If you are involved in any type of sport, you understand the importance of follow-through. Whether you are hitting a baseball, driving a golf ball, or shooting a basketball, executing proper follow-through can mean the difference between success and failure. Even in the business world, follow-through takes center stage as one of the keys to success. From job interviews to networking to sales, follow-through can turn “I tried” into “I succeeded.”

So many people have fallen short of hitting their professional goals because they treated the interview, the first contact with someone, or the first sales call or quote as the end of the shot.

There are many reasons why this happens. Some are afraid to appear pushy and will wait to be contacted, others feel overwhelmed while time gets away from them, and some just aren’t sure when to follow up.

When it comes to sales, we have consistently seen the same issues arise among companies. Below we share five things that can inhibit sales follow-through and what to do about them.

Prospect Doesn’t Immediately Return Calls or Emails

Salespeople can lose contact with a prospect if they don’t receive an immediate response from them. Sometimes it’s because salespeople have so much more on their plates that needs immediate attention and the lead gets lost, or it could be because they perceive a disinterest from the prospect.

There could be many reasons why the prospect doesn’t contact you back that do not mean they aren’t interested—the project isn’t a top priority, they are evaluating multiple vendors, the timing isn’t right, they went on vacation—who knows? The point is that keeping your brand front of mind is critical to ensuring that when they do make the purchase, your product or service is being considered. If you wait too long, the vendor that did follow through may make the sale.

Continue to follow up until you learn they are not a fit or they give you a definite yes or no.

Call Reluctance

One of the biggest fears many people face is the fear of rejection. Rejection can feel personal—as if you or your product isn’t good enough. But rejection is something every salesperson faces. Because of this fear, salespeople may be reluctant to pick up the phone and call prospects.

If you don’t face your fear and learn to overcome it, your hesitancy to pick up the phone or reach out to new prospects and your reliance on doing what is more comfortable—managing current accounts—will grow, making you even less effective as a salesperson.

Confidence and lack of courage can’t exist together. One of the best ways to boost your confidence level is through preparation. Before you call on any new prospect, make sure they have been thoroughly vetted—do they meet your requirements for size, revenue, annual spend, industry (whatever qualifiers you use)? Have you done your research—do they have a use for your product, what are the typical pains in the industry, how is your solution different from those of your competitors? Be prepared to stop talking, listen to the prospect, and adjust your pitch to address their specific needs.

Calling on new prospects is about respectful persistence. You need to be persistent but not annoying. If the prospect says not to contact them, then by all means, don’t contact them again. But be sure what you thought was a no really was a no. If they say it’s not in the budget this year, ask about next year. If they have a current supplier, find out who it is, whether there is anything that is not meeting their expectations, when the contract is up, etc. When you engage in friendly conversation, people open up, and you may find a way in or, at the very least, learn when the best time to call back may be.

Lack of Knowledge

Lack of knowledge can significantly inhibit follow-through. How do you know when to stop or when a lead is dead?

Without tracking, it can be challenging to know how many touches (calls, emails, or another form of contact) it will take to get an appointment with a prospect. To make it worse, statistics available vary from source to source. We’ve seen an appointment made with the first contact, and we’ve seen it take as long as three years with a few monthly touches to crack a lead. It is going to depend on a lot of variables—your industry, your messaging, timing, even luck. If you track your activities, you should have a pretty good idea of how long it takes. A good rule is to not stop trying until they explicitly tell you to stop or you close the sale. Persistence will be your key to success.

Poor Organizational Skills

Planning and organizing upfront helps you to keep things on schedule down the line. So, what does this look like from a sales perspective? Do your homework and know what your prospects’ pains are and how you can help them. According to sales training and consulting firm the RAIN Group’s research, buyers say that 58% of their sales meetings are not valuable. Top salespeople bring value to the meeting. They have an understanding of the clients’ pain points and needs and can communicate how their company’s value proposition meets those needs.

Ask when you should follow back up. Put it into your calendar or create a reminder in your CRM—just make sure when that time comes, you actually follow up. Keep your notes from your meetings well-organized in an electronic folder, CRM, or paper folder if you are still doing it old-school. You want to be able to quickly reference them if the prospect calls you or for review before the next follow-up call.

Lack of Clear Communication

Effective communication can assist you with follow-through. Trust can play a large part in making or losing a sale. When you fail to do what you say you will do, some of that trust is diminished. Earning it back can be an uphill battle. So if you are not able to meet your commitment, such as following up, communicate that as early as possible, and reschedule.

We’re not suggesting it is intentional; things happen, and sometimes there is a misunderstanding of next steps. How many meetings have you left without a list of action items, only to return the following month with nothing completed? In a sales meeting, the next steps should be clearly spelled out with time frames. If you are expecting a request for quotation and you don’t get it in the specified time, call to find out when you can expect it (put this in your calendar if you need the reminder to follow up).

Follow-through is something you need to be constantly aware of. Initially, you may need to remind yourself what needs to be done continually. Once you create good habits with follow-through, they become a natural part of your sales process.

If you are interested in learning about call reluctance scores, we can give you more information about the tests we use—Contact Todd Zielinski at Tzielinksi@athenaswc.com.