Your initial prospect phone call was the result of either their contacting you, or your contacting them through a referral or cold call. If the initial call was successful and the prospect showed interest, the next step in the sales process is the follow-up call where you get back to them with more information and perhaps more questions. The follow-up call is extremely important, because it gets the sales cycle rolling. It’s where you can show more of your value, and where your relationship with the prospect begins. Here’s how to make the most out of those follow-up calls.

What to do prior to the follow-up call

At the end the initial call, set up a date and time for the follow-up call and a date if you’ll be sending them something. Vague commitments from them—“Call me next week”—or from you—“I’ll email you a proposal and call you in a couple of days”—risk missed calls and a longer sales cycle.

After every initial call to a new prospect, send a handwritten thank you card: “Mary, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I look forward to talking to you further on the 15th. Kind regards….” If a card won’t get there in time, email them, though an email doesn’t make the same impact as a written note.

The day before your follow-up call, email the prospect a reminder. Make the subject line: “Phone appointment for November 15th, plus interesting article.” Not giving the time in the subject line gets the email opened. In the email, confirm the date and time and briefly note the agenda: “We’ll go over where we are, I’ll answer any questions, and we’ll decide on next steps, if any.” The “if any” reduces the prospect’s concerns that they’ll have to make a commitment, a big reason prospects skip out on follow-up calls.

Then add a P.S. about the “interesting article”: “Mary, I’ve also attached an article I thought you’d enjoy.” This can be a piece you found online about the market, the industry, the prospect’s challenges, or, even better, a non-business topic that came up in your initial call.

What to do when making the follow-up call

First, make the call on time—don’t be late by even a minute. Be ready with your opening statement. Give your name and company name. Then remind the prospect why you’re having this call. Go back to what came up in the initial call—the problem they want to solve, or the improvement they’re looking to gain. For example: “When we last spoke, you wanted to fix…” or “When we last talked, you wanted to improve….”

Then move on to this call’s agenda. If you sent them a proposal, now is the time to review it, and ask if they have any questions about it. Or, if you haven’t done a proposal yet, make your recommendations on how can answer their needs. Then tell them you’d like to work with them to come up with the next steps, “if applicable,” and ask how that sounds. The “if applicable” is another way to reduce prospect’s resistance about making a decision.

What to do if the prospect isn’t there

About a 30% of the time, prospects won’t pick up the phone when you call. When that happens, leave a message so they know that you called when you said you would. Tell them you’ll call back in 10 minutes, then do it. If they’re still not there, leave another message: “Please call me when you’re free. Otherwise, I’ll call you around… (pick a time a few hours out).” Then give the prospect a chance to call. But if you haven’t heard from them in half a day, call again. If they don’t pick up, leave another message: “I’m sorry we haven’t been able to connect, and I know you want to move forward with what we’ve been discussing. Please call me at….”

If you don’t hear from them after that, make four more calls three business days apart. You want to be persistent, but not a pest. And, of course, always be polite and professional. Some prospects may decide not to hire you, or to not do the job at all, and have difficulty telling you that. All you can do is accept it and move on to the next prospect!