It turns out there really is power in a thank-you note.

A thank you goes a long way—thanks for your referrals, thanks for new business, thanks for the meeting. It’s not just a way to show gratitude. It’s also a great excuse for sales follow-up—a reason to connect with clients and prospects, to stay in touch with referral sources, and to deepen relationships with your overall business network.

When clients ask if they should send a note, make a call, or send an email to say thanks for referrals, I answer “yes.” You can never thank someone enough. Thank people in any of those ways, or better yet, in all of them.  Just make sure you follow up.

Thank-You Notes Are Not Passe

There is something extra special about a handwritten thank-you note. What letters do you look at first—the rare handwritten card or the electric bill?

Writing thank-you notes is not old-fashioned, or fuddy-duddy, or Luddite. Writing a thank-you note shows that you actually care enough to take the time and energy and focus to thank someone for their time. Our world is fast paced. It’s connected, electronic, wireless, character-limited, and immediate. And it’s made person-to-person communication easy. But with that ease—the off-the-cuff email or text—comes a casualness that doesn’t communicate, “You are worth my real time.”

In fact, several successful companies—including Nordstrom, Zappos, and Wufoo—regularly send handwritten thank-you notes to loyal customers. The result? More loyalty. Wufoo, for example, found that retention rates are 50 percent higher among customers who receive cards.

Regardless of whether you have good handwriting, write the note. Take the time to show your appreciation. Follow up.

Following Up Without Being a Pest

Sales follow-up goes beyond thank-you notes. Follow up with your clients for up-sells, follow up with prospects, follow up with your network. If you think too much sales follow-up is annoying, it probably is.

Don’t know the best way to follow up with your clients? Ask them! What’s their preferred way to communicate? What about timing? How can you add value to the conversation you’ve started?

That advice comes from John Barrows. In his brilliant Sales Hacker article, “Perfecting the Sales Follow-Up: How to Gain Momentum and Win Deals Without Being Annoying,” he outlines his proven approach to follow-up. My favorite is #3: Make sure you always end each conversation with a clearly defined next step.

Yes, yes, yes! Before I ever send a proposal, outline, article, or recommendation, I always schedule the next call. If your prospect isn’t willing to have the next call with you, you need to question whether this is truly a prospect.

Here’s the thing. You get what you ask for, so ask for exactly what you want. Why would you write a proposal, a summary, or anything else if the prospect isn’t willing to continue the conversation? You need to drive the conversation. Top salespeople don’t sit back and wait.

5 Ways to Improve Your Sales Follow-Up

How do you stay in touch with your referral network? Not just when you need referrals or want to say thanks, but on a regular enough basis that you stay top of mind? Try these tactics:

  1. Mine your database. There’s no excuse today for not following up. Use your database to record relevant contact information and provide a tickler for your next conversation.
  2. Engage in social media. If you’re not active on social media, you’re not in business. Pose questions. Answer questions. Social media is not a place to sell, but it is a place to communicate valuable information—not only from you—but also from other credible sources. Join groups or start your own group on LinkedIn.
  3. Write a blog. Keep your posts short and post at least weekly. I’m sure you’re not at a loss for something to say or information to share. Link your blog directly to LinkedIn, and your connections see your blog when you post it.
  4. Send articles. Stay in touch by sending relevant, interesting content to your network. Write your own articles or get an author’s permission to use their articles (with attribution). You can also ask the marketing department for help creating or curating articles.
  5. Write newsletters. Stay in touch at least quarterly with a “newsy” newsletter that:
    • Includes news people can use—The newsletter is not about you; it’s about your readers. What insights can you share? Lessons learned?
    • Profiles a client you helped—Craft it like this: Describe the situation or problem the client had, tell what you did, and then articulate the results your client received. Quantify the results as much as possible by describing how much money they saved, the newfound security of their investments, or the risk you diminished for them. We all love and listen to good stories.
    • Incorporates photos of you and your team—People do business with people, not with technology, so make it personal.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up on Referrals

It probably goes without saying that you should follow up on referrals. If you’re not, you’re leaving good money on the table. But there’s still plenty of sales follow-up left to do after you ask for referrals. Don’t forget to follow up with:

  • Your Referral Source: Your referral sources want to know when they’ve made a perfect referral. Once they know what you need, more referrals will follow.
  • Your Referred Clients: Thank your new clients for their business and show your appreciation. They are your premier source of referrals to others just like themselves.
  • Your Prospects: Even if you don’t write business with a prospect now, they want to know you value their relationship, will continue to stay in touch, and connect them with your referral network. You become a trusted resource. Who knows? They may not be ready now, but they can become your best referral source. (I know, because some of my best clients came from lost deals.)

Timing is everything in sales. You never know when people are ready or how something you say will resonate at just the right time. So stay in touch. The fortune is in your sales follow-up!

Need help thinking through your follow up? Email and schedule a 15 minute complimentary call.