It seems obvious that sales are important, customers are important, and your relationship with your customers really matters. Without sales and customers there is no revenue. Without revenue there is no business. Simple, right?

And yet, statistics show that we do not practice what is preached when it comes to prospects, leads, or even customers. And in most cases, one follow up isn't nearly enough. 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up (source). According to MarketingDonut, 92% of sales people give up after four "no's" or follow ups that don't end in a purchase, however 80% of prospects say "no" four times before they decide to purchase. Follow up is crucial to generating business, standing out in a competitive market, keeping your business in the forefront of your prospects mind, and gaining repeat as well as referral business.

Diligent follow-up and follow-through will set you apart from the crowd and communicate excellence.
- John C Maxwell

If you’ve acknowledged the issue, “Our follow up isn’t great. We can do better here.” and you’re ready to make an improvement, where do you start? Many business owners admit their shortcomings in this area, they’re ready to make a change, but they have no idea where to begin. The first and most essential step to take in improving your customer relations is to adopt a CRM (customer relationship management) tool or you must have a very effective manual process (however this won't scale well). In essence, CRMs are designed to record specific details about your contacts and your communication history with them so that you can follow up appropriately. Robust CRMs have the options and customization so that you can tweak them to your specific process, however these programs will require a lot of time and energy or money on your end to configure them properly. You must commit to diligent data entry, properly managing your clients within the systems that the software has set up, and log everything. Not to mention that they also be very expensive, especially for a small business or solopreneur for the application subscription alone, which is not including the hard costs of training your staff on how to use it. In general, these types of CRMs will be overkill for what your business needs.

For a CRM to be effective, you need to collect certain information about each individual customer and be able to manage that data easily. Your prospect or customer's name and location, what they are interested in, what their actual needs are, what they purchased, their budget for your product, an overview of any correspondence you may have had via phone, email, or in person, and their contact info for you to get back in touch with them. For the tool to be beneficial you need to build a complete profile for your customers. That means it is necessary to take these extra steps for every customer. The more information that you can track for each contact entry, the more that you have to build rapport with your prospects and customers.  An excellent CRM can go from onboarding (entering client data) directly from a form hosted on your website into your CRM, notifying you that you have a new prospect.  If they submit a form, it means that they have shown interest to some degree or a dissatisfaction, both of which are important forms of communication and feedback for your business.

Once you have a sufficient number of entries, put them to use. Schedule a time each day to work with your prospects and leads, or contacts that you haven't had communication with in a while. A hammer is a great tool, but if used to try and cut something it won't be effective at all.  The same goes for your CRM. If it's not used properly, or if certain bits of information don't go into it, then it will prove to be ineffective for you. The best CRMs will automate as much as possible for you, so that it does the heavy lifting while you and your staff can focus on your clients and your product development and fulfillment.

Hammers are only useful when used properly. The same goes for a CRM.

Don't forget about your customers either! Find customers that made a purchase within the past 2 weeks and call them. Check on their satisfaction and see what else they may need, then update their entry regarding the contact you made. Sort through the data to find people that were interested but did not commit. Reach out to them, perhaps they’re ready. Perhaps the follow up you made put your business to the top of their mind and your call or email was enough to encourage them to go with you instead of a competitor. Take control of your own business's destiny by taking action of following up.

Avoiding the follow up is like throwing money out the window. Follow up is so incredibly valuable. This cannot be stressed enough.

This technique will help to directly build revenue, but it also builds credibility, rapport, and a customer base that will turn into a fan and referral source for your business. Taking care of your customers is taking care of your business. Think about when (or if in some individual cases!) you've had a vendor call you and authentically ask about your needs, uses, and vision for your business. It feels good to know that the companies and people that you do business with care.

Following up is as good as planting money seeds!

Using a CRM may seem overwhelming at first, but the effort is worth it. The work you put in to this has a direct correlation with the financial success of your business. Make sure you take a look at your processes for following up... before your competitor beats you to it!