Follow-Up Calls in Sales: Best Practices

Last Updated: 

April 5, 2024

In B2B sales, nothing beats the importance of making follow-up calls. Typically, when done right, it’s the follow-up call that really gets the sales cycle rolling. However, despite the fact that 80% of sales require approximately five follow-ups or more to close the deal, a staggering 48% of salespeople never even make a single follow-up attempt, while 44% of those who do, give up after a single follow-up. And what’s more, according to Invesp, 60% of customers say no four times before saying yes. That also highlights the importance of persistence when it comes to sales follow-ups.

This article provides some of the best practices sales reps should follow to make efficient sales follow-up calls and turn them into successfully closed deals.

Making Sales Calls - Graphic

Key Takeaways on the Importance of Follow-Up Calls

  1. Importance of follow-up calls: Follow-up calls are critical in the B2B sales process, often initiating and driving the sales cycle.
  2. Persistence pays off: Despite the need for multiple follow-ups, many salespeople fail to make them, emphasising the importance of persistence in closing deals.
  3. Specific scheduling: Establishing a specific date and time for follow-up calls increases the likelihood of successful contact and shows respect for the prospect's time.
  4. Strategic timing: Choosing the right time to make follow-up calls can significantly impact call success rates, with certain times being more favourable than others.
  5. Utilise call centre technology: Leveraging call centre tools can enhance preparation, allowing for more informed and confident follow-up calls.
  6. Supplement with emails: Sending reminder and follow-up emails complements follow-up calls, reinforcing key points and maintaining engagement.
  7. Effective communication: Start conversations with a clear opening statement, ask open-ended questions, and provide specific value to prospects to keep them engaged.
  8. Handle objections gracefully: Anticipating and addressing common objections with the LAER model helps overcome resistance and build rapport.
  9. Clear call to action: End follow-up calls with a clear call to action, guiding prospects towards the next steps in the sales process.
  10. Respectful persistence: Being persistent in follow-up efforts demonstrates commitment and can significantly increase the likelihood of closing deals.
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What is a Follow-up Call in Sales?

A sales follow-up call is a phone call between a sales representative and a potential customer that happens after the initial cold call. The primary purpose of sales follow-up calls is to recall information you provided on the first call, remind a prospect of the value of your deal and how it can help them solve their challenges or address pain points, provide them with more information, if needed, and set the next steps. This is where you actually start building relationships with your prospects and keep them engaged, ultimately increasing your chances of closing a deal successfully.

Best Practices for Making Sales Follow-up Calls

Be specific about the time of your follow-up call

One of the biggest mistakes sales reps often make with follow-ups is not establishing a specific date and time for the follow-up call at the end of the initial call with a prospect. Vague commitments from the sales rep (I’ll call you in a couple of days) or the prospect (Call me next week) aren’t working, resulting in voicemails or missed calls and only leading to a longer sales process.

To increase your chances of getting through to your prospect, simply ask for a follow-up date and time that would work best for them. But what’s even more important, make sure to follow through on your commitment. That shows that you respect their time and helps build trust and demonstrate that you are reliable and dependable. In fact, according to InvespCro, 42% of people would be encouraged to make a purchase if the sales rep called back at an agreed-upon, specified time.

Choose the times strategically

For sales calls, timing can make a huge difference. Calling at the right times (or even days of the week) increases the likelihood that your call will be answered by your prospect. For example, it’s generally recommended to avoid making sales calls on Mondays and the second half of Fridays.

Moreover, a survey by CallHippo revealed that it’s best to have a conversation with your prospect between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM, while the second best time to call your potential customers is between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM. And you should definitely avoid reaching out to them from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. The same survey also revealed that the difference in the number of conversations between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM and the number of conversations between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM is over 70%.

All in all, calling prospects during recommended times is known to increase call conversions by nearly 50%. If you haven’t been able to agree on a specific time and day with your prospect, take these findings into account when planning your next follow-up sales call.

Leverage call centre technology to be well-prepared

Making a perfect follow-up call does require preparation. And this is where call centre technology may help. Firstly, most automated calling systems allow you to automatically record customer calls. It means that in addition to reviewing prospects’ details and your notes in the CRM systems, you can also review past recordings to recall all the details that were discussed during the initial cold call with each prospect to ensure nothing slips through the cracks as you prepare for the follow-ups.

Besides that, you can also use more advanced outbound call centre software. These solutions can analyse calls and score leads to help you distinguish high-intent prospects from low-intent prospects and find improvement areas. Some speech analytics tools will also generate call summaries, so you can quickly review them as you prepare for the follow-up call without having to play back the entire call recording. Being well-prepared will definitely make you sound more confident and convincing, helping you win your prospects' trust.

Supplement your follow-up call with an email

Firstly, you can send a reminder email to your prospect the day before you’ve scheduled a follow-up call, with a subject line specifying the date and the time of the scheduled phone call. It ensures that even if the prospect doesn’t open your email, they’ll still be reminded of the upcoming call by simply reading the subject line. The body of the reminder email should be short and straightforward – and you can also include a link to the article that your prospect might be interested in reading.

Secondly, you can send a sales follow-up email that summarises the entire conversation after the follow-up call. This practice has several benefits. Follow-up emails store all the key points that were discussed during the call and outline the next steps that should be taken by both parties, serving as a reference for future conversations. And it also proves that you have listened to and understood the prospect’s needs.

Start with an effective opening statement

Starting the conversation with something like ‘I’m calling to follow up on my proposal’, ‘I’m calling to see if you had any questions’, or 'Was curious if you made a decision yet?' is a common mistake many sales teams make. An effective opening statement should always include your full name, your company name, and a short reminder of why you are calling in the first place.

That means going back to your initial cold call and briefly reminding your prospect of their challenges and how your product or service can help overcome them. Summarising your previous conversation in the opening statement reminds them why they were interested in your offering and sets the conversation off on the right foot.

Ask open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions

The successful outcome of your follow-up call largely depends on the questions you ask throughout the conversation. A good rule of thumb here is to ask more open-ended questions and avoid leading prospect’s answers through simple yes/no questions. Make sure to prepare the list of questions you are going to ask along with your follow-up script before making a follow-up call. For example, instead of asking ‘Do you think X is a major challenge at your organisation right now?’, it’s better to ask ‘How do you and your organisation feel about X?’

Asking meaningful open-ended questions is essential during follow-up calls as it will give you a much deeper understanding of your potential customer’s needs and expectations, helping you adjust your sales pitch accordingly. In addition to that, it’s important to ensure that you don’t interrupt them while they are answering.

Be specific and add more value to sales conversations

Providing your prospects with specific information can help them develop a better understanding of your product or service and how it can benefit their business. This is where ready-made sales scripts may come in handy. With well-thought-out sales scripts, you’ll always have the most critical information at hand, making sure that you don’t miss out on anything important and helping you sound more fluent and confident.

For example, to make your conversation more specific and valuable to the potential customer, you may provide them with some additional information related to their industry and how exactly your product or service can help them solve their industry-specific challenges and help them become more profitable.

Be prepared to handle sales objections

Handling objections is probably the most difficult part of making sales follow-up calls. But the way you are prepared to handle them can often make or break the deal. Most of the time, sales representatives come across several most common types of objections:

  1. Lack of budget: ‘It’s too expensive’ or ‘I can’t afford it’
  2. Lack of authority or awareness: ‘I’ve never heard of your product’
  3. Lack of need: ‘I’m not sure how this can help me’ or ‘We’re doing fine right now’
  4. Lack of urgency or an issue of timing: ‘This isn’t a priority right now’ or ‘Now’s not the right time for this’

These common sales objections line up with what is known as BANT, which stands for budget, authority, need, and timing. Since the BANT framework covers a large number of objections you’ll hear from your prospects, make sure to be well-prepared to handle each of them.

One of the proven and most effective methods for objection handling is Carew International’s LAER: The Bonding Process®. LAER involves four steps – listening, acknowledging, exploring, and responding. Mastering objection handling based on the LAER model will help you overcome objections effectively and build relationships with your potential customers, speeding up the process of moving them down the sales funnel.

Include a clear call to action for the next steps

An effective sales follow-up call should end with a clear call to action that encourages your prospect to take the next steps. The action depends on the industry and the specifics of your product or service. Whether it’s scheduling the next follow-up call for further discussion or signing up for a trial subscription, set the right expectations and clearly outline the next steps you want your prospect to take at the end of the follow-up call.

And then again, as we’ve already mentioned earlier, you can send a short ‘Thank you’ email following the call that summarises the key points discussed and the next steps you agreed on. Here’s a quick example: “John, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me earlier today. I look forward to our next call this Friday at [Time] to discuss X.”

Be respectfully persistent 

Statistically, 92% of salespeople give up after no sales on the 4th call. Most sales reps give up because they fear annoying potential clients or being seen as a spammer. However, considering that 80% of successful business deals typically require five follow-up calls to seal the deal, reasonable persistence can help you win over a potential customer. And if a prospect doesn’t answer at the scheduled time, just leave a voicemail message and then try calling again (and again) later. After all, 95% of all converted leads are reached by the sixth call attempt, according to stats published by IRC Sales Solutions.

The Bottomline

Before making a final purchasing decision, prospects always look for credibility. Once the initial contact is established through a cold call, follow-up calls can help you build relationships with potential clients, establish trust, and increase the chances of closing the deal successfully. The key to good sales follow-up calls is preparation, personalisation, and persistence.

Half the battle is securing a specific date and time during the initial conversation and retrieving information about each prospect from the CRM and past call recordings. The rest basically comes down to the way you are prepared to start and end the conversation professionally, ask the right questions in between, effectively handle common sales objections, and keep the prospect engaged. 

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