EP 98: Reframing the Follow-up Mindset, with Lee McKnight Jr
Kelly: Welcome to Thrive, your agency resource. When we think about following up with agency prospects during the sales process, we immediately for some reason default to those emails that start with the subject line, “Just checking in…” Right? Joining me today is Lee McKnight Jr., who is the VP of Sales for RSW/US, which most of you probably know already. And together, we're going to help you start to reframe that follow-up mindset into one that will elicit response and actually help you close a more ideal new business. Lee, thank you so much for joining me today. It's such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Lee: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. This is great. I'm looking forward to it.
Kelly: So a while ago, the reason why this whole episode came out, or was put together, was a while ago, you had shared some really great content on LinkedIn. I know that was something you had been doing for a while. But there was one particular video where you kind of did a little bit of a tear down of some follow-up emails that you had received. And I actually thought it was pretty brilliant because you not only showed the emails, obviously respectfully crossing off the names of the people you sent them.
Lee: Yes, I'd be nice.
Kelly: But you really talked about why the way that they approached you in those follow-ups was problematic. So just for some context for the audience, I'd love you to kind of give a little bit of an overview as to what were some of those things that you were encountering and why were they problematic?
Lee: Yeah, absolutely. And again, thanks for having me. Our company is RSW/US and then we do have a separate list building group where we sell those, and I bring that up only to say, what we're doing is working solely with agencies to help them drive more new business. So this series that we do takes a piece of agency, new business. We've tried to do that for 4 to 5 minutes, and just talk about ways to help agencies drive more of it. And in this particular video, as you said, I get these emails, and we all do. I have a good email folder and a bad email folder. And I will keep all of them because I learned from all of them. And with this particular video, as you said, we were trying to be respectful and certainly not trashing one specifically or at all just to say, look, these are things that you just…
Kelly: Don't do it.
Lee: Right? And I'll take those off, just as you said to kind of lay some context. But the first one of those three takeaways was never make your prospect do the work. Way too many emails where you are asking, or in some cases, I got one yesterday, making a prospect try to do something where you have no authority to do so yet. And no relationship whatsoever. Because at the top of the funnel, especially, you can't do it that way. So making your prospect to the work is essentially like you sending an email saying, “Hey, I'm following up. There’s no email underneath. You're not referencing anything about your company, which happens all the time.” So essentially, like, well, I'm sure you've researched me, and you're making all these assumptions to where no, make it as easy as possible, be as direct as possible with your prospects. Don't make them do that type of work at all. Right? So that was number one. The second one was you just said it and it happens all the time. I stopped checking, and it almost becomes I think, for some salespeople second nature, to where they don't even know they're doing it.
Kelly: I think it's actually a task list, like a task on their CRM, like check in with so and so. And it's literally like an email that's like checking in.
Lee: Totally. You're so right. Yeah, exactly. And they just don't even think about it. And so that's an easy fix to make where you're wasting valuable real estate that the person doesn't prospect, at that point doesn't really care, just to be blunt. So that's a pretty simple fix. And the last one was, and this doesn't come up as often, but it still does. And that's don't ask for my thoughts as a prospect. Because I'll get some emails where they kick off a box of your points in the CRM. Well, this is my fourth touch. I don't know. Here's all I do. I’ll do this. I'll respond with my email underneath and just say, “This will be nice and short.” They like that. ``Any thoughts on what I sent?” Or something along those lines? It's like talking about making a prospect do the work. No, I don't have any thoughts. I mean, I don’t even know who you are. Don't ever waste your time doing that. And culminating on that email I got yesterday, which was crazy. I’ll give you one more example of this individual. This one was really fun. Didn't put the email that he sent me that hey, following up on this. Never said what his company did, then immediately proceeded to say, “Well, so I've got Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday open. I can make myself available at any time. However, the morning really is preferable.” I'm not even making that up. It's like, wait a minute. You're telling me that I'm going to do this. But make sure it's the morning even though I'm available all the time. It's going to be better for me this morning. I'm like, oh, my God. What are you doing? So things like that. So that was the context.
Kelly: That's great context. And so this is what we're dealing with. And like, if you're listening or watching this, like you get this. You know exactly what's happening, right? Like this is the case, this is most people, it could even be your vendors, your partners; it could even be your own business development reps, or your own salespeople that are doing this. We'll get to that in a minute. But since this is clearly not the way to go, this is not the approach to take. This is all about me. I need the information. You can schedule some time with me on my availability, like that is not the way to go when you're trying to establish rapport, and trying to develop new business. So how can people that are in these positions really build trust, add value? Like what are some examples that you feel like would be appropriate ways to follow up?
Lee: Yes, I love that question. And I think taking a step back to when you think about it, you and I talked previously, why does it even happen? And to frame it out, some of that might be inexperience, that's where you certainly need to be willing to, and you'll hire any business director internally a lot of times, and they're just an island on their own. And some of those are inexperienced, that you're like, well, if they were cheap, not to make less of that person. But a lot of times that happens. And what they don't do then is train individuals, which you get what you get, if you're not going to help them.
Kelly: Yeah, you don't set them up for success.
Lee: Exactly, a better way to put it. But more often than not, it is and we talked about this, you can say lazy and that certainly maybe some of it, but it is just not willing to put forth a little bit of extra effort. But the good news there is a lot of your competition, thinking about agency leaders, whether they're doing it internally, partners are doing it, for example, with a small and midsize agency, which is where our clients, typically good portion of them are that where they have one person trying to drive at all. Ultimately, it can be hard. Sales is hard. But just to put forth a little bit of extra effort. But when you do that, you've already set yourself apart from your competition, just by trying to do a little bit of homework, which you shouldn't be doing. And you've already taken a step towards adding value. So that's the first. When you asked me that question, that's the first thing you can do automatically, probably from 80 to 90% of your competition, which is huge. But then specific things that can be helpful. So one is, I was thinking about this today. First of all, let's just think about email, because that's where there are so many posts today. That's how they're trying to drive sales. I will say, we think that's a mistake in terms of how we operate for our clients; don't just, and not to get off topic, but just sticking with one platform is not giving you all the different options that you could have.
Kelly: Yeah, totally agree.
Lee: Right. But because email still is so prevalent, one of the things you don't always sell in your emails. And for some salespeople, this can be tough, to think well, I'm a salesperson, what would I? Because I can't tell you how many emails I get on a daily basis. Kelly, I'm sure you do as well, where I almost never get anything that is value based or thought leadership driven by content that they created. And sometimes you don't have that content to be fair, but Google is your friend. We may not say that all the time, right? It's, again, maybe not easy at that exact moment. But typically, you're going to be able to find something that's noncompetitive, that someone's written, that speaks to a trend or speaks to something going on within the industry to show that prospect that, look, we understand your big picture challenges. We are experts in this space, for example, here's a POV in something we thought that you would find of interest. And there's no call to action other than that, and sometimes you can put one in there, indirectly. But to just do that. And it does need to ideally, if you can gently tie it into work you've done for a client or a past client to say this. And by the way, we've done similar things for x company. I would love to talk about it sometime. You could do that kind of indirect sale. But just to do that, you're going to stand out, and you're going to start providing that value and start to be memorable, which you have to be, to set yourself apart. And doing that in the right way. Not in that example, I gave you that email from yesterday. I actually remember that company name now. It's not a great thing. I'm not going to hold that company to task for one email from one salesperson. But you don't want to be remembered in that way. Right? So you have email. And I had two other examples. One of those is just thinking about old school mail. Because it is still effective. And granted during COVID through all this, we're not out of it yet. But we had to take a pause in terms of what we're doing for our clients, but even then, we found creative ways. And it was interesting how people were more willing, if they worked out warm or hot, we had some interaction with them; we would throw out to them. We have something we'd love to send you in the mail. It’s something a little bit different, or can even be just a letter. But more often than not, when we respectfully ask that question they were willing to give us, if they were still in the office somewhere. But even home addresses, we would say, “That's great. We will totally respect your privacy. You will never get anything else from us, but thank you.” And just, again, making yourself memorable and what you are sending, obviously, has to have some kind of value as well, but you can do whatever you're including, or even if it's just, “Hey, I'm going to follow up with an email to send more to you digitally.” It’s still another way to stand out and build some value. And lastly, I will give props. There’s an agency out of New Jersey called the DSM agency, the creative director sent me specific examples of using a platform like Vidyard.
Kelly: Is it Dan?
Lee: That’s Dan. You know Dan?
Kelly: I know Dan.
Lee: Yeah. Oh, how did we not know that? Yeah. I love Dan Enrico, and they are smart. Their whole group is smart, right? And I’m not a client, actually. But we've done some videos together, too. But yeah, so Dan, and I believe, two or three days, at least lead to close business. He got on that platform, and just did I would say just 3 minutes. So hey, great talking with you. I mentioned that we didn't have time in the first meeting, or I'm paraphrasing here. But yeah, this is just I told you, I give you a brief example, and I can’t remember exactly what they demoed at this point, but it just played so well and personalized, saying that individual’s first name and ending it with those kind of things, if we do work together you can expect from us, I'll be following up. Have a great day. And you have to be comfortable with video. So I think that's something that people might practice. But yeah, it was great. And I thought, I haven't personally tried that yet. But I'm going to. So I think there's just three examples of ways to add value that are not insurmountable. They're not hard. But it takes a little more effort. That's just good sales. Right?
Kelly: For sure. I mean, those are great examples. I will build on that. Because those kind of sparked some other ideas for me too.
Lee: Cool. Yeah, please.
Kelly: So like what you said, if you're not comfortable with video, and you want to use something like Vidyard or one of the other things out there, you don't necessarily have to be on camera, right? Like you can be demoing something and be doing like a Screencast.
Lee: Great point.
Kelly: So it could just be audio. That also led me to another idea of I don't think enough people use the voice memo functionality in LinkedIn messenger. So if I get a little note from someone that says, hey, this was a great call, like, obviously, we're already first connections, because they're able to message me. So great call yesterday, whatever, they're following up. It's one minute, two minute, just as if they were leaving me a voicemail on my cellphone, right? There's something different about it. So what you're trying to do is stand apart and personalize, and add value, and develop rapport. So you can use any one of these kinds of things. The thing that sparked an idea, the way that you mentioned mailing something physically, I have taken to every once in a while, if I'm having a call with a prospect, and we talk about something where it's very clear to me that there's a particular book that they should really read. I will actually ask them like, “Hey, there's this particular book by this author. I'd love to send you a copy.” I get their physical address, just ask them for it. They're like, “Wow, that'd be great. That's really generous.” Or “I'd be grateful for that.” They sent me their address. I popped into my Amazon account. I send it off with a little note, like a gift. And it's great.
Lee: I love that.
Kelly: Do you do that with everyone? No, because that's like 15-20 bucks, right?
Lee: Sure. You’re right.
Kelly: But your cost per acquisition on an account is double digits of thousands of dollars, like yeah, you can afford a $15 to $20 buck. Right?
Kelly: It just shows that you're willing to go the extra mile that you actually care about them as a human. And then the last thing that I do pretty often is if I'm in the car, or I'm walking, I'm listening to a podcast or I’m digesting some piece of content, that triggers a memory of a conversation that I recently had with a prospect or even an existing client, talk about building relationship, right? And I will share that link to that podcast or that piece of content and say, “Hey, I wanted to send this to you because about halfway through the show, this person says this.” And it really reminded me of that conversation you and I had and your viewpoint on XYZ. Take a listen. Let me know what you think. So that's the one area where, let me know, your thoughts are actually totally applicable. Right?
Lee: Absolutely. Because you've given that context and the personalization. I mean, they're going to be wowed by that for sure.
Kelly: Right. So these are all, I mean, we just had 5, 6, 7 different examples between the two of us that none of them were the checking email. So if you have that in your arsenal, if you write those things down, or maybe we'll even put that in the show notes, all of these different journals.
Lee: Sure. Yeah.
Kelly: That's a great arsenal to work from. If you're having trouble thinking about how I am going to make sure that I develop this relationship, add value to this prospect, and try to move it, through the sales funnel.
Lee: Yeah. And I love the mailing. You made my example so much more concrete. I love that book and then LinkedIn. Oh, my gosh, because I've only ever gotten one of those from a salesperson. If nobody’s going to listen, I actually call them back and end up being sales.
Kelly: Oh my God.
Lee: Yeah, you know what? And I totally hadn't thought about that. And you're so right. So that's just another tool, I think salespeople, and I wonder how maybe they don't even know they can do it. So I think that's a great point too.
Kelly: So I guess the big question that would probably be on the minds of some people that are in the business development realm for agencies, even probably a lot of agency leaders or owners who are doing biz dev themselves, the question might be, is it actually worth our time to build this kind of trust at the top of the funnel? I want to hear your thoughts about that.
Lee: That is interesting, because I think, at the top of the funnel like that, when you say trust, it almost sounds like too strong a word, right? It's like, well, I haven't even, there's no relationship yet. Almost a cart before the horse in a way. And so I love that when we have talked previously just thinking about, talking today. I love the notion of it because there are still ways to build that trust, even at that early stage. And all this has been kind of about that. But I think specifically, I think one of the things that I always like to point out is when you are prospecting, what you have a great opportunity to do number one, is to start building that trust by showing that prospect here's what it's going to be like if you do work with us. Because like that email I mentioned, not to bring that up and that poor fellow, but…
Kelly: I mean, he's one of the reasons why we're talking today.
Lee: Yes. And think about it, would you want to work with that person?
Lee: No. And by definition, or then take this step further, maybe not that company, even though that's not entirely fair. However, it starts out that way. And that's no way to start. So I think just by showing them and again, some of these examples that we just gave, you kind of are starting to build trust, even at the top of the funnel. And I think, again, thinking about that, you want to make sure that not only talking about what it would be like if we worked together, but giving them a reason to trust that I'm not wasting your time with any of these touches. And it's not going to happen in the very first one. And the sales maximum takes about six to eight touches on average is probably about right. It depends. A lot of factors go into that. But I think you're going to make an impression over time that sticks. We just had a new client that I brought on an agency, not being here, it’s my 14th year. I've been talking to them for seven years.
Lee: Thankfully, it doesn't always take that long.
Kelly: That's a long sales process.
Lee: It's not always that long, right? Sometimes it's like three weeks but it's one of those things where and I'm not patting myself on the back here but I am proud to say that when it does take two and three years which happens too, I will typically get a comment that, “I always appreciate the fact that you stuck with us. You were persistent.” But persistent with value in the sense of you never just tried to pile things on. You did provide us over time with, ‘Hey, we have this new report we just finished or this new episode. I remember our conversation. I actually thought a lot of these things that you brought up are kind of similar to your podcast example. Those are the types of things that I certainly take pride in as a salesperson that at the end of the day, our company was putting well. They did see what it would be like to work with us. Now, again, thank God, it doesn't always take that long. But with those types of examples, I did eventually build up trust. But to use that word build, you do it kind of block by block. And so I think a lot of salespeople will get frustrated or think that this isn't really going to work because I didn't get enough return. After that second touch, I still got nothing. Like, that's only the second touch. The ideal is you always have your own content. But that's not always true. But the examples that we gave are ways that without that content, you can still start to build that trust.
Kelly: For sure. And so, what we're really talking about here is like, reframing this, what I'm affectionately calling the follow-up mindset, which really synonymously is like a scarcity mindset. It's like I have this kind of feeling inside that I'm worried, right? Like, the reason why you would follow up is you're worried that this prospect is not going to close. And they can feel that on the other end. They know when you're rushing them with these checking emails, like all that does is repelled up. So now we're starting to get into a conversation about being self-aware, and being of a giving mindset and abundance mindset as opposed to the scarcity or follow-up mindset. I know this is a little off kilter for some people in terms of how I'm describing that, but like, just stay with me. So if you're kind of going more into that giving mindset, that abundance mindset, what we're really talking about there is then conscious leadership. I am always going to bring it back to that.
Lee: No, I love it.