Before the date you are anxious and excited, but you have prepped for relationship-building success. You know exactly how you are going to start the conversation and if the conversation lags, you have well-thought-out questions to help you get to know your date a little better; to understand their background, to determine where they are at this point in life, and to inspire the sharing of future plans.
So you have the date. It goes really well. You have butterflies at the end and you talk about meeting again soon. Then comes the problem... you’re not sure exactly how or when is best to connect with them again.
This step is not only critical in romantic relationships, but also in business-to-business relationships and the early stage of the sales cycle process with qualified prospects. There always seems to be confusion among salespeople when it comes to deciding when and how best to follow up after a successful first meeting.
The ideal approach to following up after a first sales meeting with a potential prospect consists of 3 simple elements:
Step 1: Next Day - A quick 'thank you' call
The idea here is to call the next morning to express gratitude for your prospect taking the time to meet. This is a very brief call and you should expect to get their voicemail.
Simply convey your appreciation for their time and summarize the action items that you took away from the meeting. Let them know that you will follow up with an email the next day. Make sure if you make this self-imposed deadline that you don’t miss it. Don’t start the relationship by missing a deliverable!
Step 2: Days 2-4 (or, when you're committed to delivering the letter) – Short email letter clarifying your understanding and preliminary recommendations
Next you need to draft a short letter that outlines the following:
- Your understanding of their present situation
- What they would like their future to look like
- How you recommend achieving this desired outcome
- Any budget or time frames that need to be considered
- Confirm what you understand to be the decision process
- The recommended/agreed upon next steps
This is a detailed letter, but it needs to be succinct too. Aim for 2-3 pages maximum. Make sure your contact understands that it is a 'living document', and that they are encouraged to edit and clarify any of the details of the letter. In order to cover all of the content recommended above, you may have to make some assumptions. This is perfectly okay, just be sure to acknowledge when assumptions are made and ask your contact to validate them as well. This participation will help you ensure the solution is mutually beneficial.
Steps 3 - Day 4-5 – Follow up on the letter to ask for edits and corrections and to schedule the next meeting.
Your goal now is to schedule a time to review the letter with the decision-making team. Remember that significant business decisions are seldom made by just one person, so encourage the prospect to invite stakeholders, users and business influencers to the meeting. This will ensure that all potential objections to moving forward with your solution are uncovered early in the sales process so that you can overcome any objections and shorten your sales cycle as much as possible.
Use the follow-up letter as the basis for a second meeting agenda; make sure that everyone invited has the most recent version of the letter before the meeting.
Using this follow-up process will help you transform your relationship with the prospect from mere 'selling' into collaboration. Done right, you will turn more first dates into meaningful long-term B2B client relationships.