No matter how persuasive, compelling or brilliant you may be, it’s
difficult to build a relationship with a prospect if you can’t
get them to call you back.
Most sales people use boring, outdated voice and email methods, which
leave them sounding just like every other sales person in the world.
If you want to get more return calls from your clients, then you have
to do something different from everyone else out there – you
have to stand out, be likeable, and actively deserve a return call.
Here are 12 of the best ideas we’ve found to help you stand
up, stand out and make your clients want to return your calls:
1. The fine line between persistence and stalking.
I rarely ever give up. That being said, I don’t call my prospects
twice a day, either.
The trick is to call consistently, and if you leave a message, tell
the customer precisely when you will call them back – and then
stick to it. I usually say something like: "If I don’t
hear from you by March 15th, I’ll call you back on the 16th."
I get return calls more often, because my prospects know that
I will be calling them if they don’t get in touch with me.
Most experts agree that it takes at least 4 attempts to reach your
prospect. Realistically, I find that number can be closer to 8. But
some of my best customers today are those who I was initially the
most patient with, and to whom I made multiple calls over a period
of weeks, or even months.
2. Let them off the hook.
In a voice or email, it’s a great idea to tell a prospect
that’s its OK for them to say no.
Say something like: "If you’ve chosen to go with a different
product, that’s okay. Just let me know so I don’t become
a follow-up pest." The vast majority of the time, one of
two things will happen – they’ll either call you back and
say, yes, we’ve chosen someone else, or they’ll say no,
we haven’t made a decision yet, and apologize for not getting
back to you sooner.
Either way, you’re ahead of the game because now you know the
truth about what’s going on.
3. Send a handwritten note.
Sending a handwritten note after your first sales call or presentation
will dramatically increase your chances of getting a return call.
Why? Because a handwritten note increases your likeability, helps
make the prospect feel good about you and encourages them to take
I never cease to be amazed at the number of emails I receive from
clients and prospects thanking me for my handwritten notes. Obviously,
they have an effect on people that yet another voice or email doesn’t.
4. Put them on auto-drip.
If you’ve tried everything you can think of and still can’t
seem to get through, but you aren’t quite ready to give up entirely,
put the prospect on auto-drip, and send them something interesting
and of value (not simply advertisements) every month or quarter. This
will help to keep you top of mind for when the time is right for them
to make a decision, or go looking for a supplier. For more tips on
how to stay in touch without straying into stalking territory, check
out our article, The
Fine Line Between Persistence – and Stalking!
5. Ask if they’re okay.
This is an excellent idea from Engage client Michael Freer, who uses
it in both voice and email to drum up a response from clients who
have unexpectedly gone silent:
On the XXth of June, I sent you an email asking for… and
as I haven’t heard from you, I can only assume one of the following:
1) You’re now not interested and I’m reduced to the status of
an annoying piece of spam clogging up your email; or
2) You desperately want to contact me, but you’re trapped under
a fallen filing cabinet and can’t reach your phone or PC.
Your guidance would be greatly appreciated.
P.S. If it is #2, please let me know and I’ll send someone round
to help you out.
This very simple approach works because it’s different and fun.
We tried it, and received almost immediate responses from previously
silent contacts, many of whom started off by apologizing, saying that
they’ve been buried in work and then going into great detail
about why they were still interested. The ones who don’t respond are
either on a really long vacation, or really aren’t interested, so
it isn’t worth wasting any more time on them anyway.
On a happy note, we never did get any responses from prospects who
were indeed trapped under their filing cabinets, saving us the difficulty
and expense of organizing a costly rescue mission!
6. Create a deadline.
After every conversation, you should gain agreement from the prospect
as to next steps, and the date they will be accomplished. That way,
when the time for the follow-up call comes around and the prospect
doesn’t show up, you can leave a message like: "I’m
calling because the last time we spoke, we agreed to chat today about…."
Reminding them of your agreement will help move them to call you
back. If they don’t return your call in a couple of days, keep
calling, and gently remind them of your mutual agreement.
7. Keep track of who hasn’t answered.
Document each call or email in your CRM, so you can remember when
you last spoke with, left a message for or sent an email to a client.
You can then bring up those dates in a subsequent message, such as:
"When we last emailed on Feb 1st, we agreed that I would…"
8. Separate the facts from your imagination.
Try to find out what’s really going on, rather than what
you simply think or assume is happening. The following 3-step voice
mail strategy works because it increases your chances of getting a
return call, and it always gets you to the truth:
VOICE MAIL #1: "Mr. X, this is John Doe from ABC Company.
Paul Smith suggested I call you because… Sorry I missed you
today, but I’ll try to reach you again on DATE and TIME."
Make sure your tone is soft, non-threatening and friendly. You
don’t want to sound like a radio ad for a furniture liquidator.
Plus, it’s critical that you do call back on the date and time that
VOICE MAIL #2: "Hi Mr. X, this is John Doe from ABC Company
calling because I promised to reach you today at TIME. Sorry I missed
you. Paul Smith suggested I call you because… I’ll try you
again on DATE and TIME."
Again, it’s critical that you call back exactly when you said you
would. Anything else would result in your being less than honest,
and risk losing your contact’s confidence.
VOICE MAIL #3: "Hi Mr. X, this is John Doe at ABC Company
calling, because I promised to reach you today at TIME. Sorry I
missed you. I notice that you’ve been difficult to reach and
I’m wondering if that’s because you’re swamped at work,
you aren’t interested in doing business with my company or
I’ve been wrong at guessing the times you might be at your desk.
Any of these is okay, but if you wouldn’t mind letting me know how
to proceed, that would be great. I promised Paul Smith I would be
in touch with you, and that I would get back to him about our conversation.
My number is 613 730-7700, extension 111."
The last reason for not reaching the prospect – that you’ve
been wrong at guessing the times he or she might be at his or her
desk – is important because it lets you take ownership of the
reason you can’t reach the customer. You can change the other
two reasons based on your specific sales situation – for example,
if this was a follow-up call after sending a proposal, you might
say: "I’m wondering if that’s because you didn’t
have a chance to see the proposal, you were unhappy with the pricing
I sent or I’ve been wrong at guessing the times you might be at
9. Call early or late in the day.
One of the ways I follow up with senior-level decision makers is to
call either quite early in the morning (say around 7:30am) or late
in the day (after 5pm), without leaving a message if I don’t get a
person. I’ve found that, by calling at these times, the decision
makers are often alone in the office without a gatekeeper, and therefore
more likely to pick up calls themselves.
10. Change your media.
If a prospect hasn’t responded to an email you sent within 5
business days, call to ask them if they received it. Likewise, if
they haven’t responded to a phone call, send them an email.
Everyone has their own preferred way to communicate. Your job is
to find out which communication tool is easier for the prospect. One
Engage client specifically tells customers on her voice mail messages
that she’ll be sending them an email as well in case that is
better for them, and in her emails, she lets them know that she’ll
be calling in case that works better. This not only increases your
chances of reaching the prospect, but also shows them that you’re
putting their interests first.
11. Prepare for the "Final Approach."
Whether in voice or email, when you’re ready to permanently write
an uncommunicative prospect off, let the customer know that this will
be the final attempt you’ll be making to reach them. Try something
"I notice that it’s been X weeks since we last spoke,
and I’m assuming that’s because you are no longer interested
in our product. That’s OK, I understand that we are not a fit
for everyone. The last thing I want is to become a follow-up pest!
If you’re still interested, you can reach me at 111-1111. If
I don’t hear from you, then I’ll assume that you are moving
ahead in a different direction, and I won’t call again to interrupt.
I wish you all the best on your project, and thank you for considering
12. Have some fun – and take a risk!
Engage customer Greg Higgins uses this approach with great results:
"Hi Bob, this is Greg from ABC Corporation. I’m beginning
to feel that we have a love-hate relationship with your answering
machine – I love to leave messages, you hate to return them.
Maybe we can talk soon. Thanks."
Yes, it’s sassy. But Greg reports that 99% of the time he uses
this, he gets a call back. And of course, he only uses this approach
on the most desperate cases.
Here’s your challenge: try something new this week! After all,
what you’ve been doing so far hasn’t been working, so what
have you got to lose – especially with those prospects who’ve
been silent for a while anyway?