How to make a follow-up call from first contact

This can be a bit awkward if you are not used to it. Also, even if you are used to it, it can have unsatisfactory results. Imagine you were at a networking event or you were exhibiting at a trade show, and you had a conversation with someone who seemed to be a likely customer for your business. You probably also exchanged business cards.

The follow-up call

A few days later you decide to follow up with a phone call. You are surprised and perhaps shocked at the brusque response. Surely you were getting on so well when you met before?

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. They probably met lots of people and exchanged lots of cards that day. They may all be following up, adding to the day-to-day colds calls your prospect is already getting. Maybe you just got lost in the noise. It’s very common, but there are ways of managing this situation.

Firstly, or perhaps minus-firstly, when you have the initial conversation at the event make sure you agree or at least set expectations on the next step, for example:

“Let’s connect on LinkedIn and keep in touch”, or…

“I’ll give you a call in a few days, and we’ll carry on this discussion” – depending on the conversation of course.

A call out of the blue is a call out of the blue, and people often don’t immediately make the connection with the earlier conversation. Let’s imagine you are now making that follow-up call that you agreed to (or even if you forgot to agree to).

“Hi Jo, this is Neville. We met and had a chat at the IoD conference, do you remember?” This is the all-important HOOK that immediately establishes that this is not a cold-call, you already have a connection.

Hopefully Jo says “Ah yes, I do. How are you?” After courtesies are exchanged, you need to get to the point fast, but too fast for them.

Moving the conversation forward

Recognise that this is early days in your relationship, they are still getting to know you and won’t be likely to make commitments just yet. You may be itching to say “about that sales training workshop we talked about, do you want to order it?” but hold back. Too much too soon. You need to build more trust. Instead, you could ask their opinion about the event. Being asked for an opinion is always flattering (see my article on BEAR).

“I’m interested in your opinion on that event, as we are considering exhibiting there next year. What did you think of it?” Open question. If they reply with a considered response, go for the flattery again by congratulating them on their answer, for example “Oh that’s a very interesting point, I hadn’t thought of/noticed/considered that. That’s very helpful, thank you.”

This might sound trite, manipulative and/cheesy on the page here but in reality you will make your own script and be more natural. The principle is to build the relationship and a little neuroscience worked in can help a lot (see BEAR again).

The crunch

Then…we can get to the next stage which is to open up the conversation around your topic of interest. For example:

“When we met, we talked about your sales teams and the difficulties they are having getting appointments. You said you were sure they are missing opportunities and maybe they could benefit from refresher training. Have you had any further thoughts on that?”

Here you are reminding them of the problem, indicating a potentially better outcome and opening up the discussion on the solution you want to provide.

Of course, these conversations don’t always go they way you want them to and you may have to negotiate around them being too busy or already looking at alternatives, but if you approach a follow-up call in this way you will have a much better chance of success.

Try it and let me know how you get on!

Neville Merritt
Ascent Learning