Daniel Tardy: License To Sell

The top 3 reasons why follow up doesn’t work

Posted in Selling by elephanthunters on January 13, 2010

We’ve all met this guy:

Todd is a little confused about selling

I met him at one of our leadership events last fall, right before he blind sided me with an impromptu, overly passionate sales pitch about the software package his company produces.  Todd insisted that his software would be the perfect supplement to our event series, and that we should ‘meet up’ sometime to visit about it more.

I remember being cordially uninterested.  I asked Todd to email me something about his product, and I told him that if I saw a need to explore this endeavor some day, then I would certainly give him the chance to bid on the service.

I never got that email.

The call we all dread

What I did get, however, was a completely out of the blue call from Todd which, for all practical purposes, was a cold call.  I rarely take cold calls, but since I knew who this guy was (and in a certain sense he was also a client of mine) I told my assistant to put him through.

The call was a train wreck. At least it was from Todd’s vantage point, for me it was just a waste of time.  If this guy ever had a chance of getting our business he lost it all in a single impulsive call.  What should have been the next step in the sales process for him, ended up putting the nail in the coffin on any hopes he had of working with our company.

Follow up or pushy?

I knew the deal was over when Todd said these not-so-magic words:

“I’m calling to follow up on…”

I didn’t listen to anything he said for the next 3 minutes.  When he told me he was following up, my first thought was that he doesn’t even have my permission to follow up.  Secondly, what’s he following up about?  And didn’t I ask this guy to email me something?

“You’re not following up”, I thought.  “You’re calling to try to resell me your little thing that I already said I wasn’t interested in.  How fast can I get off this call without being a total jerk?”

This behavior is obnoxious, and will result in your call getting screened next time.

Could he have made the sell?

Maybe, but there were several critical components to this sell that Todd completely missed including the fact that he pitched a guy who he only met just moments before.

You must earn the right to be heard.  Just because you have an audience doesn’t mean you have credibility.

Todd probably has a great product…it may even be a fit for us, but we’ll never know.  The biggest problem area for most sales people has very little to do with the quality of their product or service.  It has everything to do with how they handle the follow up process.  Proper follow up will invariably determine whether or not we achieve success in selling.

Here are the top 3 reasons follow up fails:

  1. It isn’t follow up. Follow up by definition occurs after the prospect has had a chance to learn something about you, your product or your service.  If you haven’t had a previous discovery meeting, phone call or email exchange in which the prospect willingly received information, then you are still in the prospecting/pitching phase.  You don’t have anything to follow up on.
  2. Choosing the wrong communication medium. I asked Todd to send me an email about his product.  He chose to call instead.  Bad idea.  Your prospect gets to set the tone on their preferred medium.  If they ask you to call then don’t email them…pick up the phone!  If they text you, text them back.  If they tweet you, don’t write a response on their facebook wall.  Stick to their desired medium of communication until you ask if it’s OK to do something different.
  3. You don’t have permission. This is the big one.  I NEVER get off a discovery call without getting permission to follow up.  This is as simple as asking, “Would you mind if I follow up with you in a few days?”.  I even try to get specific on their preferred date, time and communication medium.  So when I send them an email today and then call Tuesday afternoon between 2 and 4 O’clock I don’t have call reluctance, and they don’t feel like I’m bothering them.  If I get permission to follow up, then anything less would be a disservice to them.

When we follow up well it is a service to our prospect and they will thank us for it.  When we make any one of these 3 mistakes, we  most often will loose the sell.

The fortune is in the follow up!

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10 Responses

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  1. misty said, on January 13, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Excellent thoughts Daniel. It never ceases to amaze me that when these people hit a brick wall, they wonder why. I think these could be applied to more areas than just “selling of services”. For me, I will reflect on this in that light.

  2. Ramona said, on January 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Completely agree- and really makes me re-think every encounter I have with sales people in my own business. Do you think this also applies to people seeking employment with your business? As a business owner I love to have people seeking us out but when I ask them to forward a resume 8 out of 10 never do.

    • elephanthunters said, on January 13, 2010 at 6:48 pm


      I think the interview process uses similar principles for sure! If I’m interviewing I definitely expect that the applicant would do the minimum things I request (i.e. forwarding a resume), but I’m also OK with a little higher level of ‘pushiness’ than with a sales call.

      I want to see that the applicant has passion and is persistent…If they call every day that’s obviously too much, but following up with a hand written thank you note and then a call several days later (even without advanced permission) is going to move their application toward the top of the stack.

      I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised but I think it’s amazing 8 out of 10 don’t do something as simple as send a resume. Who applies for a job without having one already made up!?

  3. Mike valkenaar said, on January 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm


    thanks for the insight. As I’m the lead salesman on my team it’s good to hear this perspective.

  4. Daniel Bass said, on January 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    You make a very good point about communicating with people in their preferred medium.

    In my social networks there are people that I follow closely on some platforms, and passively on other platforms. If Twitter is the platform of primary communication between myself and Person X…abruptly changing that pattern can disrupt the dialog between us, causing confusion.

    So, if your Prospect/Client is anticipating that you’ll communicate with them in a certain medium, don’t try and surprise them. You might just scare them off.

    Well said Daniel…

    • elephanthunters said, on January 13, 2010 at 6:53 pm

      I agree. I’ve seen this happen a lot personally…It’s kind of like randomly seeing a co-worker at church. Nothing particularly wrong with it, but it can feel strange if it’s out of context.

  5. Clint said, on January 13, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Mr. Tardy
    Thank you so much for this advice. I’ve been enjoying your blog for the past 3 months. I’m interested in hearing your input on the following question.

    -I’ve been told (by a business coach for creative services) that a phone call these days, is far too personal a method of communication for prospect research. So if I’m sending an email, how should I avoid the “out of the blue” feeling my prospect is sure to feel?

    As always, your insightful and executive level input are greatly appreciated. Please keep up the excellent work.

    • elephanthunters said, on January 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm


      You bring up a good point…so the question is ‘How do we initiate contact without making them feel like we’re a telemarketer or sending them spam?’

      This can be challenging if you’re talking about cold calling just to get the ball rolling. I tend to agree with your business coach that a cold phone call is fairly unproductive these days…sure if you call 100 people law of averages says you may get a few, but this is working hard vs. smart.

      The best way I have found to overcome this is with a referral. If I email someone cold then I try to include a reference/endorsement, and if that’s not possible then my results typically aren’t very good.

      I’ve done my share of cold calling, but at this point in the game I’ve basically resolved to never taking cold calls and never making them…it takes a lot of work to get to this point but it is possible. It’s all about having a great network and strong relationships.

      My two favorite books on this are:

      1) Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferazzi
      2) Never Cold Call Again by Frank J. Rumbauskas Jr.

      Hope this helps.

  6. Patrick said, on January 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm


    Thanks for a great post. For the past 5 years I have been a math teacher, and your post was ideal for me as I start a corporate position on Monday. Great advice on how to and how not to follow up-

    • elephanthunters said, on January 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      Good luck with the new gig Patrick. I’ve got 3 bits of advice for you as you transition: 1) Read 2) Read 3) Read. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words!

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