When dual-core computer processors became available, some people immediately bought new computers. There were the early adopters - people who just had to own the latest technology because ... it was the latest technology. Some had determined that they would benefit from the increased processing power and wanted to do so as soon as possible. Other people, however, took their time. They first had to convince themselves that they would benefit from the purchase.
What was going on in the minds of the people who waited? They were reading product reviews and test reports and soliciting opinions from those in the know -- stacking one reason upon another, building a case for ownership. Then, they made the decision to buy. And, once that "impulse" to buy took hold, they had to have the new computer NOW! They may have been cool to the idea initially, but once they made the decision to buy, they just had to have it.
Customers and prospective customers you call on aren't much different. Some will want your product immediately. They will have a reason for buying - to satisfy a need or a desire, enjoy a benefit, or fulfill a goal - whatever is relevant and important to them. If they qualify on other considerations - the ability to invest the necessary resources to make the purchase and the willingness to make a decision - they qualify for a presentation, and you have the opportunity to close a sale.
Others, even though they will have a need for your product and recognize the advantages provided by it and your company, will take their time. Giving a presentation at that point will only get you a "think-it- over" response from the prospect - a response that really means, "Not now."
So, what do you do with the "not now" prospects? You could simply scratch them off your prospect list and move on to potentially more viable prospects. After all, why waste time with someone who is not ready to buy?
Or, you could adopt the opposite extreme by continuing to call on them ... frequently. Your "keep-in-touch" strategy might include making phone calls and sending literature and testimonials weekly as well as sending frequent emails reminding them of your product's benefits. That strategy will ensure that when the prospects are ready to buy, your product - not your competitor's product - is uppermost in their minds.
Which of the two strategies - ignore the prospect or become a nuisance - is the most effective? As you might have guessed ... neither. However, there is a middle ground. You can keep in touch with prospects on a schedule to which you both agree. It might be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or whatever makes sense to the prospect. Prospects have their own reasons for buying. Similarly, they have their own timetable for buying. Uncovering that timetable is the first step in developing your follow-up schedule.
Once you have an idea of your prospect's buying timetable, you and your prospect can establish a "keep-in-touch" schedule. Let's suppose a prospect told you he wouldn't be ready to consider purchasing your product for 90 days.
Here is an example of how you can establish a mutually agreed upon follow-up schedule: "Bob, since you won't be ready to begin making any decisions about upgrading your network for 90 days, I suppose I could be a nuisance, sending you emails every week to determine if anything has changed. Or, I could just put you in my tickler file for a phone call in 90 days.
I suspect you would agree that neither of those strategies is appropriate. What would you consider to be a suitable contact schedule so you could make me aware of any changes to your future needs and acquisition timetable and I could provide you with technology updates that may be relevant to your decision?"
Developing a follow-up schedule accomplishes two things. First, it establishes start and finish dates for the process and defines the behavior in between those points. If the prospect agrees to talk every three weeks, for instance, you can schedule the date and time for the conversations. That prevents either party from falling off the other person's radar. Second, developing a follow-up schedule will give you some indication of the prospect's commitment to the purchase and the likelihood of purchasing from you. How much of a commitment can you attach to a prospect who, for instance, suggests nothing more specific than calling him in "60 days or so"? Not much.
When you establish an appropriate and specifically defined follow-up schedule, you'll be there when your prospect gives in to his impulse to buy.