Stop ‘Just Checking In,’ Plan How to Follow Up

“Just checking in…” is one of the most ineffective statements in a salesperson’s vocabulary. It is usually quickly followed by, “to see how things are going.”

These words are used far too often in emails and voicemails by producers in the attempt to reconnect with a prospect that has gone astray or silent.

Unless followed by much greater detail, “just checking in” implies neither actions nor agreements were developed in previous meetings. “Just checking in,” is akin to saying, “I have no idea where we are and I’m not sure if you’re still interested in talking to me.”

To avoid losing control of the sale and a prospect’s attention, producers can plan for more meaningful follow-up by incorporating a rather simple sales strategy—using a verbal recap at the end of a meeting.

A verbal recap accomplishes two things. First, it demonstrates to the prospect that their thoughts, goals, objectives and challenges were heard correctly, something everyone appreciates. Secondly, it allows the producer to affirm the agreed-on direction and necessary next steps to moving forward.

Let’s look at an example dialogue between a producer and a client CFO:

Producer: For our next meeting we agreed it makes sense to have your risk manager present so they can also participate in the risk assessment. I’d like to share the progress we’ve made already with them prior to that meeting. Would you be able to make an email introduction for me by Thursday morning?

CFO: Yes, I will send an email introduction by Thursday and you can take it from there.

Notice how the action to be completed is date-specific and tied to an agreement the producer and CFO arranged? This specificity is important, not only because an agreement has been reached, but because it triggers a precise timeline for the producer to follow-up.

If the producer has not received an introduction to the risk manager by Thursday morning, she now has a specific reason for reaching out to her prospect:

Producer: Hi John, this is Mary, when we last spoke you were going to arrange an introduction for me with your risk manager. It’s Friday morning, and I was hoping to speak with him before the end of the week in order to bring him up to speed on our progress. Are you able to coordinate an email introduction today or has something changed?

Holding your prospects accountable to agreements made in the sales process can be uncomfortable and may be seen by some producers as pushy. Yet, without a clear set of agreed-upon actions, it is nearly impossible to effectively and meaningfully advance the sale.

Continuing with the example, it is likely the CFO would respond like this:

CFO: I apologize for the delay. The week got away from me. I’ll send the email now. Thanks for the nudge!

It is easy to let time slip away, so in most cases, your prospect will appreciate the gentle reminder. However, a follow-up may also provide insight into important unexpected changes that have set the sale off course. Perhaps it wasn’t simply a matter of time slipping away—maybe a bigger issue is brewing:

CFO: I’m glad you reached out. Actually, something has come up. When I spoke with our risk manager, they indicated they’re working on a number of initiatives with our current agent that I wasn’t aware of. It may not be a good time for us to explore making a change.

This response changes the ball game and requires the producer to switch tactics. The producer now has access to information she would not have had without following up on their agreement. The use of actions and agreements can be powerful, helping to reduce the frustration associated with a prospect going dark or uncertainty as to what was to be accomplished and by whom.

The next time you have a meeting with a prospect, request time-sensitive actions and seek agreements with the plan. Take it a step further by reinforcing your recap and agreements with a follow-up email. You’ll be surprised how smoothly you advance the sale.

Susan Toussaint is cofounder and partner at Oceanus Partners, a ReSource Pro company. Oceanus Partners is a firm dedicated to helping insurance professionals working in all lines of business insurance to improve sales and client retention.