How many salespeople in your company will fail to make quota in 2011?

One of the most common reasons salespeople fall short of their goals has little to do with a lack of qualified leads, or a poor economy.

It’s often a lot simpler than that. Too many salespeople fail to follow up effectively with their prospects.

I recently received an email from the Web store manager at Day-Timer — the company that sells personal planners and calendars.

Earlier that week, I was on the Day-Timer website, shopping for a planner for 2012. I found the items I wanted, added them to my shopping cart and wrote down the prices. Then I did what a lot of shoppers do — I abandoned the shopping cart and “left the store.”

Truth be told, my plan was to spend a few minutes shopping around on the Web, to see if I could find those same items for a lower price elsewhere.

Two days after “leaving the store,” I received that personalized email from the Web store manager, thanking me for visiting the site. The email also contained a 15 percent promotion off the items in my shopping cart.

So what do you think I did? That’s right, I opened that email, clicked on the 15 percent-off link, and it brought me right back to my shopping cart, with those same items sitting right where I left them. And since I was getting 15 percent off, I felt it was no longer worth the time to shop around for a better price. I ordered the items.

Day-Timer made the sale because it took the initiative to follow up with me in a timely way. My experience was on the Web, but the same dynamics apply to brick-and-mortar and business-to-business selling.

But why is it that so many salespeople don’t follow up? And why don’t they? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

Let’s consider three of the more prevalent reasons salespeople don’t follow up:

• Reason No. 1: Salespeople don’t want to appear pushy.

Nobody likes a pushy salesperson. So the key is to follow up in a way that’s not pushy. The best way to do that is by wrapping your follow-up message in value. Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’re trying to sell inventory control software to your prospect. She’s told you about a particular problem she’s having managing her inventory.

Before you write that follow-up email, or make that phone call, go out and find a good article or white paper on inventory management best practices.

Then email that article to your prospect with a note about how the third paragraph on Page 2 presents some ideas that might help what she described as her top challenge.

Prospects are usually willing to engage with you if they think that there’s something of value in it for them.

• Reason No. 2: Salespeople forget.

That’s right — people forget stuff. It may be OK to forget what you had for breakfast yesterday, or even forget to put a belt on when getting dressed for a big meeting with a prospect (yeah, I’ve done that).

But it’s never OK to forget your customers and prospects. Don’t trust your memory — write it down.

A Chinese proverb said, “The palest ink is better than the sharpest memory.”

If you take your business seriously, and want your prospects to take you seriously, develop the simple habits that will assure you remember everything that’s worth remembering.

• Reason No. 3: Salespeople make false assumptions.

But what if you do follow up, and your prospect doesn’t respond? Do you get paranoid, and assume the prospect has decided not to buy from you?

Well, that’s usually not true. Prospects are busy, and believe it or not, you’re usually not their first priority.

So take the initiative to get back to your prospect until you connect.

And when you do, remember the first point — always provide value in your follow-up call.

Don’t make it about the sale. Make it about delivering value to the prospect.

If all your follow-up calls contain something of value, the follow-up gets easier, becomes more natural and will naturally lead to more sales.

Timely, consistent follow-up is one of the easiest selling skills to master.

What follow-up calls should you make this week?