A while back, as I was taking command of a headquarters company in an infantry battalion, I was fortunate to have been paired with a First Sergeant (he senior enlisted advisor for a company grade commander) who was the king of the follow-up.
I hate following up. I cannot comprehend why sometimes people say they’ll do something and then do not. Sometimes, I do perhaps the worst possible thing when that occurs – especially from a leadership perspective: I go make things happen myself.
It’s a lesson the Army works hard at beating out of its green lieutenants. Some, like me, clearly should have been beaten a little harder than others.
Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. That’s how things get done in the Army. That’s how things get done in any large organization, including business. I can still hear him reciting that mantra.
Follow Up: The Business “Golden Hour”
I was reminded of this when I read an infographic titled The Data Behind What Makes an Effective Sales Process. Initially, I was just skimming the post, but one statistic caught my eye and sucked me in:
Just 37% of companies respond to inquiries within an hour.
I’ve heard stats like this throughout my career and in business school. I’ve experienced it as a consumer. In business, the first 60 minutes is indeed the golden hour.
Yet, follow up within businesses is often lackluster – and it may well be getting worse as we add technology to automate processes. As Brian Solis hit this spot on when he wrote:
“This is the time, however, to invest in new technology to enhance customer relationships and experiences. That doesn’t mean using tech to further distance them from us.”
Follow up as the Problem with Follow Up
Following up with inquiries has one glaring problem which may also be partly responsible for why we hate following up, to begin with: Customers aren’t always ready to buy.
Consider the following:
- 73% of B2B leads are not sales-ready.
- 50% of qualified leads are not ready to buy.
It’s partly a qualification problem – sales and marketing alignment – and partly marketing’s eagerness to call a suspect a prospect. That eagerness is often fueled by unrealistic metrics the business places on marketing for leads. It turns marketing into a “we are #1 mode” which pleases executives, but nothing more.
- 65% of companies don’t nurture leads.
- 79% of leads never convert to sales.
Back to the Buyer’s Journey
More and more data is pointing to the fact that prospects have nearly made up their mind about a buying decision before they talk to a salesperson. Those inquiries? They are a chance to nurture that conversation – nurture the buyer’s journey with useful content. Indeed, marketing may have never been more important to sales than it is today.
Certainly business should return inbound inquiries as fast as they can, but following up after that with nurturing – rather than interruption – is equally important.
Here’s the complete infographic:
(click the image to enlarge it)
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