Are your sales reps having trouble deciding when and how to follow-up a prospect, in fear of getting themselves branded as pushy? A powerful sales cadence is just what they need. Here are our tips on how you can create one.
In theory, everyone knows that sales activities should be backed up with a well-thought-out and detailed plan, whether it’s a sales process or a follow-up strategy. Sales reps should also have a “tried and tested” sequence of actions that will get new leads flowing into the pipeline and then moving smoothly towards conversion. Sounds obvious, doesn't it?
So why is it that several sales reps still don’t even know what a sales cadence is, and instead they perform their daily tasks on gut feeling? They don’t have any real system for when, where, and how often they should interact with their leads.
Sometimes reps follow up leads once and then give up, sometimes twice, and sometimes the prospect is contacted so often that they ask to be removed from the company’s database.
Following up on consumers is tough enough as it is. But now it’s even harder, as sending a follow-up message at the wrong time or with a message not tailored to a given prospect can break any chances of a sale. If sales reps want to follow-up on a prospect several times until they finally show interest in an offer, having a set system for how many messages, through what channel, and how often you will send them is crucial.
Wait, do I need to follow up on prospects so often?
In 2007, the road to conversion was a short and straight one - you only needed around three cold calls to reach a prospect. If you were lucky, one call was enough to make a sale. Now though, the situation is much more complicated - on average, it takes from five to eight touchpoints (with some companies stating they need to follow up as many as sixteen times!). First, consumers get so many messages during the day that quite often they simply forget that they filled out a form on a website or downloaded a trial. What’s more, they have far more products and offers at their disposal these days, so even if a user is interested in a product or service, they will probably take some time analyzing all possible options before they make a final decision.
If you give up after the first or second follow-up, you might be losing out on valuable sales opportunities that only needed a bit more time to say “yes”. So unless you are told straight up during the first follow-up that a prospect doesn’t want you to contact them again, you should always “check in” again later - maybe you simply caught them at the wrong time, and that’s why they didn’t respond to your call or email.
The thing is, some sales reps go overboard with reminding customers about their product. I was recently dealing with a financial company that was sending me both an email and text message on the same day, with the same offer, twice a week. After last week, when I got a phone call added to the mix, I told them that while I do understand that the holiday season is coming and it’s one of the most critical times for them when it comes to loans - the amount of messages I get from them is pretty off-putting, so I want them to remove me from their database.
So hitting the ideal follow-up balance is not an easy thing to do. Give-up too early and you’re losing several potential sales opportunities, but if you nag customers too much then you might get branded as a pushy salesperson. However, with a well-thought-out sales cadence, consistently following up on your leads without seeming like a stalker gets much easier.
So, what is a sales cadence? Is it really that helpful?
Looking at Merriam-Webster’s definition, a cadence is:
- a rhythmic sequence or flow of sounds
- the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity
- a regular and repeated pattern of activity
And that’s exactly what you need in your outbound call center - a carefully designed sequence of actions that will move your prospects towards conversion.
That’s precisely a sales cadence - it’s a sequence of tasks that your reps perform in order to close a sale, starting from the very first contact with prospects and including follow-up attempts made through various channels (from emails and phone calls, to voicemails and social media messages). Having a “tried and tested” cadence formula for your business has a ton of benefits: your sales reps become more productive because they have a daily action plan rather than working ad hoc, and they will also no longer lose as many sales opportunities due to not following them up.
Now, how does a sales cadence look like?
Day 1: Introductory email
Day 3: Social media messages
Day 6: Follow-up email
Day 7: Phone call
Day 10: Social media message
Day 12: A morning call
Day 15: Follow-up email
This is one example of a sales cadence - yours might be longer or shorter. Its length can vary from company to company as it depends on the industry, product, number of channels used, and your audience. So to perfect your sales cadence, you need to test and optimize its structure continuously.
Why do you need a sales cadence?
Sales cadence manuals can be an incredible help for your sales reps - they won’t need to spend time analyzing which leads they should contact first, which channel they should use, plus when and how often they should mail. Reps will already have a whole follow-up path designed for them, so all they need to do is follow the guidelines - thus making their day both far more productive and less stressful, as there’s no need for guesswork anymore. Another plus of having a set follow-up structure is that your sales reps can quickly identify what’s working best for their customers or where they tend to lose prospects, and optimize the framework based on this knowledge.
This will be especially helpful for your new sales reps that are undergoing training - having a manual with a set of steps they are supposed to take when following-up on clients will both take a great deal of stress off their shoulders, and improve their productivity. It will also ensure they are giving the same level of attention to all customers.
How can I build my sales cadence?
Before starting to build your own sales cadence framework, you need to know that it won’t be a one-time action. You’ve finished writing your cadence structure, and the job is done? No, you will need to spend a lot of time testing, monitoring, and optimizing your sales cadence to perfect it until you find the sequence that will give you the best results. And even then, your sales cadence will likely change over time as your audience grows, your product/service changes, or you plan to use new contact channels.
What’s more, building your sales cadence isn’t only about deciding how often you will contact your future customers - you also need to think about which channels you will use, at what time you will send your messages, and how much time you will leave between each message (to not overwhelm your leads). To help you with designing a sales cadence matching your company specific needs, let’s go through the main elements of a successful cadence in detail:
#1 Follow-up frequency
The average length of a sales cadence is between two and four weeks (from the first contact attempt to the last one), so you need to spread your follow-up attempts across this time period. But picking the ideal frequency at which you will contact your prospects will take some practice.
On the one hand, you don’t want your prospects to forget about you, so the gap between each message shouldn’t be too long. But if it’s too short, then you will come across as a spammer. Your prospects need time to read your content, analyze your offer, and then make a decision.
A good idea here would be to start from the average number of touchpoints used (so 8 to 14) with two days free between each one, and then modify your approach based on your performance metrics and audience reaction. For example, a wave of unsubscribes is a clear sign that you are overwhelming your prospects with messages. This way, you are sure to find the perfect amount of touchpoints for your business to keep leads aware of your offer without overwhelming them.
Besides how often you will contact your prospects, you also need to think carefully about when you will send each message - meaning, what day and hour you plan to reach out. To obtain precise data about when exactly you have the biggest chance to get a positive response from your prospects you need to run many A/B tests, but there are a couple of trends you can notice coming from various bodies of research.
Mondays and Fridays are generally considered to be the worst days for following up on prospects. Mondays because they usually consist of attending regular meetings and scheduling work for the whole week. Fridays because your leads are already thinking about the upcoming weekend. That leaves you three working days you can use for following up - Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Now when it comes to the time of the day - in the mornings, people are often busy planning their schedule, finishing work they didn’t finish the previous day, or taking care of urgent issues. Lunchtime is a pretty bad time to call them with an offer as well, since most people leave their desk at that time and are unlikely to answer a business call then.
The best day and time of the week to make a business call is often said to be Thursday at 4-5 PM or 11 AM-12 PM. Take this information with a grain of salt, though, as this time might not work for your audience. Besides, there’s the risk many other companies use the same hours to call their prospects, so you run the risk of making them infuriated if you are another company that calls them on the same day.
Your sales cadence framework should include multiple contact channels for your sales reps to use - you don’t know which channel your prospect prefers for contact, so your best bet is to try to contact them through different ones until you find out which channel they like most.
There are four main outreach communication channels that you should use in your sales cadence:
- Email: they give you the option to send longer and more detailed messages, together with any additional content that your prospects might find useful.
- Phone: outbound calls allow you to interact with your prospects and immediately answer any questions or doubts they might have.
- Social media: by using direct messages you can quickly respond to prospect’s questions or issues, and share useful content.
- Text messages: good for short and straight-to-the-point messages, such as promotional codes or special time-limited offers.
Now it’s time to think about the people who you want your sales reps to follow-up with the hope they will convert into paying customers. The more you know about them, the higher the chances that your sales cadence will be effective. What are their main pain points and expectations? What contact platforms do they use the most? What kind of content would get them interested? Which groups or segments are most valuable for you (as they should be contacted first)? After answering those questions, you can design a follow-up sequence that will drive people into your sales funnel, not drive them away.
However, having one sales cadence script only might not be enough. For example, if you sell products to small local companies and international brands, then using the same follow-up script for both of those groups might give much lower results than you expect. Here we would recommend creating a separate sales cadence for each of the segments - it will take more time, but your sales reps will be able to give a fully personalized approach to each audience segment and make them far more likely to convert.
The content you will be giving to your prospects during a follow-up is an incredibly important element of any sales cadence. Even if you pinpointed the ideal frequency with which you should contact your prospects and pick the right channels for each of your audience groups, it means nothing without valuable content. Each follow-up message you send to them should mention why you are following-up. For example, you want to share a blog article that is relevant to the prospect’s question or interests. Each of the follow-up messages should show the prospects how your product or service might be valuable to them and how they could use it, rather than just be a sales pitch.
Lack of any content that was useful for me was actually one of the reasons why I got so annoyed at the financial company mentioned earlier. There was nothing in the follow-up messages for me, they just kept sending me one sales pitch after another without even trying to learn about my current situation or what I'm interested in - they probably didn’t do their research. And why would I be interested in listening to an offer about home renovation loans if I live in a flat? So you should focus on offering relevant and useful content for your prospects through the entire sales cadence - such as sharing news, insights, or guides - and never follow-up with a customer without it.
If you haven’t yet used a sales cadence in your company, starting the new year with one might be just what gives you a head start in 2021. It will give your sales reps some peace of mind, as they won’t have to spend time (and nerves) on deciding when and how they should reach out to potential customers (and if they should follow-up them at all). Reps will have everything mentioned step by step in the cadence. That will improve your productivity, give you consistent results from the follow-up, and make training new agents easier and faster.
But to nail your cadence, you need to keep an eye on its main elements and test your follow-up structure often to keep improving it. If you do that, whether you need to optimize your existing sales cadence or create a brand new one, you are well on your way to building an exceptional sales cadence for your business.