There’s been a shift in how B2B organizations communicate through follow-ups and outreach. They’re taking a more B2C-like approach, optimizing the buying experience to win more business. Eight out of ten business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves.
This means that even in the B2B space, your buyers want ultra personalized experiences, they want their needs to come first, and they want on-demand engagement.
In this article, we’ll look at five sales follow-up tactics that will help you do just that. We’ll look at how your SDRs and AEs can provide buyers with more personalized interactions in any meeting during the follow-up.
5 Tactics for Effective Sales Follow-Up in 2020
The standard, inbound-lead, follow-up cadence primarily consists of phone calls, email, and LinkedIn.
The 2016 Sales Development Benchmark Report indicated that SDRs who leveraged a triple touch approach (phone, email, LinkedIn) had a 28% higher SQL conversion rate than SDRs who only used phone and email.
That was four years ago.
Email, phone calls, and LinkedIn are still the top three most used channels for communicating with prospects, but advancements in technology and changes in buyer behavior have changed HOW top salespeople use these channels. These same advancements have also added two new channels into the mix: video and texting.
Video is effective because it puts a face to the name. It can help simplify complex products and services, and it helps you stand out since not many salespeople are utilizing it. According to Vidyard, video communications have 3 times the number of responses.
Texts are also highly effective because 95% of texts from businesses are read within 3 minutes of being sent. It’s quick, and it’s personal.
However, because it’s so personal, there are certain best practices and regulations you must follow or else it can have the opposite effect on contact rates and conversions.
Before we get into the best practices for effective follow-ups, it’s important to note that the path in which a buyer was classified as sales-ready by Marketing will change your messaging.
Whether the buyer filled out a Request-a-Demo or Contact form or progressed to an MQL based on behavior scoring will change your messaging per tactic, but best practices for each will remain the same.
For the sake of our examples, we’ll assume that these leads are within your company’s ICP.
With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Sales Follow-Up Tactic #1: Email
Email is one of the oldest channels for follow-ups, and it’s rapidly evolved over the past decade as technology and automation have become more and more sophisticated.
A few years ago, the buzzword was personalization, but with features like merge tags, almost any ESP or sales engagement platform can bulk send a message and “personalize” a prospect’s name and company in the body of an email or subject line.
Swapping out competitor names per email, or mentioning a sports team in the area, was also a favorite “personalization” strategy for a while. This is where personalization tactics lost their traction with buyers — they weren’t really that personal.
In order to create an email that feels one-to-one and not automated, your message has to be relevant to that particular buyer.
You can still absolutely templatize the flow of your emails, but to make the messaging relevant, you’ll have to swap out more than just a couple of words.
A Social Media Manager requests a demo of your social listening tool. You send a follow-up email within 5 minutes.
Hi [First Name],
Thank you for reaching out about our social listening tool. Were there any specific features you were interested in and want to see in the demo?
A few of the features many of our customers in your role find the most valuable are X, Y, and Z.
Are you free for the demo on [date and time] or [date and time]?
Notice how this email doesn’t mention the product name but instead focuses on the solution it provides? It’s tailored to the role of the buyer who reached out for the demo.
Specifying a couple of dates and times upfront (if not a part of your demo request form) can also eliminate back and forth and get them on a demo faster.
Sales Follow-Up Tactic #2: Phone
When a buyer requests to be contacted, they usually want to be contacted at that moment. The longer you wait, the lower your chances of connecting with them — 35–50% of sales go to the vendor who responds first.
Picking up the phone is going to be the fastest way for you to reach out. Unfortunately, many people won’t answer the phone if they don’t know the number.
That being said, if you call them right away, they’re more likely to answer since you’re fresh on their mind.
Make it immediately clear that you’re responding to their request.
Hi [First Name],
It’s Amanda with ABC Consulting. How are you?
Great! I just called to follow-up on your request for [Demo/More information]. Do you have about 10 minutes to speak now?
Using, “Did I catch you at a bad time,” makes you 40% less likely to book a meeting. Instead, ask, “How are you?” It increases your likelihood of booking a meeting by 3.4X.
If they don’t answer, leave a voicemail and follow-up with an email asap.
Here’s an example of a good voicemail:
Hi [First Name],
It’s Amanda with ABC Consulting.I just called to follow-up on your request for [Demo/More information].
I’ll circle back with you on [date and time] and shoot you a quick follow-up email now with my information.
Have a great day, and looking forward to connecting soon.
Now let’s say you’re calling a buyer who didn’t fill out a form to be contacted. Instead, they progressed to an MQL in your CRM because they’ve visited your website multiple times and downloaded three pieces of content around the same topic.
Calling this type of lead is similar to cold calling because they didn’t request for you to reach out, and they probably aren’t expecting it.
Many companies have thrown cold calling out the window because fewer people are actually answering these days, but just because you can’t directly attribute a phone call to a connection doesn’t mean it didn’t contribute to it.
Say you call a prospect twice and leave two voicemails, that person now knows you’re not going away. They probably won’t call you back, and they may not answer your third phone call, but they may now reply to your email or even text you back.
Calling is an added touchpoint, and it’s still very effective when built into an omnichannel approach.
Sales Follow-Up Tactic #3: LinkedIn
Most sales reps and leaders today treat LinkedIn like a second inbox, and often they send the same messaging they would send via email.
Buyers have become very good at ignoring this approach. Traditional social selling tactics are no longer very effective.
We need a different approach for LinkedIn.
As I mentioned earlier, B2B buyers want a more B2C experience, and what better way to provide this than on social media?
On platforms like Facebook and Instagram, buyers follow their favorite brands and lifestyle pages. LinkedIn, as a professional network, attracts executives looking for content on industry insights, thought leadership, and competition.
91% of executives rate LinkedIn as their first choice for professionally relevant content. This makes LinkedIn a very effective platform for starting a dialogue with buyers and interacting with them.
Email may be an excellent channel for providing information about your solution and trying to book a meeting, but LinkedIn is excellent for starting a conversation and to position yourself as an expert by providing value. That being said, utilizing LinkedIn to build a digital presence with valuable content is a separate play in itself.
In terms of utilizing LinkedIn as a tactic for effective sales follow-up, there are three types of touchpoints you can use.
Touchpoint 1: Connect
When sending a connection request, don’t send a message. There isn’t definitive research that shows sending a message significantly improves acceptance rates. Save that touchpoint for last.
For now, just connect.
Touchpoint 2: Interact with a post
Just liking a post isn’t going to get you noticed. Especially if the prospect has 15+ likes already and you’re not giving them anything valuable.
Leaving a comment is far more effective. Commenting enters you into a dialogue where you can provide your own insights.
For instance, you may say something like:
Before you comment, ask yourself, “Is what I’m writing providing any value or asking a question that could spark a response?”
You always want to strive for adding value. That’s what will get you noticed.
Touchpoint 3: Direct Message
Only direct message a prospect — assuming they’ve accepted your connection request — after you’ve interacted with a couple of their posts.
By waiting to message them, you’ve built up a little bit of relationship capital, and the buyer will hopefully know who you are at this point.
They now trust that you don’t just want to sell them something, and that you want to add value to their life. This gives you the opportunity to say something like:
Hey [First Name],
My company just posted an article around the surprising link between [relevant topic A] and [relevant topic B]. Thoughts? Is this an issue you’ve seen in your organization as well?
Again, you should still be trying to add value, but now that they know who you are, you can get a little more personal and direct than just commenting on a post.
Sales Follow-Up Tactic #4: Video
Technically, the triple touch approach mentioned in the 2016 Sales Development Benchmark Report means that an SDR sent an email, left a voicemail, and an InMail message all within a few minutes of each other.
I’m not suggesting that you should send an email, then a video email, leave a voicemail, send a text, and then message a prospect via LinkedIn within a few minutes of each other.
That sounds a little like harassment.
But, instead of simple text email, you could incorporate video in order to help you stand out.
Adding the word “video” to your subject line can even boost your open rates by 19%.
You don’t need professional quality videos, either. You can easily do a screen share or take a selfie video on your smartphone or webcam.
Screen share is great for micro-demoing your platform as a teaser.
Videoing yourself puts a face to the emails and phone calls, and it helps establish a more emotional connection.
Video is best at the beginning of your follow-up process to help capture a buyer’s attention. Vidyard suggests holding up a whiteboard with the prospect’s name to grab their attention.
Sales Follow-Up Tactic #5: Texting
Texting in B2B is probably one of the most controversial tactics right now.
Many of us already get text messages from B2C businesses with coupon codes or appointment reminders, but where does text messaging come in for B2B sales?
Many sellers feel that texting is too personal and buyers won’t appreciate it, but there is also research that shows millennials prefer texting to phone calls. They find it to be less invasive.
My advice? Know your audience.
Depending on your product or service, it may make sense to add an “Ok to Text” checkbox on your forms, instantly giving Sales the green light.
Either way, the most critical rule when texting is to NEVER do it without permission. If you send a text to a buyer before connecting with them over the phone, and you didn’t get permission from a form, the likelihood of contacting that lead decreases by 39%.
For an AE, texting can help push deals through faster after you’ve built up some rapport with a prospect.
Texting is perhaps the most informal of all the platforms we’ve looked at, but you should still be professional. Here’s an example:
Hey [First Name]. Just wanted to let you know I checked with [Supervisor], and we are good to go with adding [X] to the proposal. I’ll send the updated version your way this afternoon.
Hey [First Name]. I just sent the contract over via DocuSign. Let me know if you have any additional questions after reviewing. Looking forward to the partnership!
As you start optimizing your 2020 follow-up strategy and begin testing new approaches to your sales cadence, keep these five tactics and takeaways in mind:
- When following up via email, a relevant message tailored for the person is more important than superficial personalization.
- Following up with prospects via phone is still essential to an omnichannel approach. Even if they don’t call you back directly, it can contribute to a prospect replying to your email or LinkedIn message.
- LinkedIn is more than a second inbox. Do not connect with a buyer just to send them an InMail message containing the same information you sent them in an email. LinkedIn requires a separate tactic that uses a more interactive approach.
- Video can 3X responses, and it’s very underutilized in B2B, which means it can give you an edge over the competition. You also already have the resources and technology you need at your disposal.
- Texting is the fastest way to communicate with buyers, but it’s only effective after you’ve gained permission or developed a rapport.
There you have it, everything you need to know to begin making effective sales follow-ups in 2020.