If you systematize your sales follow-up process you will close more deals — and I am about to show you how
**Disclaimer** This has been written with sales executives (SEs) and account executives (AEs) in mind. I am not saying that you won’t get any value from it but if you aren’t an SE or AE, or working directly with SEs/AEs and new business sales pipeline, then this wasn’t written for you.
(Plays miniature violin for the people who just left. )
Okay, now that it’s just stone-cold sales killers in here — what has been prepared for you below WILL work if you make it work.
You might be thinking, Great, another “thinkpiece” from some blowhard sales guy about how to close more deals.
And you’d only be partially right. I am a sales guy. But if you read through this and implement my process I promise that you will CLOSE MORE DEALS.
There is no easy path to achieving quota every month, but if you are currently closing 10%, then with my method, you will start closing 15%.
If you are currently closing 10%, then with my method, you will start closing 15%.
AND you will no longer look at your pipeline and think, “Where the f*ck do I start?!”
Let me cover a couple of high-level items to set the stage for the goodness that I am about to freely give you!
Table of contents
- What is pipeline management and why does it matter?
- 3 key ingredients to follow-up success
- Step 1: Align your pipeline and sales journey
- Step 2: Templatize your post-DISCO follow-up
- Step 3: Create your remaining follow-up templates
- Step 4: Create tasks for each deal
- Tips and best practices
- Transparency: See my numbers
What is pipeline management and why is it important?
For AEs, pipeline management is: The process by which you track, prioritize, engage, manage, and progress open opportunities from DISCO to close.
It isn’t about getting a deal closed per se. But instead about systematizing certain processes to drive improved and expected outcomes in your sales journey. All which helps you do the one thing that matters in the world of sales: HIT YOUR QUOTA!
The reason this is so important is that for a lot of us, even a couple of extra deals a quarter is the difference between 90% and 115% of the quota attainment. And this process will help you get there.
3 key ingredients to follow-up success: Speed, persistence, and setting expectations
It is no secret that TIME KILLS ALL DEALS!
As a matter of fact, I recently read that 80% of sales require 5 follow-ups after the meeting AND 44% of sales reps give up after 1 follow-up.
Your sales might require more or fewer follow-ups but we can all agree that 1 follow-up will not get the job done!
I’ve had 1,216 conversations in the past 27 months (roughly 45 new business calls/month). I have never gotten a pissed-off response to my persistent follow-up.
Set the stage for your prospects so they should expect you to reach out if you haven’t heard from them. During the sales journey, I set the expectations with the prospect by saying something like, “Ok, so you are looking to have a decision made in the next four weeks, right? (insert prospect’s confirmation) Great, are you good if I ping you every now and then to keep our process moving along so I can ensure that we have things dialed in for you to make a decision by your goal timeline? I’m not going to pester you but I think once a week is probably fair, don’t you?”
How to systematize your follow-up process
As a general rule, an AE’s max capacity is around 50 new opportunities per month if you are doing the proper follow-up and closing.
Your pipeline will quickly start getting out of control if you aren’t managing these opportunities properly.
You need to systematize your process so there are no questions when it comes to what the next step is for each deal and what the status is.
I’ll walk you through it.
Step 1: Align the sales stages in your pipeline with your sales journey
First, you need to ensure that the sales stages in your pipeline align exactly with your sales journey.
If your sales journey is:
- DISCO call
- Deep dive call
- Proposal review
- Proposal approved
- Contract sent
- Contract closed
then your sales stages should look like this:
Now that this is out of the way and everyone is on the same page let’s talk about how to structure your follow-up with as few clicks as possible!
Step 2: Build a template to structure your DISCO follow-up
Build a template for any and all follow-ups that you can. Do not handcraft every single follow-up message for your active prospects. (You will wind up forgetting that you are in sales and applying for the marketing team. And the world needs more great salespeople, so don’t do that!)
The first follow-up should be pretty standard. You should be sending follow-up #1 within minutes of concluding a successful DISCO call.
This follow-up email should entail:
- The details of your discussion
- Any collateral you promised the prospect and/or that they would find valuable
- Clear next steps
See below for my #1 DISCO Follow-up Template. This template has a 98% open rate and a 73% reply rate:
Step 3: Create templates for the rest of your follow-up messages — and get creative
Pre-write several potential follow-up messages to your first message and save them in your CRM as templates. You can tokenize the messages so it automatically personalizes the message based on the person and the company associated with that deal.
(If you don’t have a CRM, then type the message and save it as a template. Then copy and paste it for every message and be sure to add personalization to it.)
Then do the same thing for Follow-Up #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, etc.
Q: How many follow-ups should you do, anyway? Jump to answer.
Step 4: Create tasks for every deal
This part isn’t fun but I promise you that it is necessary and worth it!
Now that you have templates dialed in, you have to organize your pipeline based on priority and create tasks that align with those individual deals and their priority to you.
EVERY SINGLE ACTIVE DEAL IN YOUR PIPELINE SHOULD HAVE A TASK ASSOCIATED WITH IT!
Based on the DISCO call and the timeline the prospect shares, set tasks for every single deal once the first follow-up is sent.
Once you’ve sent your second follow-up email, set up another task immediately for an appropriate date for the third follow-up.
Regardless of the specifics, EVERY SINGLE ACTIVE DEAL SHOULD HAVE A FUTURE TASK ASSOCIATED WITH IT.
If your prospect replies to you and you are actively communicating with them, update the date of the task at every last communication. That will keep your opportunities from slipping through the cracks.
The flow will look kinda like this:
Depending on your CRM (I am a HubSpot user), you can build the messaging templates and then enroll your prospect in a sequence that will automatically send these follow-ups on your behalf on the specific day that you select. I personally prefer setting the tasks and doing the follow-up myself for active deals and using the sequencing tool for deals that are classified as “need time” and aren’t considered active opportunities.
Sales follow-up email best practices — Make the method work for you
✉️ How many follow-up emails should AEs send?
Personally, I follow up with every single conversation I’ve had until the prospect tells me that they are no longer interested.
As a real example:
I just closed a deal with a company I had the first conversation with over 19 months prior! It was super exciting to see the process in action.
When I asked the prospect what made him reach back out to me, he said, “You were the first person I thought of when this topic was brought up during the internal meeting. You are the only person that I spoke with that continued to stay in touch with me.”
See? Most people see your follow-up, and they appreciate the professional persistence.
✉️ Give more than you ask for with “depository” follow-ups
Your follow-ups shouldn’t always be geared toward a business or asking for updates. Get creative!
If your ICP is IT Services, SaaS, and fintech, then make a template that says:
I call this depository follow-up… making deposits instead of withdrawals.
You aren’t asking for anything. You are just trying to provide your prospect with something valuable and make some deposits. Then your next sales follow-up email can ask for an update.
✉️ Follow-up through multiple channels
Your follow-ups shouldn’t all be in one channel either.
I have found it best to mix it up between e-mail, LinkedIn, and phone calls/texts, especially if you have reached out multiple times and haven’t gotten a reply.
A quick text that says,
…will get a reply.
Keep in mind, this isn’t just to close more deals. It is also to keep deals moving through or out of your pipeline so you aren’t sitting on a bunch of dead deals and stinking up the pipe!
Full transparency: My follow-up numbers in the past 30 days
For the last 30 days, I have:
- taken 45 new business calls
- participated in 101 meetings
- sent 493 sales follow-up e-mails, 15 follow-up texts, and 23 phone calls
The average sales cycle with my prospects is around 45-60 days. I’ve closed 6 new deals.
(In the spirit of transparency, that is a little light because I “emptied the clip” in December to close the year strong and bagged 10 deals so my current pipeline is a bit lighter than usual. But I think you get the picture.)
That said, I have 38 active deals in my pipeline with another 10 appointments scheduled.
I closed 78 deals in 2022, compared to 52 in 2021. When looking at my AE team there are direct correlations between follow-up activities and revenue generated.
We have a pretty ambitious quota for 2023. The team achieved 105% for January and is on pace to hit 128% this month. And I can forecast that properly because we don’t have any dead deals sitting around. No SE or AE on my team has sent less than 352 follow-up messages in the past 30 days.
We aren’t perfect over here but if you follow this process diligently you are going to close more deals! Plan the work and work the plan, baby!
I hope that this has been valuable.
Edited by Kendra Fortmeyer @ Sales Hacker 2023