Usually I focus on marketing strategy, tactics and practices in this forum, but I wanted to touch on a more sales and management-oriented topic that has been rearing its ugly head recently – Poor sales personnel practices.
If you’re in sales as a profession, there’s a few simple adages that pave the road to success.
1) Know your market, know your customer, solve their problems, don’t create them
2) Under-promise and Over-Deliver
3) It’s more effective and less expensive to keep your existing customers than to find new ones
4) Always make that last call of the day, no matter how tired or late you are
5) Show Up, Suit Up, Follow-up
If you can keep those things in mind as you go about your daily interaction with customers and prospects, you probably won’t go too far wrong.
Where most less-experienced folks tend to drop the ball is on numbers 2 and 5. Most new folks are so eager to make the sale, they will tell prospects virtually anything to close them, and then when it comes time for the order to arrive or be fulfilled, the customer is left disappointed or worse, feels cheated. At extreme levels this amounts to bait-and-switch, which is a prosecutable offense. You may get a few orders this way, but there won’t be any referrals or recommendations, and the gravy train will grind to a halt fairly quickly, especially in the age of Internet postings, blogs and rating sites for every business imaginable. Word will get out even more quickly and nobody will touch you after that – bad idea.
Number 5 is sometimes a function of time management, sometimes of lack of training, sometimes lack of personal responsibility. The Show up and Suit up portions, most have down, although I’ve spoken with many business leaders in the last few months who say they can’t hire staff that can manage to do even that on a consistent basis. It’s the follow-up that eludes most people, and the one’s that discover this little secret are going to move to the top of the heap rather quicker than his or her competitors. Just because someone was not in a position to buy when you left them last, (some more hardcore folks would say you failed to effectively close them the first time) doesn’t mean that they never will have a need for what you’re offering. Your odds of them calling you when the time comes has much more to do with top of mind awareness and initial impressions than of product quality or benefits.
Effective follow-up must be gauged carefully and is different for each prospect. The tone, medium, frequency and content of your follow-up is critical to maintaining that tenuous connection and reinforcing that initial, hopefully good, impression. The more personal and more specific you can make that follow-up, regardless of the medium, whether by phone, card, letter, e-mail, or visit. General, automated, non-specific stuff will not have the impact or make the connection you need to encourage that prospect to pick up the phone when the time comes. Sometimes there’s no substitute for a hand-written note – it takes about 5 minutes of your time and you’d be amazed that impact it has on the recipient. sometimes a mix of media is appropriate, depending on the volume you need it to cover every week or the type of sale. The only constant you can count on is that if you don’t do it, your sale with go to the guy who does. Sometimes it’s trial and error, but you have to use common sense, especially having to do with timing and frequency. You really don’t want to overdo it – an e-mail every other day is likely overkill . . .
Consistency, reliability and accountability are the keys to good sales practice, and the follow-up should be part of that – if the customer feels you’ll be there before the sale, think how much they’ll appreciate you being there after the sale.
If you found this valuable and want more like it, sign up to receive more every week in your inbox – free! Also, be sure and pick up your copy of “The Marketing Doctor’s Survival Notes”