How to Follow Up Sales Leads Like a Pro

Sales techniques9 mins
Jan 5, 2021

Lead follow up is tricky. If you reach out too soon, you might seem overeager and scare sales prospects off. However, if you wait too long, you risk the possibility of your prospect losing interest. What is the optimal length of time for following up with prospects?

Lead follow-up is a lot like dating. How many people do you know that got married at the end of their first date? Our guess is probably zero.

Many may say they “knew” from the first time they met, but they probably still went out for, at least, a few dinners before getting hitched. And there’s a really pragmatic reason for that: it takes time to figure out if you want to commit to someone.

Though it’s a much lower-stakes game, in sales there’s a similar process when someone is deciding whether or not to become a customer. Just as with people who get married on the first date, closing a sale on the first call is not very common. The reason is shockingly similar: your prospect needs time to figure out if you’re the right fit.

With that being the case, every salesperson has to perform some sort of lead follow-up. As with dating, it can be a little tense and anxiety-inducing.

How long do you wait to call?

How many messages are too many?

These and any number of other questions might plague your mind when contemplating when to send a lead a follow-up message.

To help reduce your stress, we’ve put together a list of best practices for following up with new prospects.

How long should you wait?

If you’ve seen any romantic comedy or sitcom, you may have been exposed to the idea of the “three-day rule.” Basically, the idea is that after you meet someone you shouldn’t reach out to them until at least three days have passed.

The idea is if you reach out too soon you might seem overeager and scare them off. However, if you wait too long, then they may forget about you and no longer be excited by the prospect of talking with you. In business, the same principles hold true.

The Do's and Don'ts:

  • DO: give your lead a few days to process what you covered in your last meeting.
  • DON'T: wait so long that the lead forgets about you.

So, whether you’re wondering when to reach out after a "first date" or discovery call, it seems three days is a good amount of time to wait before following up with your prospect

Be deliberate with your lead follow up

In a romantic scenario, it can be charming to send a message “just because.” It lets the other person know you’re thinking of them. It can be very charming, in fact. However, the same isn’t true when it comes to messaging your leads-- save the charm for your personal life, skip it with your lead follow-up. Why?

The plain and simple fact is we all get a ton of messages. In fact, on average we get over 120 emails per day. That doesn’t include the calls, social media messages, and other channels either. So, anytime you send a message to your prospect, you should have a specific reason for doing so. If not, you’ll just end up adding to the noise.

For most of us, email is the most common way to send a lead follow-up message. So, be sure to start off your message by giving your reason for reaching out. Consider alluding to the reason in your subject line, to hopefully stay out of the trash folder.

The same rule applies if you’re calling or sending a message on social media. Remember their time is valuable and you need to treat it as such.

Our Do's and Don'ts:

  • DO: have a purpose for your outreach
  • DON'T: waste your prospect's time trying to be cute

Ask your prospect about their communication preferences

We all have the friend who we call, they don’t answer, but then immediately after send a text asking, “what’s up?” Clearly, they have a preference for communicating. The same is probably true for your lead.

Your lead’s age, the industry they work in, or even the item you’re communicating about could all potentially affect how they prefer to communicate. Some may prefer lead follow up via phone communication, while others prefer email or text. The best thing you can do is ask.

For example, at the end of a discovery call, you could say, “for future communication, what tends to work best for you?” Not only does it help increase your chances of actually reaching them, but it also shows you’re considerate. Make sure you note what their preferred channel is in your CRM so you have a record of it.

Offer value

Simply having a solid reason for sending a lead follow up message is a great start. That said, it is just the start. After nailing down your reason, you should move on to figuring out how you can also provide some sort of value in your message.

There are a number of ways to provide value to a lead. One great way is to send over a blog post link covering something you talked about in your call. For example, you could say, “I remember you mentioned wanting to know more about sales proposal design trends, so thought this could be useful.”

Also, if they asked any questions you weren’t able to answer on the spot during your call, a follow-up message is a great place to offer that information. Not only does it help make your message more relevant, but it could also serve to move the conversation along with your lead.

Persistence is key

Closing a deal is tough to do. In fact, even the best performing organizations only close around 30% of sales qualified leads. So, when you've got a hot sales prospect, you need to make sure you’re making the most of the opportunity.

Though it can be easy to feel discouraged if a lead isn’t immediately responsive, don’t let it get you down. If they don’t respond to your initial follow-up message, wait a few days (three to five is usually good) and then send another.

If you still don’t get a response, wait another week and try again. You should be changing the subject line each time to try and catch their attention. Each time you should also be sending a different message. Also, try asking questions. Research found emails with a question tend to have a higher response rate than messages with no questions.

Know when to hang it up

Just as in dating, some sales relationships aren’t meant to go the distance. It can be hard to let go, especially since research shows it takes around 18 calls to connect with a prospect in the first place.

However, if it’s been weeks and it’s been complete radio silence, it’s probably time to move on and put your energy to use elsewhere. Some salespeople like to send a last-ditch-effort type email to try and get the lead to respond. That works for some but does run the risk of annoying the lead.

In our humblest of opinions, we suggest simply sending one final message to let them know you’re going to stop communication. Be respectful and also be sure to leave the door open to them in case they want to talk again in the future.

Don’t forget, what people remember most is how you made them feel. So, if with your send-off you can leave a positive impression, it could very well pay dividends in the future.

Gaining deeper insight into buyer interest

Once you get to the collateral stage, your follow-up strategy changes for the better. That is if you're using proposal software like Qwilr for your marketing collateral and sales proposals.

Traditional presentations, such as Word, PowerPoint, and PDFs, do not provide insight into how a prospect is engaging with your material. You only know if they opened your email (if you're lucky.) So, everything we've covered so far regarding lead follow up still applies.

Web-based proposals, on the other hand, offer insights just as you have with your website-- was your proposal read? How long did a prospect spend reading it? Which content did they spend the most time with? Did they share the document with someone else on their team? Actually knowing how your prospect is engaging with your message allows you to reconnect on a deeper, more personal, and more relevant level.

As an example, let's say you notice a prospect is spending a lot of time on your services section. Your follow-up discussion might then focus on the services that interest your prospect the most. Perhaps there are additional services they want but you haven't specifically gone into detail with them. You've now got a reason to reach out, plus you can add new value to the discussion.

Or let's say you notice your prospect spending a ton of time on your pricing. Again, now you have more insight for your lead follow up, and can structure your conversation around building the value of your solution.

Sales is hard enough. If you can get the inside advantage of how your prospect is receiving and engaging with your message, you can make the buying process more custom for your prospect, and increase your win rates, too.

One last note on lead follow up

Following up with leads is a crucial part of the sales process. Though outreach can feel a bit stressful at times, in order to be successful, it’s something you have to be able to do and do well. As long as you’re being thoughtful in your approach, there’s nothing to worry about.