towel after just one follow-up attempt? Since it takes around eight follow-up attempts to get a response, that’s a lot of missed revenue opportunities that could be slipping through your fingers.
Lack of response doesn’t have to be a closed door if you don’t let it. Check in every so often to get your foot in the door.
2. Prospects who have been sent texts have a 40% higher conversion rate.
Curious about the best way to follow up? Why not try text messaging? It’s a more instant way of establishing contact with your prospective customers that goes right to their pocket. Plus, you’ll benefit from a higher conversion rate.
3. Sales reps who follow up in 24 hours have an average response rate of 25%.
We’ve already established that the sooner you can follow up, the better. But let’s put that into context: Sales teams who follow up within 24 hours of their initial contact attempt see an average response rate of around 25%. That’s much better than the usual rates.
4. Email marketing has 2x higher ROI than cold calling, networking, or trade shows.
Another channel to consider is email marketing, which has a higher ROI than you might think. Most of your emails will probably still be ignored, but you can increase open rates with a catchy subject line. If it includes the recipient’s first name, even better, since you could increase open rates by 22%.
Once your email is opened, hook in the reader with correct grammar, as well as quick and catchy copy. Oh, and timing is everything—analyze your email data to find which times of day and days of the week have the best engagement.
5. 66.5% of sales professionals say referred leads are the highest quality leads.
It’s worth concentrating most of your energy on your most valuable sales leads. But where are they? The majority of sales professionals agree—referred leads are the highest quality leads around. They’ve already got a level of trust in you, which is the most valuable thing you could have going for you in the sales process.
6. 54% of sales leaders say proposals sent is one of the most important metrics to track.
The more proposals you fire off, the more sales you’ll make. And you can create proposal after proposal when you use a templated tool like Dock to streamline your follow-up efforts.
Lead follow-up tools
Effective lead follow-up is an essential part of any successful sales process.
While CRMs and all-in-one customer service platforms like HubSpot are great table stakes for managing and organizing leads, there are also many other tools available that can help sales professionals streamline and optimize their follow-up process—and improve conversion rates in the process.
In this section, we'll explore some of the best lead follow-up tools (other than your CRM, of course) that can help you close more deals and build stronger relationships with your prospects.
Email automation tools
Email automation is a powerful tool that can help you save time and improve your follow-up efficiency.
By automating repetitive tasks and streamlining your prospect communications, you can craft more impactful sales follow-up emails.
These tools can help you schedule and send automated follow-up emails using specific triggers, track email opens and click-through rates, and even prioritize leads based on their engagement with your emails.
Digital sales rooms
Digital sales rooms provide a convenient workspace where you can store all your follow-up materials, from proposals to presentations, in one place.
This can help you avoid messy email chains, documents, and spreadsheets.
Plus, digital sales rooms ensure that your follow-up materials are easily accessible to both you and your prospects.
Dock’s digital sales rooms allow you to store, share, and collaborate with your team and prospects on all sales-related materials.
Sales enablement software
Sales enablement software, which is closely intertwined with content management, gives you a powerful way to share content with clients throughout the deal cycle.
Always show up with the right content at the right time, whether it's a case study, a product demo, or a white paper—and you’ll be one step closer to closing the deal.
Sales intelligence tools
Sales intelligence tools like 6Sense, Clari, and Gong can help businesses gain valuable insights into their prospects and design better lead follow-up processes. Pocus is a great option for product-led sales models.
These tools use machine learning algorithms to analyze prospect data and provide insights into buying behavior, interests, industry patterns, and pain points.
Having this information at your fingertips can help you tailor your messaging and improve your overall lead follow-up strategy.
Outbound email software
How exactly? These tools allow businesses to set up automated email sequences that can be triggered based on specific actions taken by prospects.
So when a prospect opens an email, clicks a link, or visits a specific page on your website, they’ll initiate an automatic send—no extra lift required on your part.
AI-powered email coaches
AI-powered email coaches like Lavender can help you improve your lead follow-up process by providing personalized coaching to your sales reps.
Tools like Lavender use machine learning algorithms to analyze sales emails and provide feedback on things like tone, language, and message relevance.
As a result, AI-powered email coaches can help you improve the quality of their sales emails (more enticing CTAs, anyone?), with the ultimate goal of boosting conversion rates.
Create a buyer-friendly follow-up experience with Dock
With Dock, it’s easy to follow up with leads. Dock’s workspace is the perfect place to share materials with prospects, track lead engagement, and put the buyer first.
Here’s how Dock makes follow-up a breeze:
- Templatize it: Say goodbye and good riddance to crafting a personalized proposal every time. Use a standard template each time you send materials to buyers, and spend your time adding information customized to the client’s pain points.
- Keep everything in one place: No more confusing back-and-forth emails or shared Google Docs. With everything in one location, you and your leads can stay on the same page (literally). Get from demo to sale faster than before.
- Get buyer buy-in: It’s all about making the purchase an easy decision for the buyer. And it’s that much faster to get stakeholder buy-in when you have an easy-to-share workspace that demonstrates your product’s value for the buyer’s specific use case. You can also see where and how often your contacts are interacting with the workspace. And a pretty user interface doesn’t hurt, either.
If you’re ready to learn how Dock can revolutionize your follow-up experience, sign up for your free trial today.