Contributed to EO by Adi Klevit, an EO Portland member who is the co-founder and CEO of Business Success Consulting Group, a team of experienced professionals who provide business owners, entrepreneurs and key executives with strategic implementation, process improvement and documentation, and long-lasting systems necessary to support business expansion. On her podcast, Systems Simplified, Adi interviewed Camela Thompson, Marketing VP at Caliber Mind, who is an expert in systematizing vital sales and marketing functions, including client follow-up. Following is a summary of their discussion.

Follow-up systems are vital for effective sales in any business. Statistics from 2022 tell us that only 2% of customers convert after the first point of contact, but about 80% of sales leads convert by the 12th follow-up. However, most salespeople give up after one attempt to contact the potential customer. This shows the power of follow-up, and it also tells us that follow-up can be difficult to implement properly.

During their podcast discussion, Adi and Camela covered why processes are critical and how they can minimize loss and increase profit—even if the business owner is a creative. Then, they got into the nitty gritty of forming a follow-up system.

Why are processes important?

Camela shared a story that perfectly illustrates why processes—particularly follow-up processes—are vital. When starting the Caliber Mind podcast, Camela landed a big guest right away, but immediately lost him because she didn’t have a process in place.

Since that initial experience, she implemented a follow-up process and has created an entire system around scheduling guests, pre-interviews, the interview itself, and post-interview follow-up. This has allowed her to produce a fantastic podcast, The RMR Podcast.

As you read this post, consider when a process could have been used in your business to save a situation. Perhaps you had a presentation that didn’t work because you didn’t have a system for building, testing, practicing, and ultimately presenting it. Perhaps you went to a festival to sell products but had no process for retaining information about those who bought from you, so you never saw them again.

There are many ways in which processes can help your business succeed where others have failed.

Using processes to minimize loss and increase profits

Processes work for both creative and business-minded entrepreneurs. A creative may worry that a system might squash their spontaneity. But, instead of thinking of a business system as limiting, consider how you can use processes to minimize loss and increase profits.

For example, if your company creates custom cakes, you may go with the creative flow when it comes to cake decoration. However, the five processes below will empower you to make beautiful cakes while minimizing loss and increasing profits:

  1. Recipes
  2. An ingredient-buying process
  3. Set up or mise en place
  4. Client contracts
  5. Delivery

More processes could be implemented, including marketing processes, client follow-up, client confirmation, customer service, refund, and other systems. All these free you up to be creative in your area of expertise.

This is just one example. You may be a freelance data analyst, own a hotel, have several galleries worldwide, or sell art online. These businesses require you to have processes in place so your entire business doesn’t run based on what’s in your head.

How to build the ultimate follow-up system

Adi and Camela talked about the optimum follow-up process for any business. This conversation revealed the fundamental outline for building such a system:

0. Identify what isn’t working with your current system.

Here are a few common areas that companies miss:

  • No follow-up after a potential customer interacts with a chatbot.
  • No automation sequence set up after someone subscribes to a newsletter.
  • No interaction with your CRM to share any conversations with a chatbot or other automated reply system.
  • No or slow follow-up/ poor moderation on a social media channel.
  • A failure to communicate between marketing and sales.

Explore this by testing your existing system or even surveying clients and asking them to try out your system. Many people enjoy pointing out what’s not working and telling companies how they can improve.

1. Run through the ideal situation.

Ideally, for most businesses, you want a follow-up to be immediate, thorough, and to close the majority of, if not all of the clients, who reach out. So, walk through what that would mean. Does that require on-call staff? Do you need to hire a service that replies immediately, 24/7? Do you need an autoresponder that informs potential clients precisely when a real person will get to them? If you are B2B, do you do a few minutes of research before follow-up so you can hone your conversation to what they are most likely to need?

Understanding the ideal will help you get there more rapidly than trying only to fix bugs in your existing system.

2. Document what is successful right now.

This is when you get your staff on board with the overall systematization of your follow-up processes. Share what you are trying to do, what you hope to accomplish, and how that will help them. There are many reasons your staff will want to help you document and improve the follow-up processes. Maybe it will result in more sales—which means more bonuses. Perhaps an increase in sales will allow you to hire an assistant for your sales lead—and having processes in place will make it easier to train that assistant.

3. Fill in the gaps between what is working now and what would be ideal. 

This may involve building new systems and implementing automation. Or, it could be as simple as creating an autoresponder that tells a potential client precisely when a real person will get back to them —and then ensuring someone answers customer enquiries within those hours.

4. Edit the documentation to include the new processes you have built.

Now that you know what needs to occur to ensure your follow-up is successful, work with your team to edit the documentation. Working with your staff on this allows them to provide feedback and even begin implementing on the fly.

5. Test the new processes to ensure they work the way you envision.

Run through everything that you do to make sure it works. The last thing you want is to install a chatbot that doesn’t work.

5a. Modify the processes and edit documentation until it works as you’d like.

Of course, once you find any additional bugs in the new process, you will need to modify your system to work out any kinks.

6. Implement the follow-up processes

Now that you have a tested, workable process, make sure to implement it! The point of creating and documenting processes is to implement them, not have them sit in a drawer. Since you got employee buy-in at the beginning, the team can share the work of implementation.

7. Schedule regular system reviews to ensure the process continues producing the desired results.

Test your processes every six months or so to ensure they continue to work.

That is how you set up a business system for follow-up or anything else that needs a process in your company.

If you want additional specific suggestions for follow-up processes, listen to the full interview for more inspiration! This post originally appeared on the Business Success Consulting Group blog and is reposted here with permission.

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog