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Three keys to overcome your fear of follow up

by Judy Garmaise

Judy GarmaiseThe truth is clear: the majority of salespeople don’t take follow up seriously. After talking with a prospect, they leave one follow up voice mail or send one e-mail, and that’s it. A small minority will take it a step further and call or e-mail one additional time, but hearing that someone followed up three, four, five, six, or even seven times is rare.

However, that’s exactly how many times you must follow up to get someone’s attention. That’s right, seven follow ups are critical if you want to be successful. Be honest now, how many follow up attempts do you regularly make?

The excuses why salespeople don’t follow up are plentiful: “I’m too busy,” “I need to spend my time in front of new prospects, not chasing down possibilities,” “I left the person a voice mail; now it’s their turn to call me.” All those excuses are nonsense! The real reason people don’t follow up is because they’re terrified of rejection.

People have a fear of getting hung up on. They’re afraid the prospect is going to tell them, “Go away! Stop bothering me!” This inner dialogue actually stems from childhood, when they were asking their parents for cookies. They’d say, “Mom, can I have a cookie?” And Mom would snap back, “No. Stop bothering me and go to your room.” Now, many years later, they’re bringing that child into the workplace. So when it comes time to follow up, their internal dialogue is saying, “I don’t want to bother her. I asked for the cookie once and she said no. If I ask again, she’ll yell at me and send me to my room.”

If you’re ready to put that child to bed and take the steps necessary to follow up so you can land more business, keep the following suggestions in mind.

Q-TIP (Quit Taking It Personally)
Remember that they’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting your product or service. Here’s proof: Imagine that a wizard waved his wand and said to you, “For the next 12 hours any phone call you make, any person you meet, and any encounter you have you will get a ‘yes’ answer.” How many follow up phone calls would you make that day? Most people say they would make an infinite number of phone calls during that time.

If you’re making phone call after phone call that entire day, isn’t that proof the reason you’re not making the phone calls is fear of rejection? You would have absolutely no fear of picking up that phone if you knew there were a “yes” on the line.

But then what happens? You’re talking with someone and you get a “no.” At that point you need to remember that it takes a certain number of negative responses before you get the positive one. That exact number will vary depending on your product and industry. However, every time you get a “no,” say, “Great! Now I’m one phone call closer to my ‘yes.’”

Finally, consider this: Does the person on the other end of the line – the one who is saying “no” – really know you? Does he know what you look like, what your life is like, what your dreams and aspirations are, what you do in your spare time, and who you are at your core? Of course not! Only your friends and family know that. Therefore, if this person doesn’t really know you, how can he be rejecting you? Face it, he’s rejecting your product, not you. Stop taking it personally, pick up the phone, and have some F.U.N. (Follow Up Now).

Never Assume
Despite the fact that they have great products, are very intelligent, and can even pronounce peoples’ names correctly, most salespeople fear they’re going to annoy prospects if they follow up. That’s why after they leave one voice mail and get no reply, they assume the prospect is not interested.

We all know the word “assume” can be broken down into “ass u me,” which means when we assume, we’re making an ass out of you and me. And in fact, when you don’t follow up because of your assumptions, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Here’s why: The reason people aren’t getting back to you – even after four or five e-mails – is not because they aren’t interested, it’s simply that they are busy. Therefore, following up is not about nagging; rather, it is about reminding. Realize that people today are bombarded with technology and information. Their minds are going in 50 different directions all at once. It’s only natural that they need a bit of reminding about your products.

Did you know that the average person’s short-term memory is between five and 60 seconds long? That means when someone is listening to five voice mails in the car and hasn’t written the messages down, his short-term memory of 60 seconds guarantees that he won’t remember your call. This is just one more reason to remind people that you contacted them.

Additionally, stuff happens. People lose their cell phones, get sick. Technology glitches happen and voice mails or e-mails disappear. Sometimes, people just forget. When you assume that someone isn’t interested or assume you’re bothering them or assume they don’t have the money or make any number of other assumptions, you’re sabotaging yourself and your company.

Besides, if you truly believe you have a product or service that your client needs to know about it, following up should not be an issue. After all, you’re doing them a favor by reminding them of your offering. Most prospects will even thank you for your follow up. Ultimately, if someone is supposed to give you money for a transaction, then it’s your obligation to get them on the phone. They never owe you a call if they’re paying you. Stop making assumptions and follow up until you get what you want.

It’s Never No; It’s Just Not Yet
Very often a prospect will say “no” repeatedly – sometimes for years – and then suddenly one day that “no” turns into a “yes.” That’s because no matter what their actual words are, it’s never really “no,” it’s just not yet. In other words, the prospect is just saying “no” to the product at that moment in time – not forever. But you never know when he or she will be ready for your product, which is why you have to follow up continuously.

The reason it’s never “no” and just “not yet” is because shift happens. No one lives in a stagnant world. Everything is changing every minute of every day. People and circumstances change, sometimes in split seconds. A poor man can become wealthy overnight, while a rich man can go to prison and lose everything. That’s why shift happens.

Knowing this, it’s not up to you to determine who is qualified for your product or service and who isn’t. The only thing you can do is stay in touch with these people and follow up because at any moment any person’s circumstance can change. By knowing that “shift happens” and acknowledging that “it’s never no and just not yet,” your success rate in closing the sale will increase.

The Success is in the Follow Up
Since few salespeople follow up with prospects, you will truly stand out when you do. Even if your prospect does not immediately return your call or e-mail, he or she will remember your efforts. And the more follow up you do, the more permanently you’ll cement yourself in his or her mind. That way when the person is ready to make the buying decision, your name will be the first one your prospect thinks of. Pick up that phone and do some follow up today. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Judy Garmaise, CSW, is a corporate trainer and professional speaker with a master's degree from Columbia University. With more than 25 years of experience in sales, management and customer service, Judy provides training on Follow Up - her proven system of increasing profitability and success, while maintaining integrity and trust. She is also working on the forthcoming book, "The Power of Follow Up." To hire her for your next keynote or event, e-mail: or call: 561-445-9955.


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