The Importance of Follow-Up: 3 Top Ways to Make Old Business, New Business

Dec 13, 2021

Every new salesperson initially struggles to build their book of business. If they can create a solid base of clients, then they can begin to count on renewal business in addition to referrals.

I start off every year with approximately 40 percent of my business revenue coming from past business and/or referrals. I know that an additional 25 percent of my business will be lost for a variety of reasons– including companies get acquired, companies expand and now have national contracts with larger service providers, or companies are simply no longer in business. Ironically, 25 percent of all businesses that sign a lease for five years do not complete their lease term.

There’s still that 35 percent of my business lost in which I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps I have lost touch with these folks, or they chose to do business with someone else.  This is the 35 percent that I should be working on improving my ability to stay in touch with through better follow-up.

It’s a lot easier to secure past business then it is to start from scratch and secure new business with no prior connection.  Follow-up can be simple as long as you create a plan of action and stick to it. Here are some of some things to keep in mind for staying in touch with past happy clients:

Know and Be Known

In the earlier part of my career, it was common for the “decision maker” at a company to be there for the next transaction. Since the Dot.Com boom and bust of 2000, that’s changed. Today, the same decision maker I may work with at the beginning of a deal, 99 percent of the time, isn’t around at the conclusion of a typical five-year lease.

If you aren’t known because a firm changed management and the new hires have no clue who you are—that’s on you. You have failed to follow-up and monitor staff changes, which will hurt your chances of keeping them as a client.  You may have done a good job, but if you fail to be known by new folks or remembered by past employees, you miss out on future opportunities with repeat clients.

Add a Personal Touch

Upon the close of any deal, try to remember to send a thank you note and a small gift. That gift should be something can be branded back to you.  In addition, I’d also recommend setting up an automatic anniversary email. We do this at Starboard so that each of the agents get a notice to check in with past clients and make sure that everything is working out for them, and also to learn if there are any opportunities in the near future.

No Time Like Face Time

It’s critical to pay past clients an in-person visit and see how things are going. But most importantly, keep your face in front of your past decision makers, as well as get in front of any new decision makers. I have learned the hard way that I could have worked miracles for a client, but if the decision maker has been replaced, a new decision maker won’t have a clue as to the great work done to secure their current office space.

Most real estate salespeople fail at follow-up for an understandable reason. They need to do deals today.  Once a residential agent sells a house to a family, there is no immediate future business with that family until they outgrow that house or have to relocate. In commercial, if you secure a lease, a binding lease locks that tenant into their obligation for an extended time. What we fail to realize is that changes are occurring much faster today than ever before.  Firms are reacting to changes in their business which requires immediate changes to their workplaces.

So, begin the process of improving your follow-up. Remember, it’s a lot easier to open the door to this kind of business then to open the door with a firm you do not know at all.

Photo Credit: TijsB Flickr via Compfight cc

Written by: Hans Hansson

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Hans Hansson is President of Starboard Commercial Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 35 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email [email protected] or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,