Why Your Salespeople Won’t Follow Up With Prospects

Jeff Shore

Great salespeople love the thrill of the hunt. They don’t so much get a sale as they bag a sale. There is something about going in for the close and getting rewarded with a “yes.” The yes is their trophy. 

But what about the one that got away? What happens when you take your shot but the customer says, “Not yet”? 

For many “one-and-done” salespeople the process is effectively over. Oh, sure – they’ll log something into the CRM and the system will proceed to send out a slew of impersonal e-mails for the foreseeable future, but for many salespeople that’s about it. 

Why don’t salespeople follow-up? And when they do, why are the efforts so frustratingly lame? 

I teach sales leaders an important evaluation question that they should be asking whenever a salesperson is not doing what they are supposed to do. The answer to this critical question will lead you on the path to the appropriate solution. 

The Can’t vs. Won’t Debate 

The question to ask: “Is this a can’t problem or is this a won’t problem?” 

Can’t issues are about ability. A salesperson simply does not know how to do the task. Won’t issues are about motivation. The salesperson simply does not want to do the task. 

Be certain about this, however: you can’t solve an ability problem with a motivation solution, and you cannot solve a motivation problem with a training solution. 

So which is it for your salespeople – a can’t or a won’t? It could be some of each, of course, but it is rarely balanced. It’s more one than the other.  

Here is the test: has there been sufficient training and testing in the past? Training begins to address the can’t issue, but it does not address it fully unless there has been testing. I can instruct a salesperson on a technique but until I see them do it repeatedly I do not know if the capability is there. 

Start here. If you want to assess the can’t-vs-won’t question, begin with training and testing. If they have been trained, and if they have demonstrated that they can perform the skill, you can be assured you have a motivation problem. 

Can’t vs. Won’t in Follow-Up 

My direct observation is that poor follow-up is almost always a case of won’t more than of can’t. I make this case for one simple reason: follow-up just ain’t that hard. 

Making a phone call? That is not a difficult technical task. But it can be a trying mental task. That places this under the won’t category. 

Researching a solution for the customer? Again, not difficult. But it does require some effort. Any half-way decent salesperson should be able to solve this…if they have the want to. 

What Can You Do? 

My advice: start with the fundamentals. Teach them how to make a phone call, and break down the steps in the simplest possible terms. 

Why start here? Because you will eliminate the “can’t” debate. If you teach them and then test them you will be assured that the capability is there. Now you can go to work on the motivation. 

And if they still won’t follow-up? At that point it’s up to you to either enforce your standards or let them define your standards for you. 

Make no mistake: your standards are not what you desire; they are what you accept. 

Prove that this matters. Demonstrate your own passion for the subject. Make it a priority. Live out your standards! 

In short, follow-up…and close the sale!  

Jeff Shore is the founder and president of Shore Consulting, Inc., a company specializing in field-tested and proven consumer psychology-based sales training programs. Jeff hosts the sales podcast, The Buyer’s Mind. His most recent book is "Follow Up and Close the Sale."

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