Most recruiters don’t know this but a telephone follow-up call to a prospect is often more challenging and more significant than a cold call!
Typically, it’s the follow-up call that really gets the sales cycle rolling. It’s here where value begins to manifest itself and where substantive information is gathered. It’s at this stage where recruiters can brand themselves, establish a distinction from competitors, create trust, and generate value in the mind of the client.
Many recruiters are so relieved that they actually made a cold call and got to first base that they assume the rest of the sales cycle is going to be a breeze. This complacency can be the kiss of death in tele-prospecting. That’s why it is vital to have superb follow-up strategies and tactics. The more scrupulous you are the greater the odds of converting the lead into a sale.
This article series will give you a total of eight solid tips, tactics, and techniques that will help make you more effective in the follow-up process. It gives you the nitty gritty details to up your tele-prospecting game and get you more clients.
In this first article, we will go through the first four tips. Part 2 will be online next Wednesday.
Tip #1: Get commitment for the follow-up
Perhaps the single biggest mistake a recruiter can make is not establishing a specific date and time for the follow-up call at the end of their initial call. Vague commitments from the prospects (“call me next week”), or the recruiter (“I’ll send the proposal and follow up in a couple of days”) result in missed calls, voice mail messages, and ultimately a longer sales cycle.
To make a perfect call you need perfect commitment. There are two steps to getting perfect commitment:
- Ask for a specific date for your follow-up call, and
- Ask for a specific time
Here’s an example:
Jesse, I’ll be glad to write up the proposal (quote, whatever) and email it to you. And what I would like to recommend is that we set up Tuesday, the 16th, at say, 8:45 to review it in detail and determine the next steps if any. How does that sound?
Use a distinctive time
By asking for an appointment on the quarter hour (e.g., 10:15 or 3:45) you increase your odds of the call being taken if only because it is slightly unusual or different. Many people will jot this time down in the Blackberry, or in Outlook, or on a planner so they don’t forget. (But also notice it is not so unusual as to be peculiar e.g., 2:10).
Suppose the client balks at your follow-up date and time. Be proactive and maintain control of the situation by suggesting an alternative date and time. For example, “No problem, how does Wednesday, the 17th look at 11:45?”
If that doesn’t work you need to wonder if the times are not good or if the client is not committed to the next step in the process. At this stage, ask the prospect when a good follow-up date and time might be.
If the client is interested, he will give you an alternative date. If he says something broad like, “Call Thursday,” offer a specific time using the quarter hour method. If the client still balks and says something like, “You’ll just have to take your chance and hope you get me,” or words to that effect, warning bells should start ringing. The last thing you want to do is work on a quote or proposal if the client is not truly interested. That’s an utter waste of time and effort.
Line in the sand technique
Here’s how you determine if the prospect is interested or not:
Jesse, I’m a bit reluctant to send out a proposal if we cannot set up a specific date or time to discuss it and to determine the next steps, if any. If now is not the time to discuss your recruiting needs and requirements, I understand completely. And what I would like to recommend is that perhaps I call you next quarter to determine if your situation has changed.
This is a magnificent technique because it politely and professionally draws a line in the sand. Those who are not really interested and who were simply ‘blowing you off’ can now gracefully say, “Ya, I think next quarter would be better.” While not the best of news it saves you time and effort developing a proposal, not to mention the time and effort to make useless follow-up calls. It also allows you to follow up on those who are serious about their recruitment needs.
It does something else, too. It “positions” the time you spend on the proposal and the time you spend on the follow-up as valuable. If they truly are keen about moving forward, they’ll get the message and give you a specific date and time.
Tip #2: Build equity and be remembered
Here’s another huge tip. After every call to a first time prospect, send a thank you card. Hand write a message that simply says, “John, thank you for taking the time speaking with me today. I look forward to chatting with you further on the 16th! Kind regards. . .”
No more, no less.
In today’s fast paced world, a hand written card tells the client that you took the time and the effort to do something a little different. At some level, this registers in the client’s mind and creates a degree of “equity” in you. It differentiates you. It brands you. It gets remembered. And it gives the client a reason to be there when you make your follow-up call. Hand write the envelope and put a real stamp on it. It screams, “I took the time.”
If you don’t think a card will get there in time, send an email with the same note. But it’s a much weaker alternative. An email does not have nearly the same impact as a handwritten note.
However, circumstances don’t always allow the luxury of a thank you card. Therefore, you must create a little more impact by making your subject line more personal. For example, “John, quick note to say thanks…”
Personalizing the subject line inevitably catches the eye of the reader. Adding the thank you within the subject line also creates an impression, albeit brief. If the client does nothing more than glance at the subject line and skips the message, your effort has at least been noted.
As for the content of the message, make it as brief and compact as you would in the written thank you note. But, whatever you do, DO NOT reference your company or product or anything else marketing or sales related! The note is about the client, NOT about you, your product your company. Don’t sully the moment with anything else.
Tip #3:Email a reminder and an agenda
At this stage, do two things: send an Outlook invitation, and send an agenda.
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Once you get commitment for the follow-up date and time, immediately go to your Outlook calendar and send an appointment meeting invitation. Do this while your call is still fresh and relevant in the client’s mind.
Sending an Outlook invitation not only gives you peace of mind when the customer accepts the appointment, it acts as a visual (pop up screen) and audio (ping sound) reminder of the call on the day of the appointment. This approach increases the odds of the call happening.
The second action is to send an email to your prospect with an agenda the day before your call (or at least 4 hours before your call). This serves as a secondary reminder and shows your prospect that you’ve committed time and effort to the call. It also sets the stage for the next step in your sales cycle.
Your subject line is important because you want the client to open it up: “Emilie, about our call tomorrow morning and an article of interest”
Note that the subject line acts as a reminder but it is vague enough that the prospect will probably open it. There is a hint that maybe the date and time has changed. Note the use of the prospect/client’s first name in the subject line.
The body of the email should confirm the date and time of the appointment, remind the client of what motivated him or her to agree to the appointment, and then provide a brief agenda. For example:
Emily, Just a quick note to confirm our appointment tomorrow morning at 10:45 to review the recruitment strategies we discussed and how we can help reduce the time and frustration of finding better qualified sales candidates.
The call should only take 10 minutes.
Here is a proposed agenda. Please feel free to modify or change:
- Recruitment strategies review
- Q & A
- Next steps — if any
The agenda is a nice touch. It tells the client that this will not be a long drawn out affair. (Again, another reason for her to take your call.) It is vital that you tweak the motivators to entice the client to show up for the call.
Notice the nifty little trigger phrase “Next steps — if any.” The “if any” will help reduce some of the stress or concern your prospect might have. Often they skip out on the follow-up call to avoid making a commitment. This is a common and natural reaction for many prospects. Knowing this means you can take steps to mitigate it.
If the prospect senses an easy, informal, no pressure type of phone call, she is more likely to show up on time.
Tip #4:Add value in a P.S.
Notice in the subject line mentioned above there is a reference to an article. At the end of your email be sure to add a P.S. that says, “Emilie, in the meantime, here’s an article I thought you might enjoy regarding. . .”
The article might be about your industry, trends in recruiting, challenges in the marketplace. Something unique. This creates tremendous value even if the client does not open it simply because you took the time to do something extra. This helps brand you as a value-add recruiter and gives the client yet another reason to take your follow-up call.
Of course, this means you have to do some homework. Start looking for articles of interest and value relative to your market, industry etc. Keep a file of these articles because they can be used repeatedly.
If you really want to make an impression in your PS, then try to relate your link or article to something personal about the client.
Of course, this assumes the prospect opened up and shared something with you. That doesn’t always happen, but if they do, try to apply it. For example, suppose in passing the prospect mentions something about attending a barbeque on the weekend. If so, get on the Internet, find a BBQ rub recipe and email it or provide a link to it in the P.S. It might say, “Emilie, here’s a special BBQ rub recipe you might like to have handy for the weekend to help ‘spice things up.’ Enjoy!”
Make no mistake about it, the prospect will be gob smacked that you listened, remembered, and catered to that personal tidbit.
Next week (Wednesday) we’ll continue with tips #5-8 on how to make the perfect follow-up call. Until then, make the most of your follow-up calls and watch your sales grow!