Closeup of male telemarketing salesperson holding a telephone receiver dialing phone number to make a business call.
Gaj Rudolf Closeup of male telemarketing salesperson holding a telephone receiver dialing phone number to make a business call.

Gallons of digital ink have been spilled over the benefits of the sales follow-up. I’ve seen email templates, blogs riddled with step-by-step keys, and even heard of a concept for a dedicated follow-up day in some offices called Follow-Up Friday.

You might’ve even gone to a seminar or a class just focused on following up. In other words, the sales profession spends hundreds of hours every year training sales pros specifically on following up. And I’m here to tell you that every top 1% sales pro knows that follow-up is their Plan B, not their Plan A.

Follow-up itself isn’t a problem until it becomes the focus. But once it becomes the focus, all we’re doing is training sales pros to spend more time strategizing for the follow-up than they do on closing during the first visit with their actual sales process.

A recent study found that 80% of sales required at least five follow-up calls to close. The easy way to read that is by conceding that sales just requires follow-up. It must, if so many sales pros need to spend that much time following up, right? One of my favorite quotes is by author and professional speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer, who said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Top sales pros don’t look at follow-up calls as the path to more sales. Instead, they focus on a process that gets to the close on the first visit. So why do so many sales pros spending so much time preparing for the fail and not preparing for the sale?

The goal of every sales professional is to make fewer and fewer follow-ups, and ideally none at all. You do that by focusing on resolving and closing immediately. It would be crazy if a pilot’s process for every flight was to focus on the takeoff, the landing, and then the crash, wouldn’t it? They’re prepared to land the plane, not prepared to crash it.

Sully Sullenberger is the famed pilot from “The Miracle on the Hudson,” when he managed to avoid a crash and land his damaged plane in New York’s Hudson River in 2009.

The reason Sullenberger succeeded wasn’t because he spent hours of time in the sky flying without working engines. It was because he spent so much time successfully landing planes that he knew the exact process to make it happen no matter the circumstance – even on the surface of a chilly river in New York. Just the same, great sales pros focus on selling on the first visit, not the idea that a failure could be around the corner.

Imagine how much your sales would improve if you could close more customers earlier with an award-winning process. That means you spend less time preparing for a crash and more time landing the plane.

I’m not here to say that all follow-up is useless. It doesn’t hurt to have a Plan B. But just take a quick trip through a Google search on follow-up and you’ll see the problem. There are entire programs and seminars dedicated to following up. Always remember, follow-up only becomes a problem when it becomes the focus. What would happen if all that energy put into the follow-up were put into closing instead?

The stats show that you’ll have a second conversation with fewer than 10% of your prospects, and yet we’re spending all this energy on follow-up. Why? Spend more time with them on the front end and get them to buy from you on the first visit. Because chances are, you won’t ever see them again.