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Sales Follow Up: Call or email?

You've got the perfect lead; they fit your buyer persona criteria, they've taken some of the desired actions on your website, and so far, they've ticked all the right boxes on their journey through your sales funnel.

So, when can you call them? Should you call them? Would it be better to drop them an email? What if a phone call is too forward? But what if they don't reply to your email? 

Almost sounds like a precarious dating scenario, right? The truth is, it's not all that dissimilar; you only get one chance to make a great first impression – something no salesperson wants to get wrong. How you choose to connect with your prospect will affect their responsiveness to your offer.

Does an outbound approach ever work?

Outbound sales tactics refer to those traditional outreach methods that many businesses have used in the past. In fact, some companies continue to shamelessly call unsuspecting consumers at random, hoping to get a successful conversation. Unfortunately, that gameplan is all about quantity over quality and can be a colossal waste of time and resources.

Outbound outreach can refer to both cold emails and cold calls; they're typically used for prospecting and, at most, they'll help you to gather some information. It's more likely that you'll be met with agitation from the prospect as calls, in particular, are perceived as intrusive.

Another downside to this approach is the negative implications it can have on your team's morale. When salespeople continuously hear "No!", it can affect how they feel about their role, their capabilities, and even the brand they represent.

There are, of course, cases where outbound can be effective when done in a considerate and customer-centric manner. If you're keen on trying this approach, it's best to start with a compelling email. Emails are less invasive for customers as they give them the option to respond in their own time – if they want to. With emails, you can also attach images and links that further inform the prospect and guide them towards the actions you'd like them to take. Once you see that a lead has opened and engaged with your email, you can make a more informed decision about calling them.

How do the sales pros follow up?

There are plenty of sales tips online, and all sales gurus swear by their own winning formula. An excellent place to start is the inbound sales process and apply the best practices within this methodology.


Unless you've had a clear "No" from the prospect, you should not give up on the interaction. There are many reasons why people can't take your call right now, or they forget to respond to an email. Your potential buyer is probably inundated with other offers all day, and it can be hard to filter through them all. Remember, you're trying to build a relationship, and that may take some persistence. So unless the lead has specifically told you they're not interested, you should check in regularly to see how they're getting on and whether they're ready to start up a conversation with you.

Use a CRM for an optimal sales follow up

Don't leave things to chance or make ad hoc notes that can't be shared with others in the business. A customer relationship management (CRM) system tailored for sales teams will help you to build your lead's profile, set reminders for when to follow up, and help you to keep track of the communication you've already had with the person. This helps to ensure that you never come across as repetitive or someone who doesn't pay attention to the finer details. It also means that if you are unavailable to take a call or respond to an email, someone else from your team can tap into your lead's profile and continue the conversation exactly where you left off.

When's a good time to call?

Phone calls, although highly effective, can be a little risky – particularly at a time when so many are working from home, and there are interruptions and other domestic situations on the go.

Consideration is key to a successful sales follow up, so think about the following factors:

The time and day: The start of the week is always busy for most people, and many prefer to free up their mornings for high-concentration tasks or big commitments. If you're going to call, drying doing so in the latter days of the week, and preferably in the afternoon.

Your objective: Phone calls are best used when you want to drive a response or get commitment from your lead. If you're going to call, make sure you have a good reason. Use phone calls to set up meetings or to obtain further information that can help you to offer something useful to your lead. Whatever you do, call with purpose – not merely a chinwag.

The buyer persona: Not all buyer personas like talking on the phone, so make sure you know who you're dealing with. Younger prospects, such as millennials, prefer emails. More senior managers, however, may be more open and available for phone calls.

Other ways to communicate

If you're unsure whether to call or email first, there are other avenues to try when sussing out your prospect. Social media plays a huge role in how we communicate, so don't rule this option out. If your lead is already interacting with you on social media platforms, there's even more reason to reach out that way.

The small issue here, however, is that the pushy salespeople of yesteryear have slightly tainted this channel for the rest of us, inbound marketers. LinkedIn used to be a great place to connect with professionals and network your way to new leads, but with so many sales pitches being aimed at people's inboxes, it's not surprising that some have been put off.

Instead, what you can do is use these platforms for the purposes they were designed for: to socialise and share information with others who share common interests. Comment on your prospects statuses, offer guidance and support on something they need help with and try to gently and organically establish a relationship with them – without overtly selling to them. This method, although not always the fastest, will give you a way into a more substantial conversation via email or phone further down the line.

The key takeaway for a sales follow up

However you choose to reach out to your prospect, make sure to apply inbound best practices. This means that although you should be persistent in your communication, you should always remain friendly and positive. Don't overload your lead with information; keep contact short and sweat – whether over the phone or email. And, most importantly, make sure you're always providing value. Each interaction should have an objective that's underpinned by the value and assistance you can provide to your prospect.

Do you want to learn more about inbound sales and social selling? Then take a look at our comprehensive Inbound Sales & Social Selling Guide and feel free to drop us a line if you have any questions for our team of inbound sales experts.