Jeff Parker wrote a "braintrust" essay in my book entitled, Life is a sales call. I believe sales skills map very well to life in general. Working a phone or making in-person pitches teaches numerous lessons. Most notably, in my experience, is that someone may not return your call the first, second, third, or fourth time, but the fifth time you call it happens that they are, in fact, quite interested in your product.
The lesson is basic, but like so many "basic" life lessons, hard to absorb if not learned first-hand: be persistent and keep following up until you hear a definitive "no" (and then just follow up less frequently).
The past few weeks I’ve talked different people who are trying to obtain information / move something forward. I ask, "Did you call Jane?" The answer, "Yep, I called, haven’t heard back." Remarkably, when I probe, they’ve concluded that one non-callback means non-interest.
The same goes with email. Be persistent. Follow up every few days, try different approaches, change your messaging. My sense is if you only followed up once, you probably didn’t care much about the interaction anyway, and if that’s the case, why try in the first place?
Related Post: Two Quick Stories About Persistence
2 comments on “How Many Times Have You Called?”
IMHO the context has changed a lot, Ben. Cluster bombing is passé when you have precision bombing techniques available aplenty. In sales, a persistent caller is now seen as pesky. Use inexpensive interactive technologies to differentiate between a customer that is tuning you out and the one that didn’t get the message. Get immersive, give a customer a test ride and engage him meaningfully. Draw insights from meaningful customer data analytics. Launch short but effective promos by using right media mix – both traditional (for outreach) and social / digital media (for better brand communication / interactivity).
At all times, just be relevant to the customer and drive engagement. In inappropriate contexts, persistence is not just old fashioned and sub-optimal, it’s outright rude.
I’ve found through practice and training that one technique that works better than any other is to make just two follow-up calls and, on the second one, comment that you assume they’re no longer interested and will close their file if you don’t hear back in the next day. The people who truly are interested will get back to you right away, usually with an apology. The others should be placed in the marketing funnel (email newsletter, webinar announcements etc).