When it comes to nurturing leads and closing the deal, follow-up calls are a must. The way you handle those calls can make or break your chances of success. And if you mess it up enough times, your business will inevitably start to suffer as a result. To improve your odds and make your follow-up calls as effective as possible, here are a few tried-and-true strategies to employ.

Schedule your calls.

You’re busy. Chances are, the person you’re trying to connect with is as well. Save yourself some time and get the most out of your phone communications by scheduling your follow-up calls in advance. That way you’ll both be ready and there won’t be the need for phone tag. Obviously, there will be exceptions to the rule. An angry customer, for instance, might expect a call back right away. Just use your best judgment.

Be prepared.

Regardless of how good you may be at thinking on your feet, it’s always best to come to the table prepared in advance of the call. This is especially true if you’re following up on a complaint or inquiry. If you stumble over your words or sound confused, you could come across as incompetent or unprofessional. And if you don’t plan ahead, you may end up having to follow up a second time. Do some prep work beforehand so you don’t waste their time or yours.

Ask the right questions.

The questions you ask, as well as the ones you don’t ask, can have a major impact on the success of your follow-up calls. Try to avoid ‘yes or no’ questions in favor of open-ended ones that require the other party to provide thoughtful and insightful answers. Just be careful not to pose your questions in a way that could cause you to ‘lead’ the other party’s answers. Before your call, make a list of direct, deliberate questions that will help you get the answers you are looking for.

Don’t forget to listen.

You may have some great questions to ask, but if you don’t practice active listening, what’s the point? A meaningful follow-up call requires balance – a give and take. If you’re doing all the talking or you’re not bothering to hear the other party out, you won’t walk away with any insight. Provide adequate time to answer before asking additional questions and be comfortable with silence while the other person thinks of his or her response.

Clarify answers and ask follow-ups.

When the other party speaks, either bringing up a point or answering a question, make sure you understand and are on the same page by reiterating what was said before proceeding. This helps to keep the conversation on track and avoids any potential misunderstandings. If necessary, be prepared to ask additional follow-up questions to dig deeper or get more clarification.

Good follow-up conversations can go a long way toward improved customer satisfaction and sustainable business growth. The best marketing in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to properly follow up with leads. Use the techniques above to improve your follow-up communication and make the most out of your client interactions.