You’ve met with a prospect and had a great conversation, and now you need to transform this person into a customer. How choreographed is your follow-up strategy so that you can effortlessly nurture the relationship to close? If you’re relying on the meeting itself or the power of your brand to get them to buy, you won’t see much success.

Sales is about building trust, forming a relationship, and proving to the prospect that you’ll go the extra mile for them. You need to have a system for follow up so that it’s a well-oiled machine. This means combining the tools of automation with the human art of relationship-building. Here are strategies for following up with new prospects as well as existing customers:

1. How to follow up with prospects

The follow-up email

This email needs to be a well-crafted gem of information doused in humanity. Don’t just write a message off the top of your head, and don’t send something generic. Take time to craft a succinct message that keeps momentum high and sets out clear next steps—and don’t forget to be an individual writing to another individual. Here are six strategies to keep in mind while writing that note:

  1. Be prompt. Send an email no later than 24 hours after the meeting.
  2. Be smart about the subject line. Don’t write something bland—compel them to click.
  3. Briefly recap the elements discussed. This shows you listened and conveys the excellent customer service they’ll enjoy by working with your organization.
  4. Be in a gift-giving mindset. Send them an e-book, a blog post, or an industry report that’s genuinely helpful. But don’t give them too much. You don’t want to attach 10 items and freak them out. What content would help at this specific point in the buyer journey? Send them that.
  5. Include specific next steps, such as a suggested date to allow you to put things into motion and get a commitment for the next follow up.
  6. Use customizable email templates for all of the above—don’t reinvent the wheel.

Know that it takes several follow ups

To be a killer sales person, you need to have thick skin (because hardly anybody says yes the first time) and a deep well of confidence to draw upon. You also need a strategic plan. Which leads us to automation. Today’s sales leads need to combine soft skills of following up and building a relationship, with data-powered, intelligent systems so that follow-up is consistent, expertly-timed and plays out over the buying journey. Here are four steps to follow:

  1. Use an automated CRM so that you don’t need to rely on memory or instinct. An automated system will trigger you to send reminders, with the frequency depending on how warm a lead they are.
  2. Send value. Every time you touch base with the prospect, think about how you can benefit them and send them value or helpful information. By emphasizing giving as opposed to taking something from them, you’ll be nurturing a relationship and building trust—as opposed to being a pest.
  3. Connect them to your content marketing. Make sure their email is added to a nurture campaign that is perfectly designed for their needs.
  4. Be social. Connect on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. This will help you to stay in their orbit.

2. How to follow up with existing customers

Once they get to yes, you need to now nurture this customer for the long-term. Ever since Harvard Business Review’s classic study found that an increase in customer retention by five percent could increase profits by 25 percent to 95 percent, customer retention has become a critical tool for bolstering the bottom line. Customer engagement is equally important in today’s competitive business landscape—lose their attention and you could lose their business.

After you meet with your existing customers, follow these steps:

  1. Craft the follow-up email. As outlined above, recap all the points you discussed and the next action steps. Set expectations and deliver; get back to them within the timeframe you agreed upon.
  2. Use a CRM so that everyone in your company knows the status of the individual customer. That way, your colleagues don’t need to explain everything again if you happen to be out of the office the day they call.
  3. Follow up consistently. Set automated triggers to help you stay in regular contact. If you have a new publication, blog or video that would be of particular interest to a customer, send a personal note with the link.

In all follow-ups, remember that you are building a relationship—and keep your eye on long-term success, rather than a quick yes. Treat prospects and customers as you would treat those you value in your life: The best relationships are built on generosity, helpfulness, and care, not on calling or emailing when you need something.

If you nurture your relationships, weave in a smart CRM to keep you on track, and automate the process, you’ll be consistent and be providing real value. This is how you’ll attract and retain customers.

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