The Sale – and the Relationship – are in the Follow Up

On Friday I had a very energetic and inspiring meeting with Sharon Resky. She is Senior Corporate Account Manager, Atlantic Business Magazine we are are presenting a workshop together at the Atlantic Magazines Association’s annual conference next week – MagazinesEast2012. 

I enjoyed every aspect of our discussion about the sales process but was most delighted when we started talking about follow up.  

In the seven years I have been providing sales training and coaching, I get the most resistance when it comes to follow up. People argue with me. They declare that my methods are akin to “stalking”. They say they could never follow up with people the way I recommend.  

But Sharon gets it! She knows that consistent, persistent follow up is an essential part of building relationships and making and exceeding her sales budget. We even talked about a few clients we’ve had in common over the years and how many messages we’ve had to leave before a relationship bloomed. I delighted in this validation.  

And it has lead me to the first part of this week’s post. I know I’ve written about follow up quite a bit, but it is such an important part of the sales process that it’s always worth re-visiting. I can say without hesitation that those who don’t follow up persistently leave money on the table. 

So, are you leaving money on the table? And if so, why? 

The most common reason is that we get uncomfortable leaving numerous messages. We envision that the person is purposefully avoiding our calls or that their lack of response means “no”. But as Sharon and I discussed, these things are rarely true. Unanswered messages usually mean: 

1) the person you are trying to reach is really, really busy; or

2) they are waiting for a piece of information (budget numbers, someone else’s input, etc.) before they return your call.  

I’ve experienced this from the other side the past few months. This year The Phone Lady is doing more workshops than ever (yeah!) which means I’m often unavailable during the 9 to 5. While I do check messages fairly frequently, it’s not always possible to find the necessary uninterrupted quiet to return calls until 4:30 or 5 pm. But often there are evening board meetings or events that require my attendance. So messages are left until the next day, but if a workshop is scheduled for the next day then … you get the picture.  

For many of the people you are trying to reach, returning a voice mail message is not easy or straightforward. But if you stop following up, you fall off their to-do list completely. While the product or service may be extremely valuable to them, their lives are so hectic they may not make the move to buy unless you continue to provide them with opportunities to talk and move forward.  

Now … on to some questions and answers. And apologies to those of you that have submitted a query and have been waiting for a reply. The website transition of earlier this year did cause me some confusion but I think I have things figured out now!  

1. Just talked to a friend about this. Secretaries can be so tough. Funnily we wondered if the tone of our voice is harsher than it needs to be because we expect to be rejected by them – instead of being friendly. Any thoughts on this? 

Great question – and it includes the answer. Our voices, like our faces, often give away what we are thinking and can unconsciously influence the other person’s reaction to us.  

It’s an important telephone skill to develop an energetic, friendly tone of voice that you use on a consistent basis. Ideally you always want your voice to sound welcoming and engaging, whether you are speaking with a secretary or a bank manager or a potential new customer.  

Whether we like it or not, when it comes to telephone communication, we are judged by how we sound. If you sound interesting and pleasant, you will have more interesting and pleasant conversations, and some of those secretaries out there will be more responsive to your call. 

2. How do we find out who the real decision maker is? For example, UPS has many Marketing Directors, but which one is the one making the decision to buy. Or is it the VP of Marketing? Or Director of Marketing Communications? I’ve found these positions all mean different things at different companies. Does anyone have any idea of how to navigate this challenge?  

The answer to this question is simple but executing it can be daunting … you have to ask. 

When I first started cold calling (October 5 1987) I remember being frustrated by all the different job titles and wanting to figure out the right person to speak with before I picked up the phone. But depending on your product or service this is sometimes not possible. The best, most time-efficient way to deal with this conundrum is to choose the title you think is right and then dial. Once you reach them, to save you both time, try saying something like this:  

This is Mary Jane Copps, owner of The Phone Lady. The reason for my call today is to introduce you to my sales training workshops and I’m working on the assumption that you are responsible for hiring trainers at your company. Is this the case, or would you like to direct me to someone else?”


 “This is Mary Jane Copps, owner of The Phone Lady. The reason for my call today is to introduce you to my sales training workshops. Please do interrupt me at anytime if you realize I should be speaking with someone else.”  

I do enjoy receiving questions from readers, so if you’ve got something you’d like to ask, please send it along. I promise to be more efficient with my answers in the future!  

Also, I want to draw your attention to a new workshop I’m launching with Peter Skakum of Tangent Strategies Exceed Your Quota: Get More Appointments, Close More Sales is going to be a day filled with excellent sales strategies, valuable to everyone whether you are selling advertising or cleaning supplies or office equipment. It takes place on Thursday April 19 in Halifax at the Ashburn Golf Club Here’s the link for more information and the registration form:

One last thought:

“The pro is the person who has all the hassles, obstacles, and disappointing frustrations that everyone else has, yet continues to persist, does the job, and makes it look easy.”

— David Cooper, Sales Trainer

Enjoy your phonework this week! TPL

0 thoughts on “The Sale – and the Relationship – are in the Follow Up”

  1. Great advice as always Mary Jane! Thanks for keeping us readers in mind and providing us with such thoughtful, articulate and useful advice! Cheers 🙂


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What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
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  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

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