You may be selling a service. Or a product. Or yourself. Not that someone is literally buying you, of course, but they are (you hope) buying into your value and your contribution. And maybe hiring or promoting or referring you as a result.

You know what they say about sales of any sort. The fortune is in the follow-up.

It’s not that common that someone says “Yes, I’m in” immediately, on the spot. There are all kinds of persuasion experts with all kinds of statistics to the contrary. (I know because I’ve researched them).

Some say the average sale takes five or more contacts. Some put the number at ten. Or a range from 8 to 12. You’ll find other, similar estimates. One thing the sales gurus agree on: A sale in one conversation is unusual.

They also concur that most people who sell give up way too soon. About half of us make one call and if we don’t get a yes, we quit. A handful make two or three calls. The rare sellers who make five or more calls? They’re the ones who get 75, 80% of the business.

So why is following up so hard for so many of us? 

  • There’s the PITA factor. We don’t want to be a pest—or a Pain In The Ass. We know our prospect is busy, their bandwidth is limited, and we don’t want to be one more hassle for them to deal with.
  • We want to be liked. And who likes a pushy salesperson?
  • Maybe we messed up in our first contact—that’s embarrassing. Some have an unrealistic expectation that they’ll make their offer and the person will say, “Yes! And where have you been all my life?” When they don’t get that enthusiastic response, they assume they’ve done something wrong and they slink away for good.
  • Secretly, we think sales is sleazy, manipulative and dishonest. This one hits home for me.

Radio is legendary for bad blood between air talent and the people they often call “sales pukes.” Yes, sales reps bring in the money that pays DJ’s and sidekicks and news anchors. But the air staff focuses on lame promotions, pressure to kowtow to advertisers, and the ridiculous commercials that interrupt their on-air brilliance. 

You can guess what happened when I brought that bias about selling into my new career at a firm where consultants sold and delivered coaching and training. I was a terrific trainer. Selling those training programs? Not my strong suit.

Maybe some of those sound familiar to you? It’s time to shift our thinking about opening sales conversations and especially about following up afterwards. Because, you know, the fortune.

I’m committing to diligence about following up. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean I have to keep calling someone until they tell me to get lost and slam down the phone.

There are a lot of ways to stay in contact and deepen your connection.

  • Send a thank-you note after a meeting, by email or better yet the old-fashioned way, with a stamp.
  • Connect on social media and engage with their posts.
  • Call, text or email occasionally. And mix it up.
  • Invite them to an event.
  • Send them an article or video you think they’d value.
  • Introduce them to someone you know, and they should
  • Ask for their opinion about something you’re working on.

Visualizing can help.

That mental image of the person tired of hearing from me and angrily blowing me off? It has not been helping me at all. I don’t want to walk into a buzz saw, so I’ve often put off making a call or even sending an email, letting a lead languish until the opportunity evaporated.

New strategy: Imagine that same person delighted to see my name on Caller ID. Smiling broadly as they pick up the phone. Greeting me warmly, anticipating an enjoyable conversation. Impressed that I’m so serious about meeting their needs, solving their problems, serving them.

Picturing this happy scenario makes the follow-ups much easier. It helps me relax into the outreach.

Maybe you’re dubious that you’ll ever be good at making the third, fifth or tenth contact with someone who needs what you have to offer. How can you try out some of these ideas?

Or maybe you’re already a follow-up virtuoso. You comfortably keep contacting someone until they tell you to stop. And when they do, you don’t take it personally—it’s just business.

Post a comment below and share your secret to success.