Follow Up with Follow-Up
I attended a Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) conference in the Big Apple in May. The conference began Thursday with the usual evening reception and dinner. It was time for yours truly to get to work. I smiled, shook hands and was my usual charming self. No real shop-talk, just catching up on old times.
TGIF: The next day was filled with general sessions, breakout sessions, panels and networking. Meetings may produce ennui in some, but, for me, it’s my time to shine. I’m in my element. I met with several procurement executives that expressed interest in our print procurement software, and each one asked me for a follow-up meeting. Jackpot! Self-congratulations were in order.
But I didn’t stop there. I doubled down on my good fortune and went all in. I met with non-print buyers. Why, you ask? I know that I don’t usually deal with non-print people within organizations per se, but I felt these companies could benefit from our software. And, as Clint Eastwood once asked, “Do you feel lucky, punk?” I looked Uncle Clint in his steely eyes and responded, “Yes, thank you for asking.” (Note: Clint Eastwood is not technically my uncle, but he did date my great aunt. And his parents were my great grandparents’ best friends.)
Did I close any deals? Hold your horses. More work needed to be done.
I may have had some great conversations, but unless I follow up and actively pursue their business, the buyers are not likely to reach out to me. Buyers are busy people and are constantly bombarded with sales pitches. They know how to tune out salespeople and focus on their key objectives by leveraging their networks to get referrals for service providers. And it’s not likely that print procurement is a CPO’s main priority. I need to continue to highlight and promote my software to the CPO. I need to remind him or her of what it can do for his or her team and company.
I flew home Friday night after the conference ended. On the flight home, I entered notes about each prospective client into my “Prospect Spreadsheet.” After I meet someone, I write notes on his or her business card, or enter notes in my phone about our conversation. I make a special effort to include personal information: family details, favorite wine, hobbies, sports teams, etc. The more personal the information, the better the reference material for my follow-up email, handwritten card or package.
On Sundays, I start the follow-up ball rolling. Serendipitously, I discovered that Sundays are the best day to get email responses from executives. Many CPOs are on their computers preparing for Monday and aren’t inundated with emails. This makes my brief correspondence more likely to be noticed, read and responded to.
I craft a concise follow-up email template. I, then, customize each email to reflect specific details the buyer and I spoke about in our initial meeting.
Here’s a follow-up email example:
I enjoyed meeting you at lunch Thursday. Congrats on the new office—moving is a pain, but will be so worth it when it’s over. : )
Can you connect me with the person on your team responsible for the print spend? I’ll be in NYC this week and would like to see if he or she has an interest in meeting.
Companies use our print procurement software to manage the print buying process in-house. Our software provides access to over 50 suppliers and ensures at least five bids. Our software also coordinates proofing, tracks savings data and manages diversity spend. Companies have the opportunity to setup their own suppliers. Our software integrates with your procure-to-pay system. The average savings is 14-22 percent.
Here are my top five follow-up tips:
1) Send a follow-up correspondence within 24-72 hours of meeting the person. My prospect is more likely to remember me a few days following our meeting, rather than weeks later.
2) Send something physical to the prospect’s office that is a metaphor for what you spoke about (whether in person or on the phone). Or, if that is not feasible, send an email. Personalize the email and keep it brief. (To quote William Shakespeare: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”) If you spoke about the buyer’s obsession with the Warriors (Go Dubs) or love for running, food, golf or whatever, mention it in your note.
3) One follow-up attempt is usually not enough. Expect that you won’t hear back from your first follow-up attempt. I generally have to follow-up three to five times in the course of two months before I get the desired result. I like to send an email, a note on LinkedIn and a phone call/voice message.
4) For your last follow-up attempt, send the Closing Your File email. I’ve been very successful with this:
Subject: Closing Your File
Do I have permission to close your file?
If not, and you’d like to discuss our print procurement software, does 7/9 at 10 A.M. EST work?
5) Set a weekly Google alert for your prospect’s company. I get an email with all the public news related to the company. This gives me good articles and, therefore, insight to use in my communications. And it is kind of fun. I feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes. I’m presently working on a prospect in the insurance industry. I learned from a Google alert that they acquired three companies and selected a new nonprofit to support. I was able to use this information to get a follow-up call.
Go ahead, make someone’s day: After meeting your next big prospect, brainstorm a clever way to follow-up. Maybe it’s sending a live dove with a note in its mouth or drawing and framing a personalized cartoon, or sending a recorder that plays a funny jingle you wrote about the prospect’s issues. Be bold in your follow-up.
“There’s plain few problems can’t be solved with a little sweat and hard work.”
– Pale Rider, 1985
Sarah Scudder is president of Real Sourcing Network (RSN), has won many awards, writes for various publications and is an entrepreneur. Sarah’s desire is to make the world a better place. She is on her way.