Why Follow Up is So Important and Hard in Sales

Why Follow Up is So Important and Hard in Sales

“Please, oh please don’t make me do it!”….That’s the oh-so-familiar thought we all have when we know it’s time to follow up on a lead. Now, take a look at the statistics below:

  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
  • 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
  • 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop
  • only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts
  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the second contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

We know intellectually that closing a sale is a long, gradual process of cultivation. Why the heck, then, is following up so darn difficult even when we know it is part of the business of sales?

When I read the above statistics I was following up on a prospective client. But let me back up a few steps.

She was a young, hip, fun and smart – the perfect client for me.

I had recently been introduced to a prospect through a mutual colleague. As I researched this prospect I felt myself morphing into a teenage girl about to go on her first date. This client would be ideal for me! She was a hip and up-and-coming interior designer. Her work was beautiful. Then we met. She was everything I wanted in a client and more: humble, with perspective, and possessed a few areas where I could make a difference.

She told me she wanted a proposal.

I was elated. Then the honeymoon ended. I had to follow up.

I sent her my proposal and said I would call on the following Friday at 10:00 a.m., which I did.

My heart was beating fast. I could feel my nervousness. I so wanted to work with her.

I called her, waiting for her to pick up, but the phone just rang and rang…there was no answer.

Part of me was relieved and another part disappointed. I emailed her, letting her know that I had followed up as promised.

She emailed immediately.

She let me know that she was traveling and Monday would be a better day to talk. So we scheduled 9:30 a.m. to talk on the phone. Yes! Monday morning came and so did my nervousness.

I called her at the appointed time, but she was not in the office and her answering machine indicated she would be out all week. Ok, now came the flood of stories.

Why didn’t she tell me she was going to be gone all week?

If she didn’t want to work with me, why didn’t she just say so? I was annoyed and pissed off. The truth was, part of me was hurt and disappointed. Being annoyed felt so much better than hurt and disappointed. I really wanted to work with her. “More importantly”, I told myself, “I want to be of service to others.” I would call back next week.

But the nervousness and self-doubt were back.

“Why bother calling if she obviously doesn’t want my services?” I asked myself.

Now these emotions had grown stronger because we’d already had a little history of not connecting. If she really wanted my services, she would have emailed me back, or returned my call.

These thoughts were keeping me safe. If I listened to them, I wouldn’t call.

Follow-up is difficult because I don’t want to feel rejected. This brings me to human biology and survival. We are herd animals, needing a tribe to survive.

Rejection is the fear of being kicked out of the tribe, of not belonging. Deep in our biology we have a need to belong.

We know that getting kicked out of the tribe means a reduced chance of survival. As humans, our primary instinct is to survive. So, deep in my system is the unconscious belief that I will not survive if I get rejected. No wonder following up is so difficult!

To overcome my fear of rejection, I first checked in to see if the stories I was telling myself were true.

First, I became aware of my mood and the stories that feed into it. Next I did a check within myself to see if the stories were actually true. I became present to the emotions and went through these steps:

  • I asked myself, ‘Will I really die if this person rejects me?’ No. I will be disappointed if this person rejects me but I will survive.
  • I centered myself, accepting what is true for myself and connected to my higher intention of wanting to be of service to humanity.
  • Once I connected to this higher intention, I picked up the phone and made the call. My fear had been replaced with the feeling of service.

I did get a hold of my hoped-for client. She answered the phone and said she would call me right back. Four hours later I still hadn’t heard back. And I’m still living. Yes, I’m disappointed we haven’t closed the deal yet, but I’m not dead!

And yes I will continue to follow up. The story isn’t over and I am hopeful.

What’s the takeaway?

If we are willing to see what is true even if it makes us uncomfortable, we’ll discover that we can actually survive our difficult emotions and even deepen our resolve around our greater purpose.

If you would like to develop your resilience and confidence in ‘following up’, please contact me to schedule a complimentary session. My email is and my phone is 510-919-2254.